Romanian Minister of the European Funds Eugen Teodorovici says the statements made by Swedish Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag about Romania's incapability of using the European Union funds earmarked for the Roma are unfounded.
'Since statistic figures show the ethnic Roma end-beneficiaries of the Sectorial Operational Programme for the Human Resources Development (SOP HRD) account for some 20 percent of the overall persons of this community registered in Romania and the absorption under the SOP HRD has increased significantly, the accusations made Romania that allegedly it does not use the EU funds earmarked for the inclusion of this population are unjustified. The current Government of Romania has taken all the required measures to significantly step up the absorption of the structural and cohesion funds and the results have been seen in all the programmes, the SOP HRD included. The current absorption rate for this programme has increased 4.5 times, from 6.34 percent in May 2012 to around 29 percent at the end of December 2013', Teodorovici is quoted by a release to AGERPRES as saying.
The Romanian minister's response comes after Ullenhag on Tuesday slammed Romania's incapability of using the European Union funds earmarked for the Roma — or Gypsies.
'It is honestly shocking that we should assign new means that the member states do not claim', the Swedish minister was quoted by AFP as telling news agency TT.
'It is deeply preoccupying that Romania, for example, does not ask for the existing EU means in order to improve the Roma's situation', he added.
Ullenhag spoke of a press article about the Roma written by two of his (Liberal) party members, namely Stockholm municipal councillor Lotta Edholm and candidate to the European Parliament elections, Erik Scheller respectively. The story carried by the Dagens Nyheter daily is headlined 'Let Us Leave Romania Pay the Bill'.
'The Romanian Government can do considerably more to help its ethnic Roma population', the article authors say.
'We must offer human living conditions to all, no matter what their ethnic group or origin. /.../ But, for Romania and for others, the (deal) must be clear: you will have to pay in order to offer your fellow countrymen a decent life. Either by social protection, which is open to everybody in the country, or we send you the bill', the article authors say.AGERPRES