EU 'closely' watching French probe into 'Roma list'
The European Commission will closely watch a French probe into alleged secret lists of Roma and other travelling minorities, the European Union's top justice official said Friday.
But the emergence of the alleged document, on Thursday, has no bearing on the commission's threat to take legal action against France over freedom of movement following a French crackdown on Roma migrants, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.
"We are aware of this development and we took note of the statement issued by the French authorities yesterday whereby they are opening an internal investigation," she said.
"We will closely watch this investigation," Reding told a news conference following a meeting of EU justice ministers in Luxembourg.
The second biggest group in the European parliament, the Socialists and Democrats, called on the EU's executive arm to launch an investigation in all European countries to see if such databases exist elsewhere.
"If confirmed, the existence of a French police database of ethnic minorities is utterly astonishing," lawmaker Claude Moraes said in a statement.
"Every day we seem to discover another deplorable piece of a puzzle whose magnitude appears to be beyond our imagination," he said.
Last week, the commission gave France an October 15 deadline to abide by EU rules on freedom of movement following controversial deportations of Roma migrants, but decided not to put Paris in the dock for discrimination.
If France fails to act, it will face a formal notice of infringement proceedings, a process which in theory could land it at the European Court of Justice -- though such cases are generally resolved amicably.
Lawyers for rights groups alleged in a formal complaint that French police are keeping secret lists of Roma and other travelling minorities in breach of laws on ethnic profiling.
The complaint cites what it calls "illegal" and "undeclared" documents held by the Central Office for the Fight Against Itinerant Delinquency (OCLDI), a state body run by gendarmes, France's paramilitary police.
According to the text of the complaint lodged by the groups, the office compiled documents that aimed to "make a genealogy of Gypsy families."
© 2010 AFP