France to miss EU deadline on Roma
As it appears that France will miss the 15 October deadline given by the European Commission to prove the legality of its Roma expulsions policy, the EU executive will make its case "stronger" against Paris, EU officials told EurActiv.
Two days ahead of the deadline set by the Commission, Paris had reportedly "not done much" to abide by the requests. "It's unrealistic that relevant measures will be notified by the deadline," said a Commission source.
France was asked to provide by 15 October the text of a draft law aimed at transposing into national law those elements of a directive on the free movement of EU citizens that are not currently part of French legislation, as exposed by the Roma row between Brussels and Paris (see 'Background').
In a letter seen by EurActiv which EU Justice and Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding sent to the French government at the end of September, she clearly requests the transposition of Articles 27 and 28 of the directive.
These articles regulate expulsions of EU citizens from a member state different from the one of origin, and set out citizens' rights to protect them from expulsions. Article 27 clearly states that expulsions "shall comply with the principle of proportionality and shall be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the individual concerned".
The Commission also laments France's failure to transpose into national law the "procedural and material safeguards" contained in the directive, which sets out a number of stages in the process of expelling an EU citizen.
Since the French Interior Ministry circulated a letter giving the order to dismantle the Roma camps, in which the government clearly targeted the whole ethnic minority, Paris has stood accused of having carried out mass deportations aimed at Roma people.
In a subsequent document, drafted to quieten critics, Paris clearly avoided targeting Roma. But Commissioner Reding in her letter to Paris wondered whether the new document was enough "to put an end to possible practices which are not in conformity with EU rules".
In its battle with Paris, the Commission dropped a previous threat to open proceedings against France for discrimination against Roma people, which would have had much graver political consequences.
New scandal in progress
In the meantime, another scandal erupted following the disclosure by French daily Le Monde of a gendarmerie database called MENS, which stands for "non-sedentary ethnic minorities".
Jacques Mignaud, director of the national gendarmerie, will be quizzed this morning by the French parliament (National Assembly) from 9:30. The meeting will be broadcast online.
It thus appears that it will be difficult to avoid launching an infringement procedure. Brussels is planning to issue its monthly set of infringements on 28 October and France is likely to be included in this round.
Stronger case against Paris
To strengthen its case against Paris, the Commission is planning to single out France on this issue. "No other EU country will be put under the infringement procedure" regarding the free circulation of EU citizens, explained a Commission source.
The Commission seems to have dropped the idea of attacking other countries on the same issue, despite the fact that many other member states present shortcomings in transposing the directive.
According to the European Commission, the Roma are the EU's largest ethnic minority, and trace their origins to medieval India. There are many Roma subgroups living in Europe. Since recently, the Commission puts the number of Roma in Europe between 10 and 12 million.
Many Roma from Eastern Europe moved to the West following the EU's enlargement, creating tensions, initially mainly in Italy. The French government has been expelling large numbers of Roma since 2009, but in an alleged systematic and potentially discriminatory way since last summer.
Following these developments, at the end of September, the European Commission required France to provide proves and documents that its policy of expulsion of Roma people was in line with EU rules.
On 30 September, the Commission decided to take France to task regarding its summer crackdown on illegal Roma camps, giving Paris until 15 October to prove that its policies comply with EU laws guaranteeing the free circulation of people.
A formal notice of infringement proceedings will be sent to France requesting the full transposition of the free movement directive, "unless draft transposition measures and a detailed transposition schedule are provided by 15 October 2010".
France is also being asked detailed questions regarding the practical application of its repatriation policy since the summer and must prove in particular that it "did not have the objective or the effect of targeting a specific ethnic minority".
- 15 Oct. 2010: Deadline for France to present relevant documents to Brussels to avoid launch of infringement procedure.
- 28 Oct. 2010: Monthly round of infringement procedures scheduled by Commission.