Regarding the latest developments of the situation of Roma immigrants in France, it seems that despite the clear refusal of specifically targeting any ethnic group, announced several times by several members of the French government, the dismantling of illegal camps and the expulsions were clearly and mainly aimed at Roma immigrants.
The administrative circular made public by the website ‘Le Canard Social’ on 9 September and supposedly issued by the French Interior Ministry on 5 August calls on the prefects to treat Roma as their primary target group for evacuation. Such a document – even if the Immigration Minister’s plea of not being aware of such a Directive proves to be true – is a sobering signal that the elimination of discrimination based on ethnicity, assuring the equality of all EU citizens before the law and guaranteeing the respect of human dignity are still goals to be achieved. These are the core values of the European Community, the respect of which I warned about last week in Strasbourg, and which are now apparently being violated by one of the founding members of the Union. It is even more disappointing that such an infringement of human rights may have happened in a country where the Constitution and public law does not even recognise the existence of ethnic minorities and has signed numerous human rights conventions from the Council of Europe to the United Nations distinctly prohibiting all forms of racial differentiation, but more importantly, the 2000/43 EU Directive on equal treatment and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
I sincerely hope that following the deletion of any explicit reference to Roma in the circular in question, France will redress other legal and procedural shortcomings as well. I also hope that the European Commission will take the necessary actions if the French measures prove to be discriminative and the rights of Roma as European citizens are not fully guaranteed, which – as I also pointed out in last week’s debate – in this case means that the expulsions are implemented on a case-by-case basis, on the grounds of proper judicial decisions or with the free, complete and informed consent of all the individuals concerned. I am therefore impatiently looking forward to the official results of the Commission’s investigation and the final legal analysis of the French authorities’ measures.
It is vital, however, that the Roma issue is not taken hostage in a squabble between the Commission and a Member State, or abused by political groups for short-sighted and cheap political purposes. Beyond reaching a decision on compliance with Community law, it is even more important to reveal the processes that lead up to this point and to present viable solutions and instant programmes to alleviate the terrible poverty from which the Roma are trying to escape when they migrate. To this end, the EPP Group has recently launched its working group on Roma inclusion. The poverty and social exclusion of most Roma requires a strategy of its own: a common European solution for a common European problem which aims at the elimination of the substandard socio-economic features of socially-excluded Roma so much as non-Roma.”