EU official calls Roma's situation in Europe 'scandalous'

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who clashed with France over its treatment of Roma, described their situation in Europe on Friday as a "scandalous matter".

"Above all, this is a scandalous matter for all Europeans," Reding said at a press conference in Lausanne.

"We have in Europe the largest minority -- 10 million people -- who live in absolute poverty, who don't have access to housing, who often don't have access to health care," she said.

She described as particularly scandalous the fact that some Roma children cannot go to school.

Reding, who is also vice-president of the European Commission, the European Union's executive branch, sparked a row with Paris in September over her vocal criticism of the French government's treatment of Roma in which she drew parallels with World War II.

She referred to the issue Friday, saying she hoped the "excitement show clearly that we live in a state of law and citizens, no matter who they are, have rights".

"We have the obligation to resolve the extreme poverty and lack of schooling of Roma children," she said.

France drew a chorus of international criticism in recent months for rounding up thousands of Roma from illegal camps and sending them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

In October, the European Commission dropped a threat of legal action against France over the expulsions after Paris vowed to change its freedom of movement laws.

© 2010 AFP

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