An official anti-discrimination agency has fined Romanian president Traian Basescu RON 600 (or some EUR 133) for saying Roma avoid work and make a living by stealing.
The National Council for Combating Discrimination fined Basescu for having said “very few of them (Roma) want to work” and “traditionally many of them live off stealing”, during a 2010 news conference in Slovenia.
Initially the agency declined to take the case because the comments were made abroad. However the Supreme Court ordered the autonomous body under the control of parliament to take the case.
President Traian Basescu did not immediately react to the ruling.
Romania officially has 620,000 Roma (Gypsies) but the number is believed to be far higher.
According to unofficial estimates, Roma last year made up about 9 per cent of the country’s population putting their number in the country at about 1,700,000.
In their 2013 report, the European Roma Rights Centre state that Romani are leaving Romania in droves to escape discrimination, social marginalization and extreme poverty.
Put by Amnesty International, Roma in Romania are “poverty stricken, persecuted and outcast”.
With many of their communities located on the outskirts of cities and segregated by local policy, Roma have poor housing conditions, and struggle to access health care and education.
Unemployment rates are high and life expectancy is far below the national average.
It is not the only time Basescu has made controversial statements about the Roma.
Speaking in Berlin in January, while defending the right of Roma to move freely around the European Union, he said Roma irritate people by begging and are “perhaps more troublesome than a banker who makes tens of billions disappear from a bank”.
He did add that banks cost governments far more during a financial crisis. He also called a journalist “dirty Gypsy” in 2007.
Shaun Turton [email protected]