By Ioana Patran and Sam Cage
CALVINI, Romania, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Vasile Ursaru showsoff his freshly painted and double glazed house in Romania andsays his family heads for Spain next week because of economicnecessity after he left France because he feared deportation.
France's repatriation of Roma prompted one European Unionofficial to recall the Nazis' persecution of the group,overshadowed an EU summit and sparked a row between PresidentNicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel. [ID:nLDE68G1A8
"France ... made someone out of us," said Ursaru, 49,surrounded by his wife and children at a Roma settlement inCalvini, an area on the edge of a town in the hills some twohours north of Bucharest.
"Romania did not help us with anything -- if things had beengoing good for us here of course we wouldn't have left in thefirst place," Ursaru, who left to avoid being deported afterbeing sent back from France in 2007, told Reuters.
In the bleak settlement, unemployed men stand at streetcorners chatting while women wash clothes and children play onmuddy, unpaved streets.
Half the vehicles passing are horse-drawn carts and theroads are lined with half-finished houses with no running wateror sewerage. Many cars have French and Spanish registrations.
"What can I do here?" asked Ursaru's partner, Elena Banica.
"No one wants to give me a job and I am a mother of five. Weare leaving for Spain on Tuesday. We stayed here for a week andcan't live here because we don't have anything to live on."
Cash earned in western Europe has undoubtedly improvedliving conditions in Calvini and many Roma will return, at leasttemporarily, as it is more lucrative than staying in Romania andgives them a chance to improve their lot here.
Ursaru, who does not have a job in Romania, came back fromFrance about a week ago with his wife and three of their fivechildren, after spending 10 months in a camp in Paris.
BENEFITS AND BEGGING
Typically, he earned 15 to 20 euros a day there fromcollecting scrap metal while his wife and children collected thesame amount from begging. They also received more than 300 eurosa month as an allowance for the children and free medicines.
"Everything was great in France. I took the kids every dayand went begging," said Banica. "The money we raised, we used itto build our house here that was close to collapse. Now we wantto go to Spain to raise money ..."
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has said that Francemust stop its "illegal" repatriation of Roma to eastern Europeand called on the Europe Union to provide funds to end theregion's "worst case of social exclusion".
Soros, whose foundation has spent $150 million promoting therights of the Roma, said governments in Europe had long turned ablind eye to the region's more than 10 million Roma. One in fivelive in Romania, nearly 10 percent of the country's population.
Centuries of discrimination have left the Roma as an"underclass" with poor access to education and jobs, Soros said,making them easy targets for right-wing politicians in Europe asthe economic crisis and rising unemployment stirs discontent.
A lack of integration in countries like Romania,Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia pushes many Romato leave, political analysts said. Many children fail to attendschool and adults struggle to find jobs.
"In France we were booed, police gathered us from thestreets when we went to sell the things we found ... But it wasbetter there. Here no one would give us a job, we have nothing,"said Catalin, who declined to give a last name.
Some far-right political parties in eastern European nationsare tapping anti-Roma sentiment, which rose in the recession.
Hungary's Jobbik, which said Roma thought a threat to publicsafety should be placed in "public order protection" camps,entered parliament for the first time in April.
Standards of living for Roma are now worse than duringcommunist rule and most of the general public are suspicious ofthem and some accuse them of causing crime, said Peter Kreko, ananalyst at think-thank Political Capital in Hungary.
"There are some generations of Roma who grew up in a contextwhere they don't see any people who are working, are going toschool, are doing anything the majority of the country regardsas beneficial social activity," Kreko said.
Governments could act to ease the situation, for exampleencouraging Roma to learn technical professions such as carmechanics, carpentry and electronics where countries likeHungary are lacking qualified workers, Kreko said. Rob Kushen, executive director of the European Roma RightsCentre, said deportations and media coverage may spur somenations to take more effective action to integrate Roma.
"Structural poverty and discrimination are the two reasonspeople are moving," Kushen said. "There needs to be top levelpolitical will to ... create a programme and fund it."
France called on the European Commission to force Romaniaand Bulgaria to use their structural funds to settle Roma anddenied that Paris was specifically targeting any ethnic group.
Many Roma believe there is no option in these recessionarytimes but to seek their fortunes in richer countries.
"Romania is the one to blame for us leaving because it won'tgive us social aid," Ursaru said. "All here in the village havebuilt our houses with money from France and Spain."
Vasile Codin, a 47-year-old Roma, says cash earned fromcollecting scrap metal in Spain paid for his house. He and ninerelatives are going back this week and the next target is a car.
"We are returning to Spain now because we want to buy a BMWfor our family," said his wife, Steluta Dumitru.
Soros called on French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- whoordered the demolition of hundreds of illegal Roma camps in July-- to halt a crackdown which he said clearly contravened EUlegislation by targeting an ethnic group.
France has deported more than 8,000 Roma since the start ofthe year, suggesting some illegal camps were a breeding groundfor crime. It has drawn a threat of sanctions from EU JusticeCommissioner Viviane Reding and divided leaders within the bloc.