Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The eviction of the Roma: Reding and the riot act

September 14, 2010

"France is a large country. It is sovereign… France is not before a tribunal.” So declared Pierre Lellouche, the French minister for European afffairs, as he tried to fend off on September 13th the growing questions about his country’s eviction of Roma (gypsy) migrants. A day later comes the news that France may indeed be placed before the judges.

For weeks, the European Commission has shied away from declaring France’s actions illegal, although it has strongly hinted at its disapproval, asking for further information and issuing coded warnings.

Today Viviane Reding (pictured), the commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, unexpectedly turned up the regular noon briefing and dropped the euphemisms. “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 commission, she predicted, would have no choice but to begin formal “infringement proceedings”, a process that could end with France being taken before the European Court of Justice, based in Ms Reding’s native Luxembourg.