Euro parliament demands France 'suspend' Roma expulsion
The European Parliament on Thursday demanded France "immediately suspend" the expulsion of Roma migrants in a fresh condemnation of President Nicolas Sarkozy's stand on the issue.
France's Immigration Minister Eric Besson, in Bucharest for talks with Romanian authorities on the issue, hit back immediately, saying there was "no question" of Paris comnplying.
Expressing "deep concern at measures taken by France and other member states targeting Roma and Travellers", the resolution "urges those authorities immediately to suspend all expulsions of Roma."
The resolution condemning France was adopted in a 337-245 vote.
Sarkozy's decision in August to dismantle unauthorised Gypsy encampments and fly Eastern European Roma home to Romania and Bulgaria following a public order incident has been high on the agenda of this week's session of the 736-member parliament.
Some members waved banners saying "Equal Rights for All" and turnout was high for the vote on the resolution, a joint motion put to the parliament by left and centrist parties.
A separate motion put by conservatives and euro-sceptics that did not explicitly condemn France failed to muster support.
The adopted resolution stressed that "mass expulsions are prohibited" under EU law, "since they amount to discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity."
It emphasised "the right of all EU citizens and their families to free movement and residence throughout the EU, a right which is a fundamental aspect of EU citizenship."
The parliament, it added, "is deeply concerned, in particular, at the inflammatory and openly discriminatory rhetoric has has characterised political discourse during the repatriations of Roma, lending credibility to racist statements."
Besson retorted that parliament was out of line and "of course we are not going to submit to a political diktat."
"I want to say very clearly that there is no question of France suspending returns to countries of origin, whether they are Romanians, Bulgarians or any other nationality."
He repeated Paris's line that the French government was scrupulous in observing national and EU laws.
© 2010 AFP