No EU legal action seen yet against France on Roma

The European Commission will not launch legal action against France on Wednesday over its expulsion of Roma migrants but give Paris more time to prove the policy is legal under EU law, EU diplomats said.

The European Union executive had been expected to announce whether French policies towards the Roma warranted disciplinary action, after the bloc’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, said this month she believed France had broken EU laws.

“There won’t be any legal action today,” one EU diplomat said.

However, diplomats emphasised that the Commission would take action in the coming weeks if it remained unconvinced by France’s justifications.

“There is a possibility that a political decision to open the infringement procedure is taken today but that the letter of formal notice [of legal action] is sent next month,” said one diplomat, referring to procedural steps taken by the Commission.

The case has strained relations between France and the European Commission, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy vigorously defending the expulsions in the face of widespread criticism from human rights groups and the Catholic church.

Some EU and French politicians have accused Sarkozy of discrimination against the bloc’s largest ethnic minority.

Reding, in an emotional speech to reporters in early September, called France’s handling of the issue “disgraceful” and urged the bloc to force France to stop the expulsions.

At issue was whether France had obeyed EU rules on free movement of people and whether it had ensured to incorporate appropriate EU regulation into national legislation.

France has sent about 8 000 Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria this year, bulldozing illegal camps where they were living on the outskirts of French cities.

Sarkozy has said the policy is part of a crackdown on crime, but critics say it is a move by the president to boost his popularity at a time of unpopular budget cuts. - Reuters

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