Romanian President fined for racist remarks about Roma
Romanian President Traian Basescu must pay a fine in the amount of 600 Romanian new leu (approximately EUR 134) for making offensive remarks about Romani people during a state visit to Slovenia in 2010. Basescu said at the time that "very many Roma don't want to work" and that "many of them traditionally make their living through thievery".
Czech news servers Deník Referendum and iDNES.cz report that the 2010 incident was not the first controversial statement to be made by the Romanian president about the large Roma minority in what is one of the EU's poorest countries. The National Council for Combating Discrimination, which has monitored adherence to anti-discrimination legislation and the implementation of EU norms in Romania since 2001, initially did not want to concern itself with Basescu's remarks because the president made them abroad.
The High Court, however, ultimately instructed the autonomous body, which works as part of the Romanian Parliament, to investigate the controversial statement. "This is a particularly symbolically important act of justice (...) We hope that in the final result it will contribute to halting or at least ameliorating discrimination against Roma," Marian Mandache of Romani CRISS, a Romanian human rights organization, told Deník Referendum.
Remarks by President Basescu about Roma have garnered repeated attention in Romania. However, this is the first time he has been officially condemned for them.
Basescu has made many other similarly racist statements about Roma. Last month, during a visit to Berlin, he spoke up in favor of Roma enjoying freedom of movement in Europe.
However, during those same remarks, the president also claimed that Roma make their living by begging and that this irritates many people. "Unfortunately, they cause more unpleasantness than a banker who causes tens of billions to disappear from a bank," news server iDNES.cz reported Basescu as saying.
According to official statistics there are around 620 000 Roma living in Romania. However, many experts believe the real number of Roma there is much higher.
Many Roma are afraid to espouse their ethnic affiliation because they are afraid of discrimination, according to the BBC Russian service. On average, Roma live in worse social conditions in Romania than they do in the Czech Republic and are also more marginalized there.
In Romania, Roma live in derelict apartments without any access to medical care, and their children frequently never attend school. They have no work and die far younger than the average life expectancy for the Romanian population as a whole.
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