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Romania backs Hungarian citizenship law

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(BUCHAREST) - Romania approves of a controversial Hungarian law that grants citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside the country, President Traian Basescu said Monday.

"We have no objections to the adoption by the Hungarian government and parliament of a law making it easier to grant Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad," Basescu said during a joint press conference with Hungarian counterpart Pal Schmitt.

The new legislation, which was adopted in May, sparked an angry response from Slovakia, Hungary's northern neighbour and EU partner.

The law concerns about 3.5 million people living mainly in Romania and Slovakia, but also in Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia and Austria.

"We did the same (for ethnic Romanians) a few years ago and believe it is the state's duty to enable members of the diaspora to obtain the motherland's citizenship," Basescu added.

Romania's support is "a sign of trust" between the two countries, he said.

Schmitt stressed that his country, which is to assume the European Union's presidency in the first half of 2011, will support Romania's bid to join the visa-free Schengen zone in March next year.

"I am confident Romania is fully prepared to meet the technical security requirements," he said.

Romanian authorities fear that delays in the reform of the judiciary could postpone the country's joining the Schengen area, where internal border controls have been eliminated, simultaneously with neighbouring Bulgaria.

On a visit to Bucharest last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the cooperation and verification mechanism for the judiciary, imposed by the European Union in order to make sure Romania keeps its promises in this field, is designed to help it make progress.

But as authorities are worried that this monitoring system could delay the country's entry into the Schengen area in 2011, she said this question would be assessed solely in keeping with technical criteria.

"We back Romania's efforts to join the Schengen zone... but we must make sure that visa delivery procedures are not marred by corruption," she said.

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