THE European Commission backed off prosecuting France for targeting groups of Roma gypsies for expulsion, but is threatening to move against the country over its failure to bring the relevant EU legislation into national law.
The decision followed battles between Brussels and Paris as French ministers decided that attack was the best method of defence after a document was leaked showing that the French were targeting the Roma.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson welcomed the decision of the Commission yesterday saying it was good news for everyone, especially for republicans. “France emerges with its head high in the exchange with the Commission”, he said adding that the Justice Commissioner’s attempt to prosecute them for discrimination had been abandoned.
He continued the battle against the Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding who earlier this month after weeks of silence from Brussels over France’s expulsion of about 1,000 Roma called it a disgrace and mentioned World War II – a reference to the murder of 25% of the Roma population in concentration camps.
Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who was under intense pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, explained that since the offending document of August 5 specifically naming the Roma for expulsion had been withdrawn and replaced with another, there was no need to follow through with legal action.
However, he said, the Commission will ask the French to specify how they intend to follow through on the assurances that they have given on non-discrimination in line with EU law.
And they will give them until mid October to hand over a detailed transposition schedule on the 2004 Directive on Free Movement, signed up to by the member states but which has not been properly transposed into national law by France and most other countries.
He added that they will also move against the other member states next month also to force them to implement the legislation that would ensure EU citizens rights to move freely from one country to another, without being discriminated against but under certain conditions.
The statement from the Commission said free movement is a fundamental principle of the EU and while member states are entitled to protect public safety and order, they must respect such rights and avoid discrimination.
Barroso denied that he had forced Reding to withdraw her original threat to move against France over their breaking up gypsy camps and sending back Roma to their country of origin. He said the final proposal had been put forward by her.
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