Europe delivers ultimatum to France in Roma row

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Europe slapped down France Wednesday over its controversial expulsion of Roma Gypsies, threatening Paris with legal action unless it abides by EU rules on freedom of movement within two weeks.

After an open spat with Paris and weeks of bickering, the European Commission delivered a two-page statement criticising France after a lengthy closed-door meeting of the 27 commissioners.

"The Commission considers that France has not yet transposed the directive on free movement into national legislation that makes these rights fully effective and transparent," the statement said.

The country has until October 15 to respond, failing which it would face a "formal notice" of infringement proceedings.

France set off an international uproar after President Nicolas Sarkozy last July ordered a clampdown against illegal traveller camps in July and deported more than 1,700 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria.

The EU's executive arm had been checking if France was in breach of one of the European Union's fundamental rights -- the right of every EU citizen to free movement within the bloc -- and open to charges of discrimination.

There was no mention of discriminatory practices in Wednesday's statement, but if France fails to satisfy its partners on the freedom of movement breach it will set off lengthy proceedings that could land Paris before the European Court of Justice.

A number of other countries face similar action, the commission said, without naming names.

Justice chief Viviane Reding, who earlier this month said she was "appalled" by the conditions of the removal of Roma Gypsies in France, said she remained unsatisfied.

"We have doubts on the assurances we received at the highest level on the fact that there was no discrimination," she said.

"We will send a letter to the French government with very precise questions, asking for all the elements," specially regarding the conditions in which the Roma were deported, she told the press.

© 2010 AFP

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