Commission denies redirecting Roma funds to Germany

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The European Commission strongly denied today (28 August) media reports that EU funds, allocated to Bulgaria and Romania to help improve the situation of their Roma, would be re-directed to Germany, where many members of the minority have moved.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle recently reported that millions of euros earmarked for the poor in Bulgaria and Romania will be redirected to Germany. This, it said, was due to the fact that these relatively new EU member states were “unable to utilize them”, and also because of the flow of Romanians and Bulgarians into Germany.

However, the Commission denied the reports in the strongest terms.

“It is not true. There is no transfer of structural funds that have been allocated to Bulgaria and Romania to other countries,” Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner László Andor told EURACTIV.

Todd explained that allocations of these funds for EU countries are set once every seven years to be handed out with the EU’s long-term budget. The current budget cycle ends this year, with the next coming into effect over 2014-2020.

If EU countries do not spend all the structural funds that had been allocated to them, the money remains in the EU budget but is not re-allocated to other countries, he said.

“However, this is not currently the case – neither Bulgaria nor Romania have lost any structural fund money for tackling poverty or anything else,” Andor’s spokesperson insisted.

Todd added that the use of EU structural funds available to Germany was a decision for the German authorities. Therefore, they could potentially allocate some of their share to support social inclusion in cities which faced the greatest challenges from so-called 'poverty migration'.

“However, Germany is not receiving any increase of structural funds allocations from the EU budget for this purpose. If Germany does decide to use more EU structural fund money, they would have to re-allocate the money from other projects,” he said.

Todd gave as an example the case of North Rhine-Westphalia, which plans with the Federal Government to mix €7.5 million of EU structural funds into regional and federal level social funding to integrate Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants into Germany.

‘EU gives money for poor Bulgarians to Germany’

According to Deutsche Welle, 70,000 nationals of Bulgaria and Romania have settled in Germany over the year, and next year their number is expected to rise to 170,000. From 1 January 2014, citizens from these two EU countries will be granted full access to the EU job market (see background).

The title of the article by Deutsche Welle's Bulgarian service read: “EU gives money for poor Bulgarians to Germany”.

“They escape from the dire poverty of their countries,” the article said, mentioning that many of them are Roma

“Locals [in Germany] have long complained not only of the dirt and the noise of aliens who have very different social, cultural and hygienic habits. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the Roma clans squabble,” it added.

The article attracted the attention of many Bulgarian media who re-published it or quoted the news that funds allocated to Bulgaria would be re-directed to Germany.

EURACTIV was also told that Deutshe Welle published its piece based on an article in Neue Zürcher Zeitung

In accordance with EU law, workers from Bulgaria and Romania currently enjoy full rights to free movement in Denmark, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Restrictions remain in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK. These typically require Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to have a work permit.

As of January 2014 – seven years after these countries' EU accessions – those restrictions will be entirely lifted.

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