Tuesday

6th Dec 2022

EU set to take France to court over Roma policy

  • What France is doing is a 'disgrace', Ms Reding says (Photo: European Commission)

In a rare outburst of criticism against France, the EU commission said it will take Paris to court after leaked documents proved that French police were instructed to specifically target Roma in the accelerated expulsions which took place last month.

"I am personally convinced that the commission will have no choice but initiate infringement procedures against France," EU justice and fundamental rights commissioner Viviane Reding said Tuesday (14 September) during a press briefing.

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

The commission is likely to file two cases against France, one for "discriminatory application" of the EU law on freedom of movement and another one for having legal gaps in the transposition of this law into national legislation.

A decision is expected to be taken by the whole commission in the coming two weeks, she said, adding that she will ask for "fast-track" procedures. The sanctions are yet to be defined - they could entail a fine or simply the change of the national legislation.

But the political embarrassment for Mr Sarkozy's government is already clear, even though he has pocketed two percentage points for the zero-tolerance security measures which led to the levelling of dozens of Roma camps and 'voluntary deportations' of some 900 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens.

"My patience is wearing thin. Enough is enough," Ms Reding said, while pounding her fist on the pulpit.

"No member state can expect special treatment when fundamental values and European laws are at stake. This applies today to France. This applies equally to all other member states, big or small, which would be in a similar situation. You can count on me for that."

Ms Reding said she was initially "apalled" by the measures which started last month, as they "gave the impression that people are expelled just for being part of a minority."

But the outburst of the Luxembourg politician was triggered by the revelation that all assurances given to her by French ministers were "openly contradicted" by three leaked documents issued by the French ministry of interior in which it advises police officers and local authorities to target Roma camps "with priority."

"The role of the commission as guardian of the [EU] treaties is made extremely difficult if we can no longer have confidence in the assurances given by two ministers in a formal meeting with two Commissioners and with around 15 senior officials on the table from both sides."

"This is not a minor offence in a situation of this importance. After 11 years of experience in the commission, I would even go further: This is a disgrace."

Following the publication of the initial orders, the French government on Monday issued new instructions, leaving out any reference to Roma, but Ms Reding indicated that she remained sceptical.

"It is important that not only words change, but also the behaviour of French authorities. It is shocking that a part of the government comes here and says something and the other part does the contrary in Paris."

Ms Reding also "took note" of the statements made Monday by the French EU affairs secretary Pierre Lellouche, who said it was not the EU, but the "French people" who had to look after the EU treaties, since it was the national parliament who ratified the law.

"The commission's role as guardian of the treaties is one of the foundations of the European Union – a Union which is held together not by force, but by respect of the rule of law agree upon by all member states, including France," Ms Reding pointed out.

EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos

Hungary will be in the spotlight on Tuesday as EU governments struggle over suspending EU funds to prime minister Viktor Orbán's government — despite rule of law concerns — and unlock key EU policies which Budapest has been blocking.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  2. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  3. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies
  4. EU: 'We'll see' if Moscow actually stops selling oil over price-cap
  5. Bad Karma
  6. Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia
  7. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  8. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us