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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Romanian town plans 'gypsy ghetto'
gypsy wall
There are plans to build a wall like one in the Czech Republic
The mayor of a town in northern Romania has sparked outrage with plans to build a special compound to house Roma, or gypsies, on a former chicken farm.

I am afraid Hitler's ghost is still walking around the city hall of Piatra Neamt

Government Roma representative
Ion Rotaru, the mayor of Piatra Neamt, announced this week that he wanted to turn the farm into flats for around one quarter of the town's 2,000 gypsies.

The compound will be surrounded by a high wall and be under police surveillance.

Roma and human rights groups have denounced the mayor's plan, calling it a "ghetto".

'Nazi measure'

Mr Rotaru said the housing scheme would be a "modern district, with a church, a school, a medical centre and a sports hall".

The mayor reportedly claimed that the measure was necessary because the Roma had destroyed their social housing.

Under the plan, Roma would have to work on a public works project, building a road through a forest to pay for their accommodation.

Gheorghe Ivan, a government representative for Roma, denounced the proposal.

"I am afraid Hitler's ghost is still walking around the city hall of Piatra Neamt," he said.

"[This is] a typical Nazi measure aimed at segregating Roma in a ghetto," he added.

EU pressure

Vasile Dancu, the Minister of Public Information has said the plan is "unacceptable" and plans to travel to Piatra Neamt to discuss the issue with the authorities.

Roma woman and child
Many of the town's Roma live in make-shift accommodation
Roma groups have called on Romania's ruling party to put pressure on the mayor - a party member - to scrap the plans.

But observers say the policy is likely to be popular with the majority Romanian population.

Two years ago, the Czech Republic was internationally condemned when authorities in the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem constructed a wall separating the Roma and Czech communities.

The wall was eventually pulled down after pressure from central government and the EU.

The respect for human rights and the integration of minorities are key criteria for eastern European countries hoping to join the European Union.

In the EU's progress reports on the candidate countries, due out next month, Romania is expected to be criticised over the treatment of minorities.

Mr Rotaru's proposals are not likely to help Romania improve its image in Brussels.

See also:

12 Apr 00 | Europe
Czech court backs anti-Gypsy wall
18 Oct 99 | Europe
Czech pledge to tear down wall
26 Feb 99 | Europe
Hiding gypsies behind a wall
09 Jun 99 | Europe
Czech gypsies in school row
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