Sweden in secret talks with Romania on beggars

Roms mendiant dans la rue en Suède, 2013. © sigfrid lundford/flickr
Roma panhandler. Sweden, 2013. [sigfrid lundford/flickr]

For months, the Swedish government has held secret negotiations with Romania, in an attempt to help Roma migrants in Sweden, the local press has revealed.

However, the negotiations have collapsed, and Sweden is now turning to the EU Commission. "I'm angry, sad and disappointed," Sweden's minister for EU Affairs and Democracy, Birgitta Ohlsson, told Dagens Nyheter.

Swedes are witnessing far more beggars on their streets, with 90% of them coming from Romania, according to studies by Stockholm's Social Administration. Though the situation has led to an intense national debate, Sweden is different from other European countries, Ohlsson said.

"We have a more empathic view of these people. I think that other countries, especially Romania, are surprised to see how we deal with the situation. Many Swedes have a tremendous empathy and sympathy for these beggars and really want to help. I believe that Romania has understood this now. I think it's horrific, and really provocative when people suggest that you should ban begging," the minister stated.

According to Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish government started secret negotiations with Romania a couple of months ago in order to put pressure on Bucharest to take better care of its citizens. As Romania is the second-poorest country in the EU, the Swedish strategy has been to get Romania to use more support from the EU, for the country's most vulnerable citizens. According to Dagens Nyheter, Romania received billions from the EU's structural funds, but only spends around one-third. Only a small amount of this money has been spent on its Roma community.

The Swedish government has negotiated with Romania's government, EU commissioners and ministerial colleagues in Brussels. Together with the Commission and other member states, Sweden has demanded the establishment of a taskforce in Bucharest, in order to make sure that resources from the structural funds reach the poor. But Romania has rejected the plan.

"We tried to get Romania behind the proposal, but so far they have declined. I think it has something to do with political lack of willingness and prestige and that you don't want other countries to interfere domestically. It's not something that will make you win an election. I'm so angry over the lack of interest they have shown," Sweden's EU affairs minister said.

She added that the issue is a question for the whole of Europe, not only Sweden and Romania. Between 2014-2020, around €22.5 billion are available for Romania via the funds. Sweden wants the taskforce to consist of experts from Poland and Latvia, which has had a similar history to Romania, and Roma, as well as Swedish experts. Sweden wants a similar taskforce as the one currently in Greece, making sure that the country uses its money responsibly, avoiding corruption, and improving people's lives, Ohlsson said.


EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, said according to the newspaper Expressen:

"I know nothing about the correspondence between Sweden and Romania regarding this question and the member states have the biggest responsibilities for their citizens. But they have received big amounts of money to work on these issues. Both Romania and Bulgaria can do a lot more."

  • 22-25 May: European Parliament elections
  • 14 Sept.: General elections in Sweden
External links: 

Press articles



Mike Parr's picture

Failure by Romania to engage in this process helps nationalists in other member states - which, slowly but surely will lead to at least to erosion of the principle of free movement of people - & after that other core principles of the EU are likely to go the same way. One solution: do not ever give money to beggars.

bob's picture

Destroy 1 of the prime rights of EU or a complete ingoring of the Roma population? How can Bulgaria and Romania learn anything if that's the first thing that comes in the minds of the "right" europeans when they tutor the "wrong" bulgarians and romanians?

Gerry's picture

Subsidiarity is a great thing but if a member state is unable and unwilling to solve its problems, by the lack of will and mental strength of its leaders, not to mention the rest of the population, then it needs a helping hand of a more forceful kind to set things straight. The Romanian beggars beg because they were taught this is the life for them to follow. Changing that culture will take a long concerted effort. Who were the weak minded fools that let that country into the EU anyway? Sweden is following the right approach, but their suggestions are not falling on fertile ground. A new kind of taskforce might soften the Romanians up a bit.

Hunga89's picture

I feel very sorry for the good-hearted people of Sweden because they will very soon understand why Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria etc. can't handle these beggars. Let us face the facts, we are talking about gipsy people. Those of you who are living in the western part of Europe it might be hard - even impossible - to understand the situation because your several institution of (oh-so-glorious) human rights are making you blind-folded. As a Hungarian middle-class citizen let me tell you the reality. And let me call these people beggars.

These people don't want to work, they don't want to educate their children, they don't want to integrate themselves into society. Please accept our governments created several insturments to help them but they want to live the wy they do. This is true.

Ever since the Soviet era was over they were given special rights and now I am talking about great positive distnction. They were no longer punished for not working, and they were granted several state aids so now they don't feel any necessity to work at all. Because of this and because of the special rights they are now thinking they are some kind of "cunning ruler" of the countries they live in. They harass and terrorize the citizens.

They are living of the state aids, they don't care about education and they teach the children to be thieves. "Living of birth" is an existing term in Hungary because the more children they have, the more aid they receive.

These beggars will not be touched by the good, loving heart fo the Sweden people, they will betray the Swedish kidnliness. I do feel deep respect for Sweden's approach and God I wish the people there remain so pure and innocent. But they will soon understand us, when the beggars will start to break the laws. Sweden will start to pump money into them but they are like a botomless stomach and soon they will start acting like they do here in Romania, in Hungary, in Poland etc. They will not wannt to work, they will not want to be helped.

Anyway the same thing happened in Germany and they are now trying to create laws to push out beggars. I understand them from the bottom of my heart because as a Hungarian citizen I don't walk the street after 10 pm. because I fear these "beggars" so much - just like every normal citizens in my country do.

Please allow me to point one more thing out. The first notes of these beggars originates from the XIV. century. The chronicles contains warnings that these people should not be let close to the villages because they are bringing death and robbery everywhere they go. Please Sweden, be careful.