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France opposes Romania, Bulgaria joining Schengen

Workers from the Médecins du Monde NGO visit a Roma camp near Paris
Workers from the Médecins du Monde NGO visit a Roma camp near Paris AFP/Miguel Medina

France is standing firm in its opposition to Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen group of nations, Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday. As controversy rages over the government's treatment of Roma migrants, a decision on whether the two countries can join is due at the end of the year.

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Romania's and Bulgaria's accession to Schengen could make it immigration from outside the European Union easier, Fabius said, adding that "for the moment" they do not seem to have the means to control their frontiers.

The Schengen area currently comprises 22 EU countries plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, and guarantees freedom of movement within its borders, as does the EU.

At present Romanians and Bulgarians may enter France freely but must prove that they are either students or work in certain sectors where labour is needed if they wish to stay on after three months.

The leader of the right-wing UMP party, Jean-François Copé, last week pressed President François Hollande to "take a position" on the question, while far-right leader Marine Le Pen that Schengen membership would make the circulation of Romanians and Bulgarians, "and therefore of Roma", within the EU "even easier than it is today".

The government itself has been split on its attitude to the Roma with Interior Minister Manuel Valls slamming Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, a Green party member, for crticising his statements on the question.

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