Thursday, 23 September 2010

EU: From expulsions to justice and integration for Roma

The French “Romagate” affair was highlighted dramatically before and during the summit of EU leaders, but the official conclusions were as if from another planet.



The Spanish journalist and Euroblogger Daniel Basteiro gave a vivid description of the disconnect between the prepared conclusions and the Roma issue, which captured the discussions among the press corps (and the meeting room): Contra Sarkozy… ¡nada por escrito!



Nicolas Gros-Verheyde on the security and defence oriented Euroblog Bruxelles2 found the Roma debate enlivening, because it broke with the EU tradition to seek consensus at any price. President Nicolas Sarkozy attacked violently on the insult front, but did not present a reasoned case of or a view of the real issue: the integration of Roma and their place in Europe; in Les Rom : un sujet de la politique étrangère... eh oui !

According to Gros-Verheyde several European leaders called France to order, with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi the major exception. France talked much, convinced little and irritated much. Later, in front of the journalists, the president Herman Van Rompuy summarised the understanding between the leaders in five points, which did not figure in the official conclusions. The Commission seems set to initiate two legal proceedings against France.



Herman Van Rompuy


Yesterday, president Herman Van Rompuy spoke about the “unscheduled discussion about the Roma situation”, when he reported on the outcome of the European Council meeting 16 September 2010 at the European Parliament.



On this third topic, the Roma, Van Rompuy reiterated his remarks at the post-meeting press conference (page 4):


During lunch we discussed a topic that interests you particularly. Around the table, there was consensus on five points which was not interpreted as a formal conclusion of the Council

1. A member state has the right and the duty to take action to uphold the rule of law within its territory.

2. The Commission has the right, and indeed the duty, to ensure compliance with Union law by Member States and has the right - and indeed the duty - to conduct investigations.

3. We took note of the declaration that the Commission President made on the eve of the European Council.

4. Respect is the essential rule in the relationship between the Member States and the Commission.

5. In a future meeting of the European Council, we will discuss the issue of the integration of the Roma.

The prohibition of all forms of discrimination based on nationality or ethnicity is a founding principle of the European Union. Respect for human dignity is one of our core values.

Points 1, 2 and 5, at least, put the real issues in view, despite the emotional charges.



Next steps



In The Irish Times, Marie O’Halloran sums up the debate in the European Parliament yesterday: Dispute over Roma dominates parliament debate. Two tracks are discernible: infringement procedures against France and the integration of Roma.


Scales of justice



According to Euronews, Commission president José Manuel Barroso says that the Commission has a duty to make European law respected. The Commission is making an assessment in a very objective and professional manner.



The French government seems to have digested the reality of imminent legal proceedings. According to Expatica (originally AFP), France has supplied an additional document arguing its case ahead of the Commission’s expected decision.



Romania’s president Traian Basescu has asked president Sarkozy to stop Roma expulsions, but did not receive an immediate answer. The Romanian parliament yesterday condemned France for a "serious violation" of its citizens' rights over its crackdown the Roma (sources: EUbusiness).

The actions of the French government will be weighed on the scales of justice with regard to discrimination. In the case of implementation of the so called Citizenship Directive 2004/38 on free movement rights, Paris is one of 15 or 16 capitals the Commission is studying. Both questions, as well as French statements contesting the EU legal order, concern fundamental values and rules of the European Union.


Roma integration



Despite different viewpoints about where the burden should lie, views are converging on the necessity to do something about the abject poverty and exclusion of Roma in Europe.



On 7 September 2010 the European Commission established a Roma Task Force to assess Member States' use of European Union funds for Roma integration. For those who want background information, the Commission published a memo on 25 August 2010.



The Associated Press reports that French prime minister François Fillon has urged the development of a Europe-wide plan to deal with illegal Gypsy camps and to improve living conditions for Gypsies in eastern Europe.



The EU consultative body, the European Economic and Social Committee has called for a participatory EU level strategy for Roma integration, although the resolution acknowledges that the member states bear the main responsibilities.

The integration of 10 to 12 million Roma, mostly in the poor new and prospective member states in Eastern Europe, is a herculean task. Hopefully, the heated exchanges will lead to more resolute action.




Ralf Grahn


P.S. Comments relevant to the topic discussed in each Grahnlaw blog post are most welcome. However, the number of spam comments has skyrocketed. This is the sad reason for comment moderation, so it may take a while before your valued comment appears.

It is easier to understand a language than to use it correctly. As Eurobloggers we could and should promote interaction among Europeans across borders and between linguistic communities. Grahnlaw has adopted a multilingual comment policy:

I do my best to read comments in Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish, even if the Grahnlaw blog and my possible replies are in English.



The Day of Multilingual Blogging 26 September 2010 is drawing closer. It is arranged by the European Commission Representation in the UK and joined by the multilingual blog aggregator Bloggingportal.eu, as well as individual European bloggers from different parts of our Continent.