EU to press ahead with Roma case against France


Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who was caught in a bitter row with Paris last week over the French government's Roma expulsions, said the European Commission will start a legal procedure against France and several other EU countries for failing to transpose into national law a 2004 directive on the free movement of persons.

The directive is unequally applied across the EU and the Commission is in discussion with 15 or 16 capitals over the issue, Reding indicated yesterday from Strasbourg (21 September).

According to Reuters, the "package" of infringements will be announced on 30 September, therefore ensuring that France will not be singled out.

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament expressed its unhappiness with the Commission's appeasement strategy and called for tougher measures against France's Roma expulsions.

On their initiative, the Parliament's civil liberties committee decided yesterday to call an extraordinary public hearing on the Roma for next Wednesday in Brussels. The proposal was adopted despite opposition from the centre-right and conservative groups in the EU assembly.

Reding was invited to appear before the Parliament's civil liberties and employment committees, together with Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Employment Commissioner László Andor, the Socialists said in a statement.

The commissioners will be asked to provide a legal interpretation of the free movement directive with regard to recent events in France. The centre-left will also put pressure on the Commission to launch infringement proceedings against France and will promote an urgent review of the wider Roma integration strategy.

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to put an end to controversy over who said what at a Brussels summit last week.

On the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit in New York on Monday (20 September), the two apparently cleared the tension and Sarkozy's office said the misunderstanding had now been cleared.

Tensions between Paris and Berlin were heightened last week when Sarkozy said the chancellor had given him her full support over France's Roma expulsions and had told him she was about to follow his example (EURACTIV 17/09/10). The statement was immediately denied by Berlin.

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 at 11 million.

Current census statistics state that 535,000 Roma live in Romania, 370,000 in Bulgaria, 205,000 in Hungary, 89,000 in Slovakia and 108,000 in Serbia. Some 200,000 Roma are estimated to live in the Czech Republic, while the same number are estimated to reside in Greece and an estimated 500,000 are in Turkey.

Many Roma from Eastern Europe moved to the West following the EU's enlargement, creating tensions, particularly in Italy (EURACTIV 30/06/09). An estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria live in France. The French government is presently expelling large numbers of them in groups (EURACTIV 19/08/10).

France is insisting that it measures are not discriminatory and are intended to protect the security of its citizens and public order.

Subscribe to our newsletters