Progress Party upsets ambassador
June 27, 2012
Progress Party leader Siv Jensen and her deputy Per Sandberg want to throw all “Romanian beggars” out of Norway, even if they haven’t committed any crimes. Their call has been denounced as a rash generalization and Romania’s ambassador to Norway is not happy.
“This kind of generalization creates big problems for my country,” Ambassador Daniel Ionita told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), adding that it can hurt its image. “Romania is presented like a nation full of beggars.”
That’s not true, he noted, suggesting his fellow Romanians are being stigmatized. Jensen and Sandberg seemed to be objecting to the growing numbers of traveling Roma people in Norway, who they accuse of littering, camping illegally and using the streets, gardens, public parks and even a local children’s day care center as outdoor toilets.
Sandberg claimed that the local Salvation Army estimates there are around 750 Roma people “or Romanians” registered in Oslo. He accused them of committing crimes and spreading filth in the city. Even though he had no immediate evidence of any alleged crimes, he seemed to hold the beggars responsible.
“Of the 750, I don’t know whether there’s one or 13 (criminals), but all of them should be kicked out,” he told reporters, with the full support of Jensen. “What we’re seeing,” she said, “is that what they call ‘begging’ also leads to major criminal challenges, especially in Oslo. This is a steadily rising problem for law and order.”
Ambassador Ionita stressed that not all Romanians are Roma, formerly referred to as gypsies, who come from various countries. “Only some of them are Romanian citizens and only some of them live on the streets,” he said.
He wants a clarification of what Jensen really means by “Romanian beggars” who are “polluting” Oslo. NRK reported that on Wednesday, the ambassador contacted the Progress Party office and asked for a meeting with Jensen. “I think we need to clear up a few things,” he told NRK.
He said there were 4,541 Romanians living in Norway according to figures from last year. “Most of them are fully integrated and contribute to Norwegian society,” he said. “It’s a big mistake to lump all Romanians together. It stigmatizes Romanians who are living here and making an important contribution.”
Progress Party officials confirmed they had received an e-mail from the ambassador, in which he asked for a meeting. Jensen, however, has gone on holiday and won’t be able to meet until after her holidays, they told NRK. Jensen reportedly did not want to comment further.
The party’s disparaging remarks about Romanians come just days after the party also called for immigrants and especially asylum seekers to “live like Norwegians.” After several indications that the Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative, had moderated what many call its anti-immigration tone and was winning new respect, not least for its contribution to recent climate talks, the party seems to be firing up attempts to spread fear of foreigners. Some political observers called it a return to populism, and “the Progress Party at its worse.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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