EU warns France of action over Roma

Police evacuate a Roma family from an illegal camp in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, 24 Aug 10 France's demolitions of Roma camps have been widely criticised in the EU

The European Commission has told France that it faces action over its expulsion of Roma (Gypsy) migrants if it fails to adopt EU rules on freedom of movement by 15 October.

France welcomed the fact that the EU was not accusing it of discrimination.

But Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said France had not respected a 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement.

The controversial expulsions of thousands of Roma led to a serious row between Brussels and Paris.

Recently Ms Reding compared France's action to events during World War II.

The accusation drew a sharp rebuke from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"France is not enforcing European law as it should on free movement, so we are launching an infringement process against France," Ms Reding told France 24 television.

France Roma row

  • 19 July: A French Roma mob riots in the Loire Valley town of Saint-Aignan after police shoot a Roma man dead
  • 29 July: President Sarkozy orders the clearing of 300 illegal Roma and traveller camps within three months
  • 9 September: With about 1,000 foreign Roma already deported from France, the European Parliament demands an end to the policy; France vows to continue
  • 14 September: EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding draws parallels with WWII
  • 16 September: President Sarkozy tells EU summit Reding's words were "disgusting and shameful"

Ms Reding says France has failed to transpose into law a 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement, which sets out procedures for deporting migrants deemed to be staying illegally.

The Roma sent home to Romania and Bulgaria are EU citizens, so they have the right to move to another EU country. But host countries can deport people considered to be a public security risk or a burden on the welfare system.

President Sarkozy says the illegal Roma camps threaten to become shanty towns. He launched the crackdown in late July, calling the camps breeding grounds for people trafficking, prostitution and child exploitation.

More than 1,000 Roma have been deported since Mr Sarkozy announced that the camps would be torn down.

Row over memo

A leaked memo from the French interior ministry infuriated Ms Reding earlier this month.

It showed the authorities had been instructed to target Roma camps, rather than deal with migrants on a case-by-case basis, as the French migration minister and the minister for Europe had assured the European Commission.

The deliberate targeting of an ethnic minority, if proven, would violate EU anti-discrimination laws and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

"France did not correctly transpose the rules on free movement of European citizens and, as a result, she has robbed these citizens of essential procedural guarantees," Ms Reding said on Wednesday.

"This must be corrected and that is why the Commission has acted firmly."

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding: "The European Commission today has decided to open infringement procedures against France. "

The official notification about an infringement procedure will be sent to Paris if France does not tell the Commission within two weeks how it is transposing the directive into law and present a timetable for doing so.

The Commission heard presentations on Wednesday from Ms Reding and two other commissioners on France's expulsions of Roma.

"The Commission is analysing the situation of all other EU member states under the Directive on Free Movement, to assess whether it will be necessary to initiate infringement proceedings also in other cases," a Commission statement said.

It warned that infringement cases would be opened against other countries if they were found to be ignoring the directive.

Roma in Europe - graphic

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