Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and his Romanian counterpart Calin Popescu Tariceanu have agreed on a series of measures following a wave of violent crimes blamed on immigrants from Romania. Following a meeting in Rome, Mr. Prodi said Italy has no intention to discriminate against the Romanian community. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
Last week, Italy began deporting Romanians deemed to be a danger to public safety, but Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Italy has no intention to carry out mass expulsions of Romanians.
At a meeting in Rome, Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Romania's Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu agreed on new concrete measures to deal with those Romanians who commit crimes in Italy.
Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, both prime ministers said an Italian-Romanian security task force would be established. Mr. Tariceanu said that at least 30 more Romanian police officers would be dispatched to Italy.
In addition, Romania plans to strengthen its consular network as well as its border police. New measures are also planned to promote social integration through education and a joint working group will be established to discuss problems involving the gypsy community.
Romanians in Italy number more than half a million and represent the largest foreign community in the country. They account for about one percent of the Italian population.
Mr. Prodi said Italy needed to ensure the security of both Italian and Romanian citizens and at the same time guarantee their right to free circulation. Romania joined the European Union this year and is one of its poorest members.
The Italian prime minister said the recent episodes of violence by Romanians and the subsequent reaction by Italians have nothing to do with the nationalities of those who were responsible.
He said they are criminal phenomena and that is it. He added that in multi-ethnic societies where everything becomes multi-ethnic, it is natural that crime also becomes multi-ethnic.
Mr. Prodi also said that any expulsions would be carried out on an individual basis, adding that Italy has no intention to discriminate against the Romanian community. He insisted that Romania is a friend of Italy.
He said this precious friendship could not be put in jeopardy by a criminal minority on the one hand, or by a xenophobic minority on the other.
Before meeting with Mr. Prodi, the Romanian prime minister was received in private audience by Pope Benedict at the Vatican. Mr. Tariceanu thanked the pope for his message of tolerance and integration.