EU commission refuses to condemn French memo targeting Roma camps
The European Commission refused Monday to condemn a leaked French government memo which appeared to indicate that the country's illegal-immigrant expulsions were targeting the Roma community, dpa reported.
The interior ministry note, published by the Le Parisien newspaper on Saturday, stating that "within three months, 300 illegal camps are to be dismantled, predominantly those of the Roma."
But despite that seeming to contradict the European Union's anti-discrimination laws, the bloc's executive studiously avoided taking a firm stance on the latest development.
"We will study everything. We will listen to the (French) authorities. I am not going to go into the details," said Matthew Newman, spokesman for EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding.
Reding is conducting an investigation into whether the French crackdown violates the EU's free movement and anti-discrimination laws.
"There is no deadline for this analysis, we take our time, to do it carefully," Newman said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right government has been under fire since late July, when it started repatriating Roma living in illegal camps, either via a voluntary 300-euro (385-dollar) payout or an expulsion order for those deemed a threat to public order.
Under current rules, EU citizens staying in another country from the bloc for more than three months can be expelled if they have no means to support themselves or if they pose a serious threat to public order.
But cases must be assessed individually, preventing mass deportations, and no single ethnic group can be targeted.
According to Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch liberal member of the European Parliament, the commission has been far too lenient with French authorities.
"It cannot continue to say it will take its time in analysing the situation, with no deadlines, and limiting itself to an amiable exchange of letters," she said in a statement Monday.
In 't Veld said the commission should go after the "relevant French authorities" and consider initiating legal proceedings that could ultimately see France being fined by the European Court of Justice.
Last week the European Parliament deplored the commission's "late and limited response" to the crisis and urged France to stop expulsions "immediately."
The assembly joined a chorus of international condemnation which included the Vatican, a human rights panel of the United Nations and Romania, where France sent most of the expelled Roma. dpa alv bve