Roberto Maroni, Italy's interior minister, insisted the crackdown was on criminals, not foreigners.

 

He denied Italy was planning mass expulsions of immigrants, stressing that Rome would abide by EU rules and seek to expel only foreigners who committed crimes.

 

Fernandez de la Vega said Spain does "not support the policy of expulsions without respect for the law and rights, or actions which exalt violence, racism and xenophobia".

 

Tough measures

 

Berlusconi's government is preparing tougher measures against illegal immigrants, with the first expected to be approved at a cabinet meeting next week.

 

Cristian David, Romania's interior minister, meanwhile said on Friday that  Romanians can circulate freely anywhere in the European Union.

 

"There are two things which are non-negotiable," David told a press conference in Bucharest. "One is respect for the law, and the other is respect for the right to free movement which Romanians acquired with European Union entry [on January 1, 2007]."

 

David was speaking following an emergency meeting in Rome the  previous day with Roberto Maroni, his Italian counterpart, following the crackdown on immigrant crime.

 

Many see the crackdown as targeting Romanians.

 

"We fully support efforts by the Italian authorities towards a firm application of the law," David added.

 

"Romanians who live legally have nothing to fear," he underlined.

  

David also said that there was no general crime wave involving  Romanians who have moved to Italy, adding that his country's people  are contributors to Italy's national wealth.