Wednesday

4th May 2016

French minister's anti-Roma remarks draw EU criticism

  • Top French minister says majority of Roma do not belong in France (Photo: Council of Europe)

Comments by France’s interior minister to send the majority of Roma “back to the borders” have drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups and the European Commission.

The minister, Manuel Valls, told French media on Wednesday (25 September) that France is not “there to welcome these populations."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He said the Roma should return to their home countries to assimilate there instead.

He made similar comments earlier on Tuesday when he told French radio “these populations have lifestyles that are very different from ours, and are clearly in confrontation [with the French way of life].”

The French campaign to evict Roma from their makeshift camps recently reached an historic high, says Amnesty International, a British-based NGO.

An estimated 20,000 Roma currently live in France, with a quarter of the population located near the cities of Lille and Lyon.

France evicted some 10,000 of them during the first half of 2013.

“France makes no provisions for effective protection against forced evictions. In most cases they take place in a climate of hostility with no alternative housing proposed,” Amnesty's John Dalhuisen said.

The rights group said the evictions should be banned.

A 26-year old mother of four, who has experienced 15 evictions in her 10 years in France, told the NGO last week she may be forced to live in the streets unless alternative housing is provided.

“If they cannot do anything to help us, then why don’t they let us stay here? [in the camp]” she said.

Amnesty says French President Francois Hollande’s promise to improve the lives of the Roma has not materialised.

Valls' anti-Roma rhetoric comes in the lead up to French municipal elections next March.

For her part, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told the France-Info radio station also on Wednesday that the Roma-bashing is political.

“There's an election in the air in France. Every time they don't want to talk about important things like the budget or debts, they find the Roma,” she said.

Most Roma in France trace their origins back to Romania or Bulgaria.

Under EU law, nationals from both member states are free to travel and move around the Union.

They also have the right to live in any member state, but must sustain themselves financially after three months.

European Commission spokesperson Oliver Bailly told reporters in Brussels the fact that Bulgaria and Romania are not part of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone does not mean their citizens have fewer rights.

“The only restriction they are attributed to are border controls at the Schengen borders which is the same thing that happens to UK citizens,” he said.

Labour restrictions imposed on Romania and Bulgaria by eight member states will also be lifted on 1 January 2014.

Bailly said the free movement of European citizens and the freedom to choose one’s country of residence in the EU is a fundamental right.

“It doesn’t matter if you are Roma or French,” he said.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission proposes visa-free travel for Turkey
  2. Iceland in court for not respecting EU laws
  3. Sweden registers more asylum application withdrawals
  4. German Pegida leader convicted of inciting hatred
  5. ECB expected to stop printing €500 notes
  6. Spain dissolves parliament for 26 June election
  7. Germany to legalise cannabis for medicinal use
  8. Hungary to hold migrant quota referendum by October

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppetiersBrexit Could Increase Support for Independence in Pro-EU Scotland
  2. European Music CouncilRegister Now for the 6th European Forum on Music in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016
  3. Belgrade Security ForumJoin Our Team for the 6th Belgrade Security Forum. Apply Now! Deadline May 20
  4. European Roundtable of IndustrialistsCompanies Make Progress on Number of Women in Leadership Roles
  5. Counter BalanceParliament Gets Tough on Control EU Bank's Funds
  6. ICRCSyria: Aleppo on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster
  7. CESIWorld Day For Health and Safety at Work: Public Sector Workers in The Focus
  8. EFABasque Peace Process-Arnaldo Otegi Visits the European Parliament
  9. EscardioChina Pays Price of Western Lifestyle With Soaring Childhood Obesity
  10. Centre Maurits CoppetiersThe Existence of a State is a Question of Fact, Not a Question of Law
  11. Martens CentreJoin Us at The Event: Prospects For EU Enlargement After 2019
  12. ICRCSyria: Aid for Over 120,000 People Arrives in Besieged Town Near Homs