Wednesday

5th Oct 2022

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary

MEPs criticised the EU Commission for what they see as the executive not being tough enough on the government of Viktor Orbán, as Hungary's parliament passed new legislation as part of a deal with the EU executive.

EU adding Bahamas to tax-haven blacklist

The EU is adding Anguilla, the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands to its blacklist of tax-havens, in what some have called a "fig-leaf" exercise.

Opinion

What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  2. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  3. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  4. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  5. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  6. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  7. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  8. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  2. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  3. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret
  4. European navies must stay on Suez trade routes, EU diplomats warn
  5. Macron's 'European Political Community' — how could it work?
  6. EU adopts common charger law, forces iPhone redesign
  7. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  8. EU wants probe into alleged war crimes by Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us