France hit by EU legal threat over Roma 'disgrace'

14th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The European Union's executive arm angrily rebuked France on Tuesday over its deportation of Roma minorities, threating legal proceedings and describing its handling of the row as a "disgrace."

"I personally have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority," the EU's top justice official, Viviane Reding, told a news conference.

"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," Reding said.

Reding chided the French government after a leaked memo "openly contradicted" assurances given by two ministers to the commission that specific ethnic groups had not been targeted in France.

"The role of the commission as guardian of the treaties is made extremely difficult if we can no longer have confidence in the assurances given by two ministers in a formal meeting," she said.

"This is not a minor offence in a situation of this importance," she said.

"After 11 years of experience in the commission, I even go further: this is a disgrace," Reding charged.

The commission said its legal analysis of the Roma crackdown would be completed in the coming days.

"I am personally convinced that the commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement proceedings against France," Reding said.

France has deported almost 1,000 Roma migrants to Bulgaria and Romania since last month, and more than 8,000 Roma have been deported since the beginning of the year, after 9,875 were expelled in 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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