Saturday

27th May 2017

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.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms