Commission refuses to support Roma expulsions
A high-level meeting between the European Commission and the French government to discuss the plight of Europe’s Roma people ended inconclusively this afternoon after the Commission refused to validate France’s drive to deport Roma, while France refused to countenance any criticism of its actions.
A spokesperson for Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, said that Reding had told the French that they would have to provide extra information on the deportation programme before the Commission would be prepared to pronounce it legal.
“More detailed information will be shared with the Commission so it can complete its legal analysis,” the spokesperson said.
He said that Reding would give a “preliminary” analysis tomorrow to other members of the college of commissioners.
The Commission also refused to satisfy France’s wish that it publicly single out Romania, the country of origin for most Roma migrants, and pressure it to spend more of its EU funding allocation on measures to integrate the Roma.
Reding’s spokesperson said that the Commission was asking “all member states” to integrate their Roma populations. “This is not a specific request to Romania,” he said.
Whereas the meeting was billed by the Commission as an opportunity to find out more about the French programme, and also to discuss issues of Roma integration in Europe, France made clear that its ambitions focused largely on discussing what Romania, and also Bulgaria, should do to integrate their Roma minorities.
“We did not come here to answer to the reservations of the Commission [concerning the French programme],” Éric Besson, France’s immigration minister, said after the meeting.
He said, nevertheless, that he had brought with him “two complete dossiers of information” on the programme which the Commission would analyse.
Freedom of movement
Besson said that France’s deportation programme, launched earlier this month, was in line with European law “in all its respects”. He specifically cited the EU’s 2004 directive on freedom of movement, which many opponents of the programme claim France has breached.
Pierre Lellouche, France’s Europe minister, who also attended the meeting, gave an indication of the lack of harmony between France and the Commission when he said: “We [France and the Commission] agree at least on a number – that there are 11 million Roma in Europe.”
Besson described the meeting as “frank, deep and constructive”.
European Parliament concerns
Following the meeting with the Commission, which was also attended by Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, Lellouche held a meeting with several of the European Parliament’s political groups, including the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) who have strongly criticised the deportation programme. Lellouche described as “scandalous” some comments made by parliamentarians about the programme.
France’s treatment of the Roma, and broader issues of Roma integration, are expected to be added to the agenda of next week’s European Parliament plenary session.
Reding this afternoon also held meetings with several junior ministers from Romania.
More than 900 Roma have been deported and many camps destroyed since the start of the French programme, which has been strongly criticised as discriminatory by, among others, the Council of Europe and Roma rights groups. Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister, has said that he considered resigning over the initiative, which the French government claims is essential to maintain internal security.
The meeting between the Commission and the French ministers occurred on the same day that an administrative tribunal in the French city of Lille ruled against the deportation of seven Roma, on the grounds that the state had not proven that they were “a threat to public order”. The ruling confirms an earlier court decision on 27 August, which the French government had appealed. The government has decided not to appeal this new decision.
Besson yesterday (30 August) announced plans to amend France’s laws to facilitate expulsions of foreign nationals. He said today the amendments would be fully in line with EU law.
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