Amnesty dismayed at European Commission response to France's treatment of Roma
Amnesty International has expressed its extreme disappointment at the limited scope of measures adopted yesterday by the European Commission to address human rights violations against Roma people in France. However, Amnesty International said it does support the Commission’s announcement yesterday of substantive measures to advance the inclusion of the Roma in European society.
Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions office, said:
“We‘re dismayed that the Commission appears to have accepted assurances by France that its measures didn’t set out to target Roma people.
“This assertion is clearly contradicted by the French Government’s internal memo of 5 August which explicitly names the Roma as the priority target group.
“For the Commission then to imply that the measures had no discriminatory effect on a specific ethnic minority is a slap in the face to all the Roma people who have lost their homes and have had to leave the country and those who will shortly do so.
“This sends a dangerous signal to EU governments that they can get away with abusing minorities on their own soil.
“The Commission should address clear breaches of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as the Free Movement Directive. The Commission has yet to show that it is able to address human rights violations properly. ”
However, Amnesty International said that there were some positive aspects to the Commission’s announcement. Nicolas Beger added:
“We obviously welcome the Commission’s commitment to examining the situation of Roma people in all EU countries and its plan to present an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies early next year.”
The EU treaties, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, prohibit discrimination and collective expulsions and ensure freedom of movement.
In late July, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, ordered the eviction and expulsion of Roma people living in illicit camps following a clash between travellers and police after a male traveller was shot dead by the police. The French Government claimed that the actions did not target the Roma as a group and thus were not discriminatory. However, a French Government memo which was later leaked showed that Roma camps were indeed a priority target.
The EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding reacted strongly to the events in France, announcing that the Commission would hold a legal investigation. Her reaction to the leaked memo caused a political furore at the European Summit in mid-September. The infringement procedure initiated by the Commission obliges France to react to the Commission’s requirements for EU legislation to be more effectively transposed into French law. If France fails to satisfy the Commission’s requirements it may ultimately be taken to the European Court of Justice.