Roma Expulsions Row EU to Launch Legal Action Against France
The European Commission has decided to launch legal action against France over its controversial expulsion of Roma migrants. The process gives Paris until mid-October to apply EU rules on the freedom of movement or it could face a court case.
The European Commission is to launch legal proceedings against France over its recent expulsions of Roma migrants, who were sent back to Bulgaria and Romania.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union, will launch a so-called infringement process against Paris over the explusions.
However, the move still gives France time to reverse its policy, which has seen over 1,000 Roma expelled and hundreds of camps broken up since July. European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde told reporters on Wednesday that an official notification letter had been sent to France asking it to apply the EU rules on freedom of movement.
France would have the opportunity to change its current policy by mid-October or else it could eventually face a court case. The EU stopped short of saying that France was discriminating against a specific ethnic group.
The controversial French decision to break up illegal camps and expel the Roma migrants living there has attracted widespread criticism, particularly from the European Commission. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has defended the policy, saying it is part of a policy of cracking down on crime and illegal immigration. His government also says that most of the Roma are leaving voluntarily, with a small stipend from France. Critics say that France is targeting an ethnic minority unfairly.
The row between Brussels and Paris became particularly bitter earlier in September when EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said she was "appalled" by France's actions and compared the expulsions to events during World War II. This drew a furious rebuke from Sarkozy, and Reding later apologized for her remarks.
"France is not enforcing European law as it should on free movement, so we are launching an infringement process against France," Reding told France 24 television on Wednesday. She said that France would be asked to provide proof to back its claims that its crackdown against the Roma is legal.
France is one of several EU countries that have failed to incorporate EU rules on freedom of movement into national law. As EU citizens, Romanian and Bulgarian Roma enjoy the same rights as other EU nationals, including the right to freely cross European borders.
smd -- with wire reports