Wednesday

1st Apr 2020

EU washes hands of French plans for Roma expulsions as tensions grow

The European Commission on Thursday said it is up to member states to decide whether they expel Roma people, but only on an individual basis and respecting the principle of "proportionality", in reaction to France's announcement it will dismantle 300 Roma camps within three months.

"We're not here, as the European Commission, to judge on individual cases of Roma people. It's for each government, each authority to make those decisions," Matthew Newman, spokesman for justice and human rights said during a press conference.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

  • Roma are being pushed back from France, Germany, Italy and Denmark (Photo: Planet Love)

He added that before an EU citizen can be expelled from a member state, authorities must examine whether a crime was committed and how the person is integrated into the host country.

On Wednesday, French interior inister Brice Hortefeux said 300 illegal "camps or squats" would be dismantled and the travellers living there, mostly EU citizens from Romania and Bulgaria, will be sent back to their countries.

The announcement came after President Nicolas Sarkozy held crisis talks to discuss what he described as the security "problems" posed by the minority, following an attack on a police station in central France last week.

The French opposition and human rights groups lambasted the decision. Instead of focussing on integrating the Roma minority, the ruling centre-right party has engaged in a "demagogic, aggressive and stigmatising discussion", proposing a security policy which slides into xenophobia, the Socialists said on Thursday.

In Romania, home of the largest Roma population, non-governmental organisations said that France's move violates basic human rights. "Saying that Roma who committed crimes will be expelled is a severe violation of the freedom of movement. The word 'crime' can be [widely] interpreted and can lead to abuses," Gelu Duminica, head of the association Impreuna (Together), told AFP.

Meanwhile, Romanian foreign affairs minister Teodor Baconschi stressed that the nine million Roma living in the European Union were "European citizens" and their freedom of movement could not be impeded.

He also deflected France's objections to accepting Romania into the border-free travel area known as Schengen, a move which should take place in March 2011, together with neighbouring Bulgaria.

"Romania can manage migratory flows effectively, on the external border of the Schengen area. But this has nothing to do with the freedom of movement of European citizens on EU territory. Also, the social inclusion of EU citizens is not among the Schengen requirements," Mr Baconschi told Evenimentul Zilei.

France's EU affairs secretary Pierre Lellouche has previously told France Info and RFI that his country has doubts about Romania's accession to the Schengen area, precisely because of the crimes committed by its citizens of Roma ethnicity.

"There are two and half million Roma in Romania and it is the responsibility of Romania to integrate them, not France's," Mr Lellouche said. "I think the Roma issue should be a condition for Schengen membership," he added.

France is certainly not the only western European country where the Roma community is being stigmatised and pushed back. Two years ago, Italy had taken similar steps after several crimes were allegedly committed by Roma and even allowed for vigilante patrols to be established in the local communities.

And Germany is set to deport 12,000 Roma to Kosovo in the coming years, writes Der Freitag, in a deal that Pristina accepted "under pressure" last April. The paper calls it a "disgrace for Germany", especially since the majority of the nearly 6,000 children and adolescents affected have grown up in Germany, speak neither Serbian nor Albanian and will probably be unable to continue their studies.

In Denmark, the city of Copenhagen earlier this month asked for government assistance, including the use of force, in order to expel the 200 to 400 Roma who live there. "The situation is untenable," the mayor of the Danish capital said, arguing that the number of burglaries has risen in the neighbourhoods where they have taken up residence.

The Roma debate has also arrived up in Belgium, writes Le Monde. Chased away from Flanders, a caravan of around 700 people has been granted permission to settle down in Dour, in the French-speaking Wallonia, despite worries that the group is causing a "feeling of insecurity" among the locals. The permission to stay has been granted temporarily, until 4 August.

"Our population is reluctant when facing these persons," the mayor of Dour, Carlo Di Antonio, was quoted as saying.

Sarkozy targets Roma for explusion

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday announced his government is to order police to round up allegedly illegal migrants of Roma ethnicity for expulsion from French territory and destroy their encampments.

Feature

Children? Only if state permits it, says Romanian mayor

The mayor of the Romanian city of Targu Mures has said that the state should screen would-be parents for proof of a stable workplace, financial resources, basic education and the legal minimum age required to care for children.

Feature

New year, old problems for one of EU's poorest places

The year is off to a rocky start in Vaslui, one of EU's most impoverished regions and Romania's poorest county, where two 12-year olds were found in alcohol-induced coma after having spent their Christmas carol-singing money on alcohol.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."

News in Brief

  1. Danish conservatives want Orban party kicked out of EPP
  2. Dutch finance minister repents on virus help
  3. France to house domestic violence victims in hotels
  4. Europe sends medical goods to Iran, despite US embargo
  5. Commission sets consultation on raising 2030 climate target
  6. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  7. EU commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  8. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable. The Nordic Council is concerned and aims to find out why.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  2. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  3. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough
  4. Trying to think straight about coronavirus
  5. Berlin ready to airlift Greek island refugees
  6. Von der Leyen criticises Hungary, but fails to mention it
  7. Air pollution drops in Europe, but how long will it last?
  8. Human rights abusers don't stop for virus, MEPs tell EU

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us