France gets EU reprieve on Roma

Roma family leaving Villeneuve d'Asq, northern France, 25 Sep 10 France has expelled more than 1,000 Roma since early August in a new crackdown

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The European Commission has lifted its threat of legal action against France, saying Paris has responded "positively" to its concerns about expulsions of Roma (Gypsies).

The commission says it "will now, for the time being, not pursue the infringement procedure against France".

France has pledged to implement a 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement, the commission says.

Recently the commission sharply criticised France over the expulsions.

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding had demanded proof that France was not targeting Roma as an ethnic group.

She insisted that France adhered to the procedural safeguards stipulated by the EU directive.

France was widely condemned for expelling more than 1,000 Romanian and Bulgarian Roma living in illegal camps, in police raids that Ms Reding compared with events in World War II.

On Friday, French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris was "willing to insert certain provisions of the directive into the texts of its national law".

French timetable 'credible'

Friday was the deadline set by Ms Reding for France to submit plans to the commission spelling out how it would implement the 2004 directive on the right of EU citizens and their families to move and reside freely in other EU member states.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says France has the right to expel foreign Roma who are jobless and lacking the means to support themselves. He has also called the camps breeding grounds for prostitution, people trafficking and child exploitation.

Ms Reding declared on Tuesday that "France has responded positively, constructively and in time to the commission's request".

"Last Friday, the French authorities submitted detailed documentation to the commission. This documentation includes draft legislative measures and a credible calendar for putting the procedural safeguards required under the EU's Free Movement Directive into French legislation by early 2011. France has thus done what the commission had asked for.

"This is proof of the good functioning of the European Union as a community governed by the rule of law," she said, after discussing the French response with fellow commissioners.

The commission will monitor France's fulfilment of its pledges, she said, and will present an EU-wide strategy next April to address the challenges of Roma integration.

She urged EU states to put more resources into improving Roma access to jobs, housing, healthcare and education.

EU law allows member states to expel EU citizens, as well as people from outside the EU, who are considered a threat to public security or an excessive burden on the welfare system.

But candidates for deportation are supposed to be treated individually, not targeted on an ethnic basis.

EU anti-discrimination laws are enshrined in directives from the commission and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is now legally binding.

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