France

France attacks Europe's 'excessive' criticism of Roma expulsions

France's Europe minister Pierre Lellouche (C), flanked by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (L) and Immigration Minister Eric Besson (R).
France's Europe minister Pierre Lellouche (C), flanked by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux (L) and Immigration Minister Eric Besson (R). Reuters

France's Europe minister has denounced the "excessive and unfair" criticism levelled at France for its deportations of Roma people. The French government is simply enforcing European regulations, Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche told a session of the European Parliament on Tuesday.

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"I found the statements by members of the European Parliament about France's policy on the Roma totally excessive and unfair," Lellouche said.

The Lisbon Treaty, European law and a 2004 directive establish that "citizens of Romania, Bulgaria, Ireland, Belgium or other countries" have the right to stay in France for three months and under certain conditions, he insisted.

Lellouche was responding to several proposed resolutions condemning the deportations that were presented by left-wing parties at Tuesday's meeting in Strasbourg.

European MPs are due to vote on the proposals on Thursday.

But the European Commission has decided to avoid "controversy" over the issue, a Commission official said.

At a meeting in Paris on Tuesday, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed it was not in either's interest to "create a controversy out of this issue", said spokesman Olivier Bailly, adding that both parties wished to "deepen their cooperation and their constructive dialogue" on the issue.

The Commission's internal report on France's deportation policy will not be made public, Bailly said.

Lellouche, accompanied by French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, will be in Bucharest on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue with their Romanian counterparts.

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