Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 7 September 2010 16:30 UK

MEPs criticise France's policy on Roma people

MEPs criticised France's policy of closing a number of Roma camps during a debate on 7 September 2010.

More than 800 Roma people have been expelled from France to Bulgaria and Romania as part of a new policy initiated by the country's president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

In July, President Sarkozy announced plans to shut 300 illegal Roma camps within three months, and to immediately deport any member of the Roma community who had committed public order offences.

He says that the camps are "sources of illegal trafficking, of profoundly shocking living standards, of exploitation of children for begging, of prostitution and crime".

Human rights groups have criticised the move as deliberately stigmatising a section of the population to try and win votes.

However opening the debate, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding refused to condemn the policy.

To jeers from some sections of the chamber, she told MEPs that the French government had assured her that there was no targeted action against Roma.

However Austrian socialist MEP Hannes Swoboda said that Commissioner Reding needed to state clearly whether or not France had breached EU laws on fundamental rights.

Italian right-wing MEP Mario Borghezio said MEPs needed to consider the victims of crime and accused "do-gooders" of being unwilling to do this.

During the debate, the Parliament's sole Roma MEP, Lívia Járóka accused policymakers across Europe of using the Roma issue as a political "weapon".

Under French and EU law, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have the right to enter France without a visa, but must have work or residency permits to settle in the long term.

At the voting session on 9 September, MEPs adopted a resolution that was highly critical of the French government's policy towards Roma people.

The resolution, jointly tabled by the socialist, liberal, green and far-left groups was passed by 337 votes to 245.

A resolution by the centre-right and conservative groups that did not single out any one country, but simply called for a European Roma Strategy was rejected.

The resolution that was passed was criticised by many MEPs for being overly political.

Read more here at Democracy Live's guide to the European Parliament plenary sessions.


Story Tools

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific