EU lawmakers criticize Italian plans to fingerprint Gypsies

European Union lawmakers on Monday condemned Italian moves to fingerprint tens of thousands of Gypsies living in camps across the country as discriminatory. The EU lawmakers called for an EU-wide policy that would help integrate Gypsies into the mainstream society. The Italian government proposed the fingerprinting measure as part of a wider crackdown on street crime. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said last week it was needed to fight crime and identify illegal immigrants for expulsion. Members of the European Parliament said, however, that the plans smacked of Nazi methods. "We are extremely startled by the recent measures announced by the Italian government. Fingerprinting adults and minors is discriminatory and goes against certain agreed principles," Dutch lawmaker Jan Marinus Wiersma said. The debate has exposed the weaknesses of European policy toward its 7 million to 9 million Gypsies, also known as Roma. For decades, members of the continent's largest, poorest and fastest growing minority have been at risk of social exclusion, despite many government programs designed to help them.