The European Parliament's silence during the summer recess has been broken by liberal group ALDE, which called for a parliamentary debate on the Roma situation in Europe in early September, following France's move to expel members of that minority to their countries of origin, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) deeply regrets that several European governments have brazenly stigmatised the Roma community during the summer months, says a press release.
"The exiling of German-born Roma children to Kosovo, the military-style dismantling of Roma camps in France, the massive expulsions, and the encouragements of an Italian minister to carry out openly xenophobic policies, are sad events for the European Union whose values have been ridiculed," deplored Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE group president and a former Belgian prime minister, who also requested a declaration from the EU Council and the European Commission on the Roma situation in Europe for the next Strasbourg plenary (6-9 September).
"The Parliament must remind Europe of our principles and the Commission must assure that the rights of minorities are respected," Verhofstadt added.
"To tolerate such discriminatory practices could lead to the opening of Pandora's box: who will be the next group to be stigmatised and expelled?" said Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veld (ALDE), on whose initiative the request for a parliamentary debate was sent to the Conference of Presidents.
"I am ashamed of these governments who play populist sentiment against a minority which is already marginalised in their country of origin, and I am even more outraged that so few of these ministers who today are proud of their repressive exploits judged it necessary to attend the European summit on the Roma people last April in Cordova," In't Veld added.
According to information obtained by EURACTIV, the Socialist group also wants to bring the Roma issue to the attention of MEPs as soon as the Parliament resumes its work on 30 August.
Claude Moraes, a UK Labour MEP of immigrant background and a specialist in immigration issues and European law, wants the Roma issue to be discussed immediately after the recess. He has prepared a letter for the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE), asking for a discussion on 1 September and a debate in plenary on the 6th.
The programme of the session will be decided at the Conference of Presidents next week. The majority of political groups are likely to back a discussion on the Roma issue, as even in France, the centre-right is divided on the issue of Sarkozy's expulsions of Roma.
Rachida Dati, a former French justice minister who is currently an MEP in the European People's Party group, published a commentary in Le Monde appealing for France to respect immigrants and their descendants as full citizens.
Dominique Moïsi, founder and senior advisor at Ifri (the French Institute for International Relations), told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview that by trying to please a large section of the electorate, Sarkozy was "playing with fire" and alienating much of the French political elite, who consider his approach "immoral".
MEPs from Bulgaria and Romania are also expected to be vocal, with a slight nuance: the Bulgarian socialists are more critical than their centre-right colleagues, as the official position of the country appears to be that it is much less concerned by the issue than Romania.