France appoints 'top cop' interior minister as PM

01.04.14 @ 09:29

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - France’s interior minister Manuel Valls was named Prime Minister on Monday (31 March) by centre-left president Francois Hollande.

  • Manuel Valls became France's PM after Jean-Marc Ayrault quit (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The 51-year old Valls replaced Jean-Marc Ayrault, who quit after the French socialist government took a beating by both centre-right and far-right groups in local elections.

But Valls, also known as top cop or "premier flic" in France, has drawn criticism from pro-rights group for his law and order drive against the minority Roma population.

“The majority [of Roma] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people,” he said last September.

The Barcelona-born son of Spanish immigrants, Valls said France’s job is not to deal with the misery of others.

There are an estimated 20,000 Roma in France. Valls kicked out around half in the first six months of 2013. Most are from Bulgaria, Romania, and Balkan countries.

Valls’ tough stance against the minority is compared to the hard line taken by former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy.

A report by the London-based Amnesty International called for an end to the forced evictions in France, noting that authorities make few attempts to protect the vulnerable.

Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty told this website earlier this year that the EU risks losing credibility and legitimacy with the wider world due to member states' treatment of minority groups.

“Roma are the single largest minority group with wide-spread discrimination across countries and across sectors,” he said.

Discrimination affects all aspects of Roma life like health, education, employment and evictions, he noted.

Shetty said the European Commission was not doing enough to enforce the EU's racial equality directive.

“They [European Commission] are supposed to monitor compliance, but that is not happening. Infringement proceedings are not being used,” he said.

Shetty said the commission’s argument that there is not enough evidence for a legal case “is outrageous”.

“We feel there is so much evidence that has already been gathered, we ourselves have submitted evidence of abuse,” he said.

The commission, for its part, says it is up to member states to enforce the rules of the directive on the ground.

It launched a number of initial infringements against France and Poland because they had not fully transposed the directive into national legislation.

The transposition infringements were later dropped after it ruled them compliant.