There has been a detailed response from the French Embassy in Dublin to concerns expressed by the Celtic League about the forced expulsion of Roma people in France. The full text of the response is set out below:
Ambassade de France en Irlande
Dublin, 15 September 2010
Dear Mr. Moffatt,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 27 August 2010 in which you expressed concern at the recent repatriation of Roma by the French authorities.
The French government has recently reiterated that the freedom of movement of EU nationals is of paramount importance to France: it is a major achievement of the European enterprise, and especially so for those who experienced life behind the Iron Curtain. Moreover, it was one of the reasons President Chirac was the strongest advocate of EU membership for Romania and Bulgaria, when many had cast doubts over their readiness to join the EU.
As stated in EU directive 2004/38/CE, the freedom of movement of EU citizens is subject to conditions and limitations. Indeed, every EU citizen has the right to stay in another Member State and exercise his/her right of residence for an initial period of three months provided he/she does not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system.
In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty and EU values, each and every Member State has a responsibility to ensure the social and economic integration of its nationals. This integration policy requires long-term investment and daily effort. Member States cannot leave their neighbours conduct this policy on their behalf, even though European solidarity must be strengthened to help our partners confront particular difficulties. In this spirit of cooperation, bilateral meetings have been taking place over the last few weeks, notably between the French and Romanian authorities to address this issue.
The European dimension of Roma integration is obvious and must be taken in consideration in all Union policies. Contrary to media reports, no collective expulsion has been carried out by France. The measures taken do not target any particular nationality or ethnic group. European rules are applied in the same way to all EU nationals, regardless of their countries of origin. Today, attention is focused on Romanians and Bulgarians, but over 500 EU nationals were escorted to the French border in 2009. And other EU countries have had to deport EU nationals who do not comply with the 2004 directive.
Rest assured that France, a founding member of the EU, fully respects the conditions for the return of illegal Roma immigrants and will always act in compliance with European law.
It is high time EU Members became fully aware of the existence within our borders of a situation involving nine million Roma too often still living below the most basic standards of human dignify. We ought to react to this appalling situation. Doing nothing would mean turning our backs on the very values on which the EU is built.
I convey to you, dear Sir, the assurance of my highest consideration.
The Ambassador's letter refers to the expulsions as `repatriation'. However this week the EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has described them in more direct terms saying:
Over the past weeks, the European Commission has been following very closely the developments in France regarding the Roma.
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. This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.
The full text of Commissioner Reding's speech can be found here:
Related article on Celtic News here:
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information