Sunday

28th Aug 2016

Parliament demands France immediately stop Roma expulsions

  • Fingerprinting Roma is illegal, according to the EU Parliament (Photo: saucy_pan)

The European Parliament on Thursday (9 September) called for the immediate "suspen[sion of] all expulsions of Roma" by France and all other EU states engaged in the practice, and urged policymakers to avoid "inflammatory rhetoric".

The news came as Paris and Bucharest continued to trade barbs over who is to blame for the failure to integrate the minority.

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.

The resolution, warning against "lending credibility to racist statements and the actions of extreme right-wing groups," was backed by the left, liberals and Greens and opposed by the right of the house in a 337 to 245 vote, with 51 abstentions.

The parliament "rejects any statements which link minorities and immigration with criminality and create discriminatory stereotypes," a reference to the speech made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in July in which he linked an increase in crime to immigration and began a clampdown on Roma.

Some 900 Roma have subsequently been flown back to Romania and Bulgaria, most of them as part of a so-called voluntary repatriation scheme in which French authorities pay €300 per adult and €100 per child to return.

Fingerprinting Roma, however, as announced by French police, is "illegal and violates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights," MEPs said. French authorities have said they would fingerprint those people who received money in order to make sure they don't get the aid a second time, if they come back to France.

The EU legislature also deems as illegal the "automatic expulsion" of poor people. According to EU law on free movement of persons, "the lack of economic means can in no circumstances justify the automatic expulsion of EU citizens." Restrictions on freedom of movement can be imposed "solely on the basis of personal conduct, and not of general considerations of prevention or ethnic or national origin."

Mr Sarkozy on Monday suggested that EU citizens be automatically expelled if they have no reasonable economic means of subsistence, an idea already floated by Italy's far-right interior minister, Roberto Maroni.

Italian authorities in recent days have stepped up the dismantling of Roma camps, resorting to the same methods used two year ago, when they ordered a massive crack-down on the minority.

The EU legislature also regretted the "late and limited response" by the European Commission as it took Brussels almost a month to formulate a reaction to the events in France.

Euro-deputies also said there was no connection between the Roma situation and the accepting Romania and Bulgaria to the bloc's border-free "Schengen area", a move planned for next year. This follows French attempts to link the two issues.

France's EU affairs minister, Pierre Lellouche, during a visit to Bucharest on Thursday together with the French immigration minister, called on Romanian authorities to draw up an emergency plan to integrate its populous Roma community.

"The truth is the Roma are not integrated in Romania," he said in the Romanian capital.

Officially, there are 535,000 Roma registered in Romania, but some estimates put the numbers at around 2 million.

A further 10 million are scattered throughout the rest of eastern and central Europe, living mainly in ghettos, shanty towns and caravans.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, however, put the blame on the French and said their actions were in breach of EU law.

"The French government is acting outside the norms of a European state," Mr Basescu said in an interview aired on Wednesday on public television.

The trip of the two French ministers was going to be "useless", he said, "if they are coming here to lecture us."

On the other hand, Mr Basescu acknowledged that it was not solely the responsibility of the French state, but also of the Romanian one and the Roma themselves. "Nobody stops them from sending their children to school instead of begging," he said.

But keeping Roma in one place is "against their nomadic culture" and Mr Basescu saw no political solution to that. "Instead of fooling them with €300, maybe we could find a formula to help them buy caravans," he added.

Centre-right support for France

Meanwhile, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) to which Mr Sarkozy's own party is affiliated, deplored the final text after having failed to take out criticism aimed directly at Paris and Brussels.

"Pointing fingers at France and the European Commission as the left side of the European Parliament has done in a resolution adopted today, does not, unfortunately, address the real challenges of improving the living conditions, education, healthcare and other basic needs of the Roma people who are EU citizens", said Simon Busuttil, a Maltese centre-right MEP who had tabled an alternative version of the resolution, which was voted down in the plenary.

The EPP said it will set up an internal "working group" chaired by centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka from Hungary, the only Roma deputy in the EU legislature.

"It is my clear ambition to start working immediately and to put forward specific policy recommendations with my colleagues in order to promote the institutional establishment of an EU level strategy for the economic and social inclusion of Roma," Ms Jaroka said in a statement.

Warning over Europe's sugar-guzzling habits

Europeans get through a huge amount of sugary drinks, causing serious risks to their health, a study backed by anti-obesity campaigners suggests. But southern Europe has seen a marked decline in consumption.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary plans to reinforce border fence against migrants
  2. France's highest court suspends burkini ban
  3. Greeks paid €1bn more in taxes in June
  4. Greek minister denounces EU letter on former statistics chief
  5. Turks seeking asylum in Greece may cause diplomatic row
  6. Merkel becomes digital resident of Estonia
  7. Report: VW will compensate US dealers with €1bln
  8. EU mulls making Google pay news media for content

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBrussels - home of beer, fries, chocolate and Google’s Public Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  2. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students from 50 countries to China for Much-Needed ICT Training
  3. EFASpain is not a democratic state. EFA expresses its solidarity to Arnaldo Otegi and EH Bildu
  4. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  5. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  6. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  7. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Confirms the Application of Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  8. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  9. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  10. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER
  11. EURidNominate Your Favourite .eu or .ею Website for the .EU Web Awards 2016 Today!
  12. Dialogue PlatformAn Interview on Gulen Movement & Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey