Tag Archive: Freedom of movement

The EU’s Involvement in France’s Roma Row

The French government has continued to generate considerable controversy over its eviction of Gypsies (known as Roma) from their makeshift camps throughout the country. At least five camps in the Paris area have been demolished as well as camps in Lyon and Lille. The French raids have left hundreds of Roma, including many children, homeless after many of their possessions were seized and no arrangements for temporary housing were made. Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of Eastern European Roma in France has remained stable at around 15,000 despite the expulsions. Many of the Roma do not speak French and are highly distrustful of the government stemming from a long history of discrimination. The last major Roma eviction in France occurred in 2010 when many Roma were evicted to Romania and Bulgaria. The 2010 evictions resulted in sanctions by the European Commission. During the recent presidential campaign, President Francois Hollande had promised that any evictions would include the promise of “alternative solutions.” Critics, however, argue that alternative solutions have not been offered. The Socialist government defends the latest eviction efforts by arguing that demolitions are necessary for public health and safety. Indeed, most of the camps lack electricity and running water.

Despite serious concerns over discrimination and freedom of movement, the EU remains seemingly unresponsive in dealing with the situation. The EU claims that it is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the evictions are consistent with the EU’s rules regarding the free movement of people. France’s Interior Ministry claims that the camps were demolished in accordance with EU legal guidelines. The 2010 evictions of the Roma led to deeper poverty and worse conditions than before. In addition, the 2010 evictions reinforced a climate of fear and intimidation felt by many Roma communities.

Recent Proposal To Strengthen the Schengen Area

The Schengen area, which became effective in 1995, ensures that community citizens are afforded freedom of movement between Member States. The area creates one external border for immigration checks into the area using harmonized rules.  Internal border checks have been abolished in these areas.

Earlier this year, conflict arose when Italy gave travel papers and residence permits to Tunisian migrants. As a result, France placed police on the shared border with Italy and began to perform checks.  This created a debate about freedom of movement, and whether the border checks were in conflict with the goal of the Schengen area.

In response to the controversy, members of the European Commission will discuss a proposal on Friday, September 16, 2011 which will provide authorization for Member States to police borders for five days during emergencies only. It would also provide authorization for the European Commission to remove police borders after emergency action taken by Member States. Advocates of the proposal argue it would protect freedom of movement principles by restricting visceral national reactions and providing for a more measured and collective response.

Original members of the European community France and Germany, along with a newer member, Spain, issued a statement in opposition to the proposal. The concern raised in the  statement focuses on national sovereignty with respect to national security. The statement advocated the position that national security decisions should be localized with the Member States and their governmental processes.

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