03 November 2010
(BRDO PRI KRANJU) - Romania is confident it will join the visa-free Schengen area in 2011, despite concerns in some EU states over the free movement of Roma, President Traian Basescu said here Wednesday.
"I don't think any government will block Romania's accession to the Schengen area over that issue," Basescu said at a joint news conference with his Slovenian counterpart Danilo Turk.
"(Despite) signs by some countries that they could block Romania's accession to the Schengen area over the Roma issue or the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, such positions go against the treaty we signed when joining the EU," he added.
Accession to the Schengen area was "a technical issue and I believe we meet all the requirements," Basescu also said.
The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, which the EU extended in September, was put in place to tackle Romania and Bulgaria's poorly functioning judicial systems and their inability to curb corruption.
Basescu also called on the European union to "ask itself whether it wants to integrate the Roma minority or absorb it.
"We have to understand that by limiting the Roma community's movement, we destroy a crucial element of their nomadic culture," Basescu said.
Romania has the largest Roma population in Europe.
While the official census puts the number of Roma at 530,000, some pressure groups say it is as high as 2.5 million, as most Roma do not declare themselves as such, fearing discrimination.
Romania and Bulgaria, both of which joined the European Union in 2007, hope to enter the 25-member Schengen zone in March next year.