There are approximately 10 million Roma across the EU. They face high levels of discrimination across Europe. They are consistently in the highest percentages of unemployed, illiterate and unhealthy. This has come about, not because of poverty but decades of discrimination and human rights abuses. If you are a Roma born in the EU your life expectancy will be 10 years less than the average EU citizen.
France took this discrimination to a new level when it ordered a clampdown against Roma or Gypsy immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria. This manifested in the expulsion of over 1,000 Roma and the demolition of over 100 camps. This action has been widely condemned by the UN, the EU and by the opposition within France. A leaked internal memo from the French government gave instructions to prioritise action against Roma. The European Commission has started action against Paris.
The European commission has given the French government until the 15th October to rectify its violation of the European Treatise (notably in this case ensuring the right of free movement across the Union). The onus they said was on Paris to prove that it was not discriminating against Roma. There are now two interesting things to look out for.
1) What will Paris do in the coming weeks? Can it prove it was not discriminating? I doubt it. Therefore, will it just shun the Commissions request?
2) Will the Commission follow-up its threats of disciplinary proceedings? Will this have a massive backlash from Paris next time they need to negotiate an issue? We can already see the disruption this has caused in the latest EU summit.
It is interesting times ahead. It is also an optimistic time. So often the EU lives up to its commitments around human rights abroad (although not always) and yet ignores internal strife. It is refreshing and extremely positive to see Reading come out and condemn France’s despicable action. Will the Commission follow through with any threats? Will any of this change the deeply engrained discrimination against the Roma? I doubt it, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.