Originally published at AlterPolitics
The European Union is considering taking legal action against France for violating EU’s discriminatory laws. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-winged government has been engaged in a massive deportation of Roma — also commonly referred to as ‘Gypsies’. This group has a long history of persecution in Europe. Like Jews, Roma gypsies were targeted for annihilation by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
According to France24:
There are between 10 million and 12 million Gypsies in the EU, most living in dire circumstances, victims of poverty, discrimination, violence, unemployment, poverty and bad housing. An estimated 1.5 million of them live in Romania, a country of 22 million, which has the largest population of Gypsies in Europe.
The group originates from Romania and Bulgaria — both members of the EU — and are therefore entitled by law to live in any member state of the EU, including France. But President Sarkozy contends that they are responsible for much of the country’s crime. France24 reports that he has called “the camps in which some of them live, sources of trafficking, exploitation of children and prostitution.” His Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux recently claimed that “over the past 18 months crime committed by Roma people has increased by 259 percent in Paris alone.”
It was reported that over 1,000 Roma had been deported in the month of June this year, alone. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso responded, at the time, with a veiled threat directed to the French President:
“Everyone in Europe must respect the law, and the governments must respect human rights, including those of minorities,” Barroso said in a speech to the European Parliament.
“Racism and xenophobia have no place in Europe. On such sensitive issues, when a problem arises, we must all act with responsibility,” he said.
But the call had little effect on the French government, which continued unabated with thousands of more Roma expulsions. In August, President Sarkozy announced “a raft of new draconian security measures, including plans to dismantle 300 unauthorised campsites within three months.” Opinon polls in August “showed that 79 percent of [French] voters approved of measures to dismantle the camps, and similar majorities backing other aspects of his law and order policy.”
Yesterday, the Canadian TV disclosed that in the most “recent weeks, French authorities have dismantled more than 100 illegal camps and deported more than 1,000 Gypsies.” In response, the EU finally decided to escalate its efforts in forcing France into complying with EU laws:
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said she was appalled by the expulsions, “which gave that impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to an ethnic minority.”
This “is a situation that I had thought that Europe would not have to witness again after the second World War,” she told a news conference, adding “the commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement procedures against France.”
France could ultimately be slapped with a fine by the European Court of Justice if its expulsions are found to have breached EU law. [...]
“After 11 years of experience on the commission, I even go further: This is a disgrace,” she said. “Discrimination on the basis or ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe.“
She also harshly criticized French authorities for telling the EU commission that it was not discriminating against Roma — a claim apparently contradicted by news reports of a government letter ordering regional officials to speed up a crackdown on illegal Roma camps.
“It is my deepest regret that political assurances given by two French ministers is now openly contradicted,” Reding said.
She was speaking about France’s immigration minister, Eric Besson, and its European affairs minister, Pierre Lellouche. Besson on Monday denied any knowledge of the reported Interior Ministry letter and did not speak to reporters Tuesday at a Brussels meeting on asylum issues. [...]
Amnesty International had recently accused the EU of “turning a blind eye” to France’s ethnic cleansing:
Amnesty said the EU should penalize countries that have persistently failed to uphold the human rights of Roma. Among the harshest measures applicable under the charter of fundamental rights that came into force with the Lisbon treaty last year is the withdrawal of voting rights, or even expulsion from the union.
“The EU under the Lisbon Treaty…has the responsibility to address human rights within the 27 member states,” said Amnesty’s executive officer for legal affairs in the European Union, Susanna Mehtonen.
The Guardian reports recent instances of Roma expulsions from within the EU have also been reported in Denmark, Belgium, Italy, and Germany. Acts of discrimination and physical violence against the Roma have been reported in Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Here’s Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! discussing these recent developments with András Biró: