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Procedure : 2010/2842(RSP)
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Texts tabled :

RC-B7-0493/2010

Debates :

PV 07/09/2010 - 11
CRE 07/09/2010 - 11

Votes :

PV 09/09/2010 - 5.2
CRE 09/09/2010 - 5.2
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Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2010)0312

Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 7 September 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Situation of the Roma people in Europe (debate)
Video of the speeches
Minutes
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  President. – The next item is the statement by the Council and the Commission on the situation of the Roma people in Europe. I would like to welcome to our sitting the President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Chastel, the Vice-President of the Commission, Mrs Reding, and the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Mr Andor. The first to take the floor, on behalf of the Council, will be Mr Chastel.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the values and principles of the European Union are clearly laid down in the treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which became binding with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the right of persons belonging to a minority, feature prominently in those texts. The Council therefore confirms its commitment to those values.

The Council has, on many occasions, expressed its support for measures to advance Roma inclusion. In fact, our Heads of State or Government, meeting within the European Council, have also recognised the very specific situation of the Roma people in the Union and have called on the Member States and the EU to do everything in their power to advance their inclusion.

It is now 10 years since the Council adopted a comprehensive directive prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin in a number of areas, including the conditions governing access to employment; vocational training; social protection, including social security and healthcare; education; and the supply of goods and services, including housing. All ethnic groups, and therefore obviously the Roma, are protected by this directive. Lastly, the directive includes a positive action clause, which permits the Member States to maintain or adopt specific measures to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to racial or ethnic origin.

Some of you attended the second European Roma Summit, which was held in Córdoba in April. The Council very much welcomed this important event, which brought the main stakeholders together. Following the summit, in June, the Council unanimously adopted some conclusions entitled ‘Advancing Roma Inclusion’.

The ministers unanimously acknowledged that a significant proportion of Roma experience situations of extreme poverty, discrimination and exclusion, which also entails low educational levels, inadequate housing conditions, lack of access to employment and precarious health. Roma women and girls face particular difficulties, including the risk of multiple discrimination. In many cases, the aforementioned conditions have been worsening markedly in the past years, and anti-Gypsyism and violent attacks against Roma are intensifying.

We must bear in mind the fact that, while the Member States have the primary responsibility for advancing the social and economic integration of Roma, cooperation at the EU level brings significant added value. Consequently, the Council invited the Commission and the Member States to advance the social and economic integration of Roma within the framework of the decisions and recommendations made by the EU institutions, by ensuring the more effective use of existing policies and instruments.

Responsibility in this area is shared: it is up to all those involved to advance the inclusion of Roma, in accordance with their respective competences, and the Council shall play its part in this. The Council also emphasised the importance of ensuring the active involvement of civil society, local authorities and the Roma themselves.

I should also like to point out the specific measures that have recently been taken by both the European Parliament and the Council to facilitate the social inclusion of less-advantaged citizens. We recently came to an agreement at first reading to amend the provisions governing the European Regional Development Fund. Under these provisions, it will now be possible to grant assistance for housing improvements within the most marginalised communities in Europe, which include many Roma.

The two institutions crucially agreed that these measures should always be applied as part of an integrated approach. This approach includes, in particular, actions in the fields of education, health, social affairs, employment and security, and desegregation measures.

Lastly, I would point out that, under the European Social Fund, it is also possible to fund actions against discrimination in general.

The EU must provide a safe environment where differences are respected and the most vulnerable protected. This is laid down in the Stockholm Programme, which the European Council adopted in December 2009. Measures to tackle discrimination and xenophobia must be vigorously pursued. The Roma community is expressly mentioned in the Stockholm Programme, under which the Member States must make a concerted effort to fully integrate vulnerable groups.

Like all EU citizens, Roma must enjoy freedom of movement and the right to protection, and must not suffer discrimination of any kind.

At a time when our societies are in the grip of economic crisis, let us take care not to make scapegoats of those among our fellow citizens who are excluded the most. To this end, it is important to have a clear and honest grasp of the causes, effects and cost of social exclusion. What can a population deprived of education, housing, healthcare and, even worse, employment, do? In order to facilitate the integration of the Roma, we must develop an integrated approach that is in line with European legislation and values and in which the interested parties are actively involved.

The situation of the Roma people features in the Trio Presidency’s working programme adopted by the Council in December 2009, and the Belgian Presidency has made a point of addressing the issue of Roma integration on several occasions.

Firstly, at the conference on child poverty, which took place on 2 September; at the Equality Summit, scheduled for 14-16 November, and, in particular, where that summit will address the issue of equality and diversity in employment; at the conference on homelessness, scheduled for 9-10 December; and at the meeting of the Integrated Platform for Roma Inclusion, to be held shortly, from 7-17 September. Lastly, as announced at the General Affairs Council on 26 July, the Council of the European Union will continue to monitor the issue of Roma inclusion.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, let me start by thanking my co-Commissioners, László Andor and Cecilia Malmström, because there has been very close cooperation between our teams on the Roma issue in recent last weeks. This allowed the Commission to reach a clear and balanced position on the matter over the summer, and this has received the full backing of the college of Commissioners today.

I would also like to thank President Barroso, with whom I have been working closely on this matter over the summer, in parallel with the evolving situation in France. It was in full agreement with the President that, on 25 August, I took a public position on the situation of the Roma in France and on the need to uphold European law and the rights and the principles laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The line taken by the Commission – which, as politicians, you know perfectly well must always be aware of the dangers of being instrumentalised by national party political debates – has been consistent over the past weeks.

Firstly, Member States are in charge of public order and of the safety of their citizens on their national territory. This means that, in spite of the important right of free movement, Member States have to take measures against EU citizens who break the law. There can be no impunity under the umbrella of European free movement principles. Under certain conditions, Member States can even send EU citizens who have broken the law back home, provided that they observe the principles of proportionality and the procedural safeguards which are written into the EU Free Movement Directive of 2004.

Secondly, in our European Union, no citizen must become the target of repressive action just for belonging to an ethnic minority or to a certain nationality. This is clearly set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality or ethnic origin and which specifically prohibits collective expulsions. So there must be no collective punishment in Europe and no stigmatisation of any ethnic group. Every human being has their own rights and also their own obligations.

Thirdly, the social and economic integration of the Roma – and you all know that, with 10 to 12 million members, this is the biggest ethnic minority in Europe – is a challenge for all 27 Member States, both for the countries of origin and for Roma host countries. Under the subsidiarity rule, it is the responsibility of Member States to ensure access to housing, education, health and employment but, at the same time, the EU institutions – for more than a decade now – have developed strategies and policies to support national efforts financially, notably via the European Social Fund, the pre-accession instrument, and the European Regional Development Fund, which has recently been modified so that housing for Roma can be covered by the fund.

It is very important to stress that, for the Commission, the social and economic integration of the Roma is not an issue just for the month of August. It is an issue for every day and for every year. Commissioner Andor and I presented earlier this year, on 7 April, a strategic Roma communication – the first ever in the European Union. On the basis of that, we had a ministerial meeting in Córdoba, together with the Roma associations. As President Barroso said this morning, there were only three Ministers present at that meeting.

The main legal and political issues raised by the measures taken by France this summer have been well summarised in a detailed note which Commissioner Andor, Commissioner Malmström and I presented to the college of Commissioners last week and which was endorsed today.

Allow me to update you on where we stand today. First of all, thanks to a very intense dialogue between the Commission and the French authorities over the past weeks, I see an important development. I viewed it as crucial that it was made clear in France that there was no intention to target actions against the Roma community, because such targeted action would have been incompatible with the fundamental values and rights on which the European Union is founded.

That is why it was so important that Minister Éric Besson came to a meeting in Brussels with Cecilia Malmström and myself last week. He assured us publicly that the French authorities would treat all citizens in the same way, that there was no targeted action against the Roma or any other group, and that the French authorities would do their best to act scrupulously in line with EU law. I see this assurance given by a French Minister as a very positive development.

In the meantime, the Commission’s services – DG Justice and the Legal Service – have continued to check at a technical level with the French authorities since last Friday to see if what has been said reflects the legal reality on the ground.

The Commission services have identified a number of issues where the French authorities will need to give supplementary information, and where they will need active assistance by the Commission services to ensure that their action now, and in the future, is fully in line with EU law.

Since 2008, the Commission has insisted to France that the EU Free Movement Directive must be fully implemented, including the procedural and substantive safeguards in that directive which had not been fully implemented in French legislation.

Even though these safeguards are partly a reality in France because of the case-law which the courts use – and you have seen lately that the courts have decided on the basis of the EU directive although this EU directive has not been implemented in French law – we have been very clear with the French authorities in saying that legislative implementation will enhance legal certainty in free movement situations similar to the ones experienced this summer.

That is why, after the meeting of the college today, I sent a letter to the French authorities insisting on those aspects. It goes without saying that other Member States which are in a similar situation will also get similar assistance.

An important lesson to draw from the developments of this summer is that Roma integration is a challenge that must be kept on the political agenda of all Member States. That is why, with Cecilia Malmström and László Andor, I have agreed on five actions, which the college of Commissioners has just approved.

Firstly, in order ensure the conformity of all Member State measures taken regarding the Roma with EU law on free movement, non-discrimination and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, we will monitor and assess the progress made on these questions.

Secondly, we will establish a Roma task force at senior level which will analyse the follow-up given by Member States to the Commission’s strategic Roma communication of 7 April. This will, in particular, streamline, assess and benchmark the use and effectiveness of EU funding for Roma integration in all Member States and identify underpinning deficiencies in the use of those funds. We are we doing this simply because we want to know and to have proof of instances where these funds are (a) not being used and (b) if they are being used, are not being properly implemented.

The first findings of this task force will be submitted to the college before the end of the year, and I will keep Parliament and the Council informed on these findings.

Thirdly, I am calling on the Presidency to hold a jumbo JHA, Security and Social Affairs Council as soon as possible in order to identify a more targeted use of national and complementary EU funding to promote social and economic integration of the Roma. That Council meeting should be followed by yearly meetings at ministerial level because we have had cold experience of Member States not taking responsibility for changing things on their territory for themselves. We have to bring them together, officially and publicly, and we have to push them in the right direction.

Fourthly, I will call on future presidencies of the Council to address the priorities identified in the roadmap agreed last June by the European Platform on Roma Inclusion. In that context, dialogue with representatives of the Roma community should be intensified. The next platform will take place under the Hungarian Presidency.

Fifthly, we will also call on the Member States to look into the issue of human trafficking, to which Roma are particularly vulnerable, with the assistance of the Commission and, if necessary, with Europol and Eurojust where appropriate.

I will now pass the floor to László Andor to speak on the important subject of the use of the European Social Fund for Roma integration.

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, as Vice-President Reding has just pointed out, the European Union is based on fundamental rights and values, and the Commission is fully committed to protecting the fundamental rights of the Roma and their full social and economic integration into our societies.

The second point I want to stress is that Roma inclusion is a joint responsibility of the European Union and the Member States. Successful social and economic integration of the Roma calls for a sustained commitment, based on cooperation between all concerned: the Commission, the Member States, local governments, NGOs and international organisations.

The Commission did not wait for the recent, very unfortunate, events to spur it into action. On 7 April this year, the Commission outlined a strategic and comprehensive approach in its first ever policy communication on the social and economic integration of the Roma in Europe. This sets priorities for action by the Commission and the Member States in a wide range of areas of relevance to Roma integration.

The Commission is committed to improving the effectiveness of instruments and policies in terms of both content and process, and stresses the importance of closer cooperation between EU, national and international players and Roma communities.

The communication also reaffirms the Commission’s commitment to encouraging and assisting the Member States to make full use of the potential of the Structural Funds to support the social and economic integration of the Roma.

EU Structural Funds offer a very useful financial lever for supporting national efforts to improve the situation of the Roma. Of the 27 Member States, 12 Member States – including old and relatively new Member States – have support programmes in place targeting the Roma, among other vulnerable groups, for a total of EUR 17.5 billion, including EUR 13.3 billion from the European Social Fund.

Examples of projects include grassroots interventions to promote employment of the Roma and the development of a new curriculum of Roma studies in schools.

In addition, as the Vice-President also said, the ERDF was amended in May this year and that fund can now be used to support the renovation of housing in rural areas where many Roma live.

Inclusion of the Roma is also an important political criterion for membership of the European Union, and the EU supports candidate countries and potential candidates in this connection through the pre-accession instruments.

The Commission is currently implementing or planning projects worth EUR 50 million which target the Roma exclusively or in part.

The Commission has convened high-level events in Member States with large Roma minorities to promote better use of EU funds for integration of the Roma. In Hungary, this set in motion a dialogue between the national authorities and the Roma under the auspices of the Commission.

A second series of high-level events involving Commissioner Cioloş and myself will take place in Romania in October.

Lastly, at this House’s request, the Commission is implementing a pilot project entitled ‘Pan-European coordination of Roma integration methods – Roma inclusion’. This comprises three components, relating to early childhood education and care, self-employment and micro-loans, and information and awareness-raising activities. Related actions began in May 2010.

There are EU funds and instruments available to help resolve the delicate legal, human and practical issues involved in Roma integration. We in the Commission are ready to do our utmost to resolve these. I strongly believe that Europe 2020 is the right framework to fight poverty, and thus also to improve the conditions of the Roma people in Europe.

Let us stand by our principles, resist easy but false solutions, and tackle this issue together in the spirit of solidarity.

 
  
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  Lívia Járóka, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, I am glad that the EU institutions appear so sensitive to the plight of the Roma today. For that very reason, it is a pity that policy makers on all sides of the political spectrum seem to use the Roma issue as a weapon against their counterparts.

We all agree that freedom of movement is one of the fundamental principles of Community law, and accept that this right is not unconditional. As the Commission has confirmed, all EU countries have the right to take security measures regarding foreigners residing on their territory. The core values of the European Union, such as non-discrimination, tolerance and solidarity, must be fully respected, and the expulsion of any EU citizens must be implemented on a case-by-case basis on the grounds of proper judicial decisions, or with the free, complete and informed consent of all the individuals concerned. To quote the Commission again, ‘nobody should face expulsion just for being a Roma’.

Political opinions and legal judgments are separate issues. We might find these expulsions distasteful or far-fetched, and we must draw attention to the safeguards and principles to be acted upon, but judging the legitimacy of the measures taken by France is the sole responsibility of the Commission. Large-scale repatriations might be repulsive, but are even more repulsive given the empty human rights lip-service of recent decades when technically, nothing was done to alleviate the terrible poverty of the Roma, except for the chanting of a few cold words about anti-discrimination and tolerance when it became politically handy.

We, the European Roma, reject the political misuse and misinterpretation of our issues. The Roma must set the discourse about themselves to reveal the problems and to articulate what actions and measures have to be taken. As proclaimed several times by this Parliament, and more specifically by the European People’s Party, the poverty and social exclusion of the Roma is a European issue and requires a strategy of its own; a common European solution is needed for a common European problem.

That strategy must tackle the economic features of the social exclusion of Roma and non-Roma alike, such as structural unemployment, low qualifications, dwelling in seriously disadvantaged micro-regions and barriers to self-employment – all the issues which our people are escaping from when they migrate.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group.(DE) Mr President, I am deeply disappointed – and so is my group – to hear what the Commission has said today.

First, Mr Barroso: Mr Barroso has been less critical of the actions taken than many ministers in the French Government. That is scandalous. Mrs Reding, what you said does not provide a clear answer. I, and many citizens of Europe, want to know: Has the French Government contravened the law or not? Weeks after the measures have been taken, you cannot say ‘we will look into it’. Say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but please give us a clear answer.

You believe everything that the French ministers said after they had already taken the action. They did not come to us beforehand. They expelled the people first and then they say to you ‘we are fair and we will not discriminate against anyone’. I think it is scandalous for a Commissioner to stand here today and say that. It is not in line with your actual convictions or the performance of your duties thus far. I am therefore deeply disappointed that, as far as this issue is concerned, you want to deceive your way out of this so acquiescently.

(Applause)

You are completely unaware of the responsibility you are taking on, because in a few weeks’ time, the next country – Italy perhaps, or possibly Hungary or another country – will say: ‘We will withdraw these people’s citizenship. Then, if they are stateless, they will be accommodated in camps somewhere’. The ground has been prepared for this and the Commission is saying nothing about it. I think it is scandalous, and as far as my group is concerned, it is unacceptable.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Renate Weber, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, after the Second World War, international legislation banned mass expulsions and deportation. The human race had already suffered enough because of such barbaric policies.

In 2010, France, the country that gave birth to human rights, is using trickery. It is taking advantage of the ignorance of the Roma people, Europe’s most vulnerable population, paying them EUR 300 per adult and EUR 100 per child if they leave the country. The French Government claims that this is voluntary repatriation, cynically portraying this disgraceful buying of the Roma people’s consciences as humanitarian aid.

No fuss has been made about the fact that the authorities have taken fingerprints from the adults and even from the children, or that many of them did not give their free consent in full awareness of the consequences, as the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also stated, which constitutes a clear breach of European and international law.

Italy, however, followed this same pattern two years ago, although the European Commission has preferred to keep quiet about the affair and therefore, the Commission bears some of the responsibility for this new wave of deportations of Roma peoples within Europe.

The Commission must now demonstrate that it is truly the guardian of principles and fundamental rights within the European Union and the upholder of its laws.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Mr President, Mrs Reding, I must say that I fully share the consternation of Mr Swoboda and Mrs Weber. It is quite astounding that, after the various meetings you have been able to have and the documents you have received, you are still at this stage in acknowledging, or rather failing to acknowledge, the clear breaches that the French Government has committed in expelling the Roma. And this is not a new topic: a year ago, a group of voluntary organisations petitioned you on matters that are being raised again today, such as the failure to abide by the one month’s notice period before sending back European citizens that is enshrined in the Free Movement Directive.

As regards the right to a personal examination of circumstances, I do not think you need any further expert opinions to conclude that when ‘escort to the border’ orders are handed out en masse in a camp, all identically addressed, this goes against the consideration of personal situations. Are six-year-old children a threat to public order? Do you really need additional proof, when justice and the French courts have judged this case and the French Government is using an extremely broad and illegitimate interpretation of a public order threat?

If you need judges, experts or NGOs, we can provide you with them. However, please stop this denial of reality and this failure to fulfil your duties!

The debate that took place this morning was a disgrace. We heard the leader of the European Parliament’s largest political group talking about the Roma people in connection with thefts of tractors in his local area. We heard José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, speaking during the debate on the Roma people about the security needs of European citizens. In other words, at the highest level of Europe’s political leaders, the tendency to automatically associate the Roma with crime, prostitution and trafficking is being boosted and fed.

In doing so, they are placing fundamental rights and the whole point of Europe itself at stake. As Mr Cohn-Bendit said this morning: this is a test of you, Mrs Reding; this is a test of the Treaty of Lisbon, a test of your relevance. Will you be capable of proving, in this situation, that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is anything other than a sham? It is down to you, it is your duty, and now is the time to proclaim this.

(Applause from the left)

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, as a former UK immigration minister, I and my group are wholeheartedly supportive of providing equal rights and equal opportunities for all people. I agree with my group’s chairman, Michał Kamiński, who this morning said that this continent must never revive the ghosts of past nationalism, and that the EU is a zone of freedom and tolerance is its greatest achievement. We should be proud of that but we must never fool ourselves into believing that we do not still have massive problems.

Undoubtedly, this issue requires debate, consideration and action on how we treat minority groups, how we can better integrate the Roma people, and proportionality between the rights and the powers of national governments and the EU. However, I also believe that our Union is built on the rule of law.

Whilst it is a parliamentarian’s right to raise justified concerns in this debate, I would also ask us to wait until the Commission, as the guardian of the treaties, actually makes a formal ruling on this issue. Then we can make informed judgments based on all of the facts and decide how to focus on better integration of the Roma people within Europe, rather than pre-emptively condemning a fellow Member State.

 
  
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  Cornelia Ernst, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the so-called voluntary exodus of the Roma from France is a clear case of expulsion – and indeed of the largest and oldest population group that constitutes a minority in Europe. This will encourage those on the political right, the extreme right. We must reject this – including here in the European Parliament. This is vital.

The Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left therefore demands an end to these deportations. Mrs Reding, I would have liked you, too, to call for us first to demand an end to these deportations and then everything else that follows on from that. President Sarkozy’s government is contravening EU law, because it is carrying out the wholesale deportation of Roma, who originate from EU Member States, without consideration of individual cases, because it is invalidating the principle of free movement, it is violating the Charter of Fundamental Rights and it is violating the Charter with regard to equal treatment.

I say to you in all sincerity that it is finally time for action. We have already discussed this problem numerous times. We now need to take real measures that will bring about a change.

The Roma are at home in Europe. They are part of the European Community and should also remain so. We must make sure of it. We are therefore also critical of the deportation of Roma from Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and other countries in the Western Balkans. We need an integrated European strategy, and one for all Roma, not only some of them. We must fight for this.

My final point is that the European idea of solidarity and self-determination must be evident in our dealings with the Roma minority, otherwise it does not exist.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio, on behalf of the EFD Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have listened to the attacks against the French Government, like those against the Italian Government previously, and also to some very strong attacks against the Commission. These accusations are completely spurious in actual fact.

I have not heard any reference to the statistics supplied by the French police authorities showing that, in the 18 months following the exodus of Roma from Bulgaria and Romania, the number of thefts rose by more than 250%. In this connection, perhaps Romania and Bulgaria should be forced to answer some questions, after they were very irresponsibly allowed to enter the European Union without this problem having first been resolved.

We must speak frankly to those people, too, who come over as guests of other states. We must tell them to respect the citizens of their host states and not enter their homes illegally and perform acts unbecoming of a guest. They must be respected and they must be protected – in the words of those who speak of high principles – but we must also consider the victims of their crimes: the other honest citizens of the European Union who, perhaps with good reason, do not always enjoy having the Roma as their neighbours.

These are the uncomfortable facts that the majority of citizens and people think and that certain do-gooders do not have the courage to admit, because, the truth is, sometimes you also have to have the political courage to say ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI).(FR) Mr President, I do not defend the French Government. Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hortefeux were both members of the European Parliament. They ought to have known that the treaties which they supported – the Treaty of Maastricht, the Treaty of Amsterdam the ratification treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon, which Nicolas Sarkozy boasts to have played a major part in shaping – would effectively open our borders to anyone who wanted to come and settle in our country.

In spite of this, however, I am surprised and astounded, first by my fellow Members’ misinterpretation of the legal situation, as they have forgotten that European Union citizens from Central and Eastern Europe do not yet have the definitive right to settle in our country, which they will not acquire until 2013.

Secondly, people are talking about an oppressed minority, but ladies and gentlemen, do you seriously believe that for six centuries, the Roma people have not become integrated in the Central and Eastern European countries they are living in simply because the Romanians, Bulgarians and Hungarians are wicked, or because they have been persecuted by the Slovakians, the Czechs, the Slovenians or the Serbs?

Your saintly attitude is effectively another form of racism, against native inhabitants, who, like the residents in my country I am sorry to say, do not want 12 million Roma coming to live there. The only solution, as you have suggested yourselves, is to leave this Europe.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Manfred Weber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it was no coincidence that we, as the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), allowed our colleague, Mrs Járóka, who is the only representative of the Roma minority in this Parliament, to speak first today. This is because the PPE Group would much prefer to talk about the people’s problems today. We do not want to make a political show – we do not care about Mr Sarkozy – we want to discuss the problems we are facing with the Roma minority and how we can help them.

This is also the basis of our resolution. Mr Swoboda, you said that it is scandalous that the Commission has drawn this conclusion. All I can say to that is that it is clearly scandalous to you because the Commission is not joining in with the political show that you want to make of this and has made a serious comment on the situation.

Secondly, as regards the freedom of movement, everything has been said already. We have clear ground rules in the European Union. The freedom of movement is not without limit; it can be restricted on an individual basis and that is also what has been done in France.

My third point is actually the important one. In the political debate on this issue, it is a question of how we can integrate the minorities in Europe into our societies. If we all accept the fact that we are open-minded and tolerant, then we are on common ground. If, as a second step, we also all accept that around 90% move towards the majority society, that we really join together and take integration seriously, then we are also still in agreement. We are divided on the question of how we should deal with migrants – regardless of what sort of migrants – who just do not accept what the majority society has to offer, who refuse to cooperate, and will not accept the ground rules.

The Left in this House repeatedly presents the argument that we need to offer these people something. We in the PPE Group say that the migrants also need to accept the offers. If you do not add this requirement and stipulate it in strong terms, if you do not have a state that calls for this, then you destroy the willingness of citizens to integrate people, and you do the handiwork of the Right in this House if you do not permit the state to use this toughness. It is also permissible to say that.

(Applause)

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, I thank my colleague, Manfred Weber, for accepting this question.

You said that freedom of movement is not limitless in Europe – and you are juridically right – but that it can be restricted on an individual basis.

What evidence do you have that this kind of deportation is being performed on an individual basis and how can you contradict the information that we have, both from the press and from the NGOs that have been following this, that the main criterion for deportation, indeed the sole criterion, is an ethnic criterion?

 
  
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  Manfred Weber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, thank you for the question. The answer is also quite simple. The question of whether a law has been transposed is not decided in Europe by politicians, or by journalists. In the European Union, it is the courts that decide. In the European Union – and in France, too – we have a situation in which people belonging to the Roma groups concerned can turn to the courts and file a complaint against this on an individual basis. That has already been done.

The Commissioner has pointed out that French judges also use European law as the basis for their decisions. Thus, it is not journalists who decide whether or not laws have been implemented in this European Union, it is the courts, and according to the Commission’s statement, that is clearly the way it works in France just as it does in the other Member States of the European Union.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D).(RO) On 24 June this year, you confirmed in a reply to a parliamentary question that the report from the Agency for Fundamental Rights paints a gloomy picture for the European Union’s 12 million Roma.

If the Commission is not going to speak out strongly against the crisis triggered by the ethnic expulsions carried out by the French authorities, the framework decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia has every chance of remaining nothing more than fine intentions. The same applies as well to the Stockholm Programme action plan, which you mentioned in your speech.

After claiming an alleged resurgence of ethnic-based crime which is impossible to verify, as well as figures of hundreds of thousands of Roma allegedly threatening the peace in the cities of the West, the French authorities have failed to present any argument other than a few hundred citizens removed from the wretched conditions in make-shift camps, whom they persuaded to repatriate voluntarily to their countries of origin in return for payment.

We must accept that in addition to the Roma in France, there are a few more hundred thousand Roma in Romania ignored by their own government, but who cannot be ignored by any strategy aimed at integrating them and improving their situation in the context of a united Europe.

Both situations must be tackled with a specific, interdependent approach. The question is not whether Roma belong just to Romania or to the whole of Europe, but how the integration measures taken at European level can be correlated with those intended to improve their situations nationally. The Commission must shift from words, strategies and facts …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – Mr President, in Europe, we have an internal market which is a great success. One of the main reasons for that is that the Commission is very tough in enforcing the market rules. I wish, however, that the Commission were equally tough when it comes to enforcing fundamental rights in Europe.

(Applause)

That is why, Commissioner, my group insisted so much on having a special European Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. That is you. And we expect you to stand up, not for European governments, but for European citizens, and if you do not like what you see, then you should not close your eyes to what is happening in Europe, you should act.

We do not want words in this Chamber, not from Mr Barroso, not from you. We could do without this debate if we were sure that the European Commission would enforce the rules – not only rules on immigration and free movement, but fundamental rights as well – because that is the only way that we can make the European Union a community of values that is as successful as the internal market.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Franziska Keller (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, it is very good and very important to talk about the integration of Roma people and I wonder why the Commission has only now noticed that some money has not been well spent. It is also important to talk about how the realities in the Member States can be adjusted so that they fit the needs of the Roma people, but I think that is not the topic at issue today. Today, we are talking about the mass deportations carried out by France against the Roma, and even a lack of integration is not a justification for mass deportation.

It is very clear that the Roma in France are not being expelled on an individual basis – and I wonder how you can fail to see that. It is very scary that the Commission, the guardian of the treaties, does not dare to say this aloud, does not dare to guard the treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We cannot allow collective punishment. I ask you to take a strong stand and not turn a blind eye to the discrimination against Roma in France and also in other Member States, because this is a disgrace for the European Union.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Derk Jan Eppink (ECR).(NL) Mr President, when I worked as a correspondent in Eastern Europe, I witnessed the problem of the Roma. It was a colossal social problem, and the socialist regimes at the time were unable to find a solution. Now it is a problem facing Europe. It is all too easy to view the situation of Roma solely through the prism of racism or xenophobia, as the left is currently doing. Groups of people travelling through Europe with their caravans, with no regular income, cause inconvenience in the long term. This is inevitable, as what are these people to live off? Europe provides free movement of persons, and that is a major benefit. Yet anyone who relies on this right also has obligations, of which there is too little discussion in Parliament. First among these is refraining from causing inconvenience. Men send Roma women out onto the streets to beg. What is the situation regarding women’s rights in the Roma community? I have seen children out begging when they should be at school; what is the situation regarding compulsory school attendance? If crimes are committed, it is ordinary citizens who are the victims and not, as a rule, left-wing political leaders, living in their ivory towers. In order to get to the bottom of the problems, I would call on them to be hospitable and take a Roma family into their households.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL). (FR) Mr President, there is a good deal of prejudice surrounding the Roma. Much has already been said. I share the indignation of some of my fellow Members, but I would just like to give you some background facts to set the record straight.

In the first place, not a single Roma was involved in the events that triggered this summer’s xenophobic, fear-mongering polemic in France. This was simply a diversion. This has nothing to do with sending back to their own country people who committed or were suspected of having committed criminal acts. All the individuals who were sent back had clean criminal records. It has everything to do with targeting an ethnic group and making scapegoats out of them.

How do they go about these expulsions? They are carried out systematically by means of evacuation operations in the makeshift camps. The police come in, usually in the early morning and ID the individuals. This is then used to draw up en masse orders to leave the country, using a standard template. This means no case-by-case examination. The camps are then demolished and the evacuated people are not even allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. There are eye-witness accounts of this.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (EFD). – Mr President, France has decided that it does not want vast numbers of uninvited Roma turning up on its doorstep, but they were invited. This whole problem is a direct result of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to free movement of EU citizens.

Any EU citizen has the right to live in another EU state. Like so much EU legislation, it has turned out to be an absurdity in practice. We do not just get highly educated and skilled people with a strong work ethic coming from another Member State. It means we have no protection against the entry of socially undesirable and criminal elements.

French governments have always been enthusiastic about the European Union. They are now finding out the hard way that they cannot have the EU without the Roma. The French now want to join the Italians and say ‘arrivederci Roma’. Well, they cannot. It is better to join with the UK Independence Party and say ‘goodbye European Union’.

 
  
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  Corneliu Vadim Tudor (NI).(RO) If Europe’s states have a common denominator, it is not currency, the economy or even civilisation; their common denominator is the gypsies.

As a historian and sociologist, I am going to use the word ‘gypsy’, which does not have any derogatory or degrading overtones, especially as the term ‘Roma’ is artificial and contrived. After all, exactly 125 years ago, Johann Strauss composed the operetta ‘The Gypsy Baron’, not ‘The Roma Baron’.

It is unfortunate that the lack of distinction between Roma and Romanians persists. I have found that where gypsies are concerned, racial prejudice, as well as false stereotypes and untrue accounts, still abound all over the world. There are people who call them Roma and hate them, while I call them gypsies and love them.

Neither the gypsies nor my country, Romania, are to blame for what is happening at the moment. The largest wave of gypsy migration to Europe took place in 1241, during the time of the great Mongol invasion. They were brought to Europe as skilled craftsmen serving in the auxiliary troops.

The fact that, after such a long time, there are more gypsies in Romania than in the rest of Europe is due to successive waves of expulsions and persecution, which took place over 500 years, in most of the countries of the ‘Old Continent’. Romania is now being pilloried because it has been too tolerant and hospitable.

The mass expulsion of gypsies is not a solution. It is, of course, not a pleasant experience to have your comfortable life disrupted, but when crimes are committed, the law must be enforced on a case-by-case basis rather than opting for collective sanctions.

Why does the government in Paris not expel them directly to India, their country of origin?

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil (PPE). (MT) Doubtlessly, the awful situation in which much of the Roma community finds itself in is an embarrassing one for Europe. Many of these people are living in a poverty trap and need to be released from it without delay. However, if there is one thing that is even more embarrassing than this, it is the political manipulation and opportunism that is being used by those who are turning this issue into a shameless political game. I believe that this is scandalous and embarrassing for Europe too, as this type of political manipulation distorts the entire issue. The real issue concerns the situation of the Roma community and how to help it get out of it. This is why the European People’s Party is working fully to ensure the drawing up of an effective strategy to help these people; one that brings the institutions and the Member States together and that directly involves the Roma. There is also the law on the freedom of movement to consider. This law confers rights as well as obligations and these must both be applied fully. Consequently, if somebody breaks the law, that person may be deported. If we, especially coming from the mainstream parties, fail to apply this law by adhering to human rights, then people, our electors, will vote for extremist and populist parties, and ask them to apply it.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D). (FR) Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to express my utter condemnation of the conduct of the French Government, which took advantage of the Roma people’s situation to turn them into scapegoats, as other governments in the European Union have previously done and are continuing to do.

Forcing people to leave the country, dawn raids in the camps, separating families, threats, destruction of people’s few possessions and expulsions: this is how the French Government used the Roma this summer, seeking to lay the blame for a climate of insecurity on them, whilst covering up its own difficulty in dealing with the country’s economic and social problems.

These assertions and this conduct are despicable and reprehensible. However, they must now provide an impetus for a decisive reaction by all those who consider that the duty to uphold rights is not simply a matter for declarations but an intangible reality that obliges us to act.

Therefore, if the European Commission really believes that it has the duty to pass judgment, it must let us know promptly, without sidetracking, whether or not the French Government has infringed EU law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I think I have an inkling what the answer might be.

The European Commission must implement all aspects of the action plan for integration of the Roma, as part of a cohesive approach that looks, in particular, at education, employment, welfare and health. To do this, the Commission must be committed in its policy coordination. The fight against discrimination is one of our common goals and the Commission must demonstrate strong political will on this subject. I believe this is a fit challenge for 2010 which, I would remind everybody, is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, Vice-President Reding has certainly convinced me that she will take this question seriously, and that she is working hard on it with her colleagues.

However, like others, I am impatient to hear what the Commission’s judgment is on whether France has broken EU law or not. I hope we will hear that very soon, and whether the Commission intends to take infringement proceedings against France – and indeed any other Member States that deserve it – for breach of the Free Movement Directive.

As others have said, I accept that there are restrictions on residence rights under the Free Movement Directive, and indeed under the – regrettable – transitional arrangements for accession, but we want to hear from the Commission precisely whether these have been breached.

One aspect that has not been mentioned elsewhere – and this is a very sensitive question, and which allows the French Government to wriggle out of the question of ethnic discrimination – is that France does not collect ethnic data. So when Minister Lalouche said at a meeting I attended that one in four young people arrested in France were of Romanian nationality, he was absolving himself from saying that they were Roma.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Catherine Grèze (Verts/ALE). (FR) Yes, it is the turn of France to experience an age of expulsions. These are mass expulsions based on ethnic group, which is completely contrary to EU law. In this era of ‘social-Sarkozyism’, the only question on the lips of my fellow French citizens is, ‘Today the Roma: whose turn tomorrow?’ If we are to ‘think European’, as Mr Barroso reminded us to do this morning, then the time has come to show that our European thinking is not confined to the sphere of economics.

Europe must soon face up to its past and acknowledge the genocide of gypsies. It gives me goose bumps to hear some of our members on the extreme right. At this time, if we want to ensure that our minorities are treated with respect, uphold our values and abide by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is included in the Treaty of Lisbon, there is only one choice open to you, and that is to condemn France.

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) The Roma problem is huge in Bulgaria. The hundreds of thousands of Roma who live in Bulgaria are deliberately kept in a state of poverty by the gypsy barons. These barons have the opportunity to become heads of huge organised criminal gangs at the expense of other Roma’s misery. Any Bulgarian citizen who becomes a victim of Roma crime suffers from this.

Prior to Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, much criticism was levelled at our fairly meagre opportunities for integration, dictated by the weak economy. However, what do we see today? Mighty France, a founding country and leading economy in the EU, is unable to cope with integrating even a few hundred Roma, let alone the destitute economy of Bulgaria, where hundreds of thousands of them live. The French Government’s actions benefit no one, especially not the European Union. The expulsions highlight the application of double standards not only to Roma, but to all Bulgarian citizens, which also causes deep disappointment. Bulgarians and Attack, as a conservative party, expect a show of solidarity when resolving these problems. The pan-European action plan announced by Mr Barroso is essential because the problem is already pan-European.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE).(RO) Discrimination and collective expulsions are prohibited. This is the law we all support, no matter which political group we belong to. The Commission must present immediately, in a clear and public manner, a review of each case and indicate who bears responsibility and the measures to be taken.

Any general association between the Roma ethnic group and crime leads to racism and discrimination. Criminal liability is individual and is confirmed on the basis of evidence and procedures.

However, I would like us to highlight honestly everyone’s responsibility, including the responsibility of the Romanian authorities and of politicians from every political party for what they have done, and failed to do, during the last 20 years for this ethnic minority. Incidentally, for those of you who are unaware, I am a Romanian citizen.

We must join forces now, as Member States and European institutions, and implement the Roma strategy, no matter where these people are.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (S&D). – Mr President, the critical issues for this Parliament are the core issues of poverty and social exclusion of the Roma, and we will take our responsibilities seriously. But no one is in any doubt that the reason we are here today in this Chamber, and that the Commissioners are here present with the Council, is to find out what the Commission, the guardian of the treaties, thinks of the French collective action – as Mrs Reding said – against the Roma.

Now if it is the case that she wishes to delay and tell us at a later stage, that is fine. But we are here to understand, Commissioner, not just whether you will enforce your decision, but what that decision is. If there is a weak and confused response as to whether there has been collective punishment – the words that you used – or whether there has been action on a case-by-case basis, which is required under the EU free movement directives, then we need to know this. We look to you for that answer.

When we have that answer, we will be in a position where we understand that other countries may not use as a precedent the collective punishment of an ethnic minority, one of the biggest in the European Union. This is a critical factor for us today and I ask you to be more specific, to be a guardian of the treaties. Only then can we move on to the Roma strategy, which everyone in this Parliament seems to want to have, which is to cure the core problems that lead to the export of poverty and social exclusion issues across the EU.

But today, we are talking about expulsions. We believe they are illegal and we believe you have delivered a weak and confused response. Be more specific. Be a guardian of the treaties.

 
  
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  Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE). (FR) I think this debate can be of use on two conditions: one, if it leads to improvements in a population’s living conditions, in other words, those of 10 million Roma who are currently in an extremely vulnerable situation, and two, if it leads us all to face up to our responsibilities. Personally, I believe we all need to put our own houses in order, starting with the countries of origin. They need to implement more effective integration policies, as the Roma are all too often rejected and marginalised in these countries. This has to change. The host countries also – and I am thinking about Italy in the past or my own country, France, now – where political leaders have too often given the impression of pointing the finger, stigmatising an entire community and using the Roma as easy scapegoats for fears and mistrust in general. This is unacceptable. The European Union cannot tolerate any discriminatory policy – the European Union which failed to gauge the scale of this issue at the time of enlargement. The billions that have been spent have done nothing to improve the day-to-day situation of the Roma. We need to make up for lost time and introduce a wide-reaching integration action plan involving the Commission, the Member States and local authorities, which all too often take on the job of central government in welcoming the Roma. Thank you.

 
  
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  Andrey Kovatchev (PPE).(BG) First of all, I wish to call on fellow Members to resist the temptation to use the debate on the topic ‘Situation of the Roma people in Europe’ to achieve short-term political objectives and target attacks against any particular government in Europe. It is not appropriate to oppose this topic on party grounds. I have not heard any concrete proposals, only attacks from the left. A long-term strategy is what we need for integrating this minority. I expect, of course, Member States to observe European legislation and guarantee the full application of free movement of the European Union’s citizens by complying with the statutory regulations and administrative requirements which are valid in every Member State. This also includes equal rights and obligations – let me strongly emphasise the word ‘obligations’ – for every single EU citizen.

An individual approach is required. It cannot be generic and allow whole peoples or groups to be censured or stigmatised because of their ethnic origin or any other minority trait. Roma integration is not an issue which concerns only one Member State on whose territory this minority has become settled over the years. This is a pan-European issue to which we need, as such, a pan-European solution.

We need a strategy drawn up by the European institutions and European Union Member States, representatives of the Roma community and civil society. However, to ensure that this strategy does not remain just words on a piece of paper, it must be successfully put into practice, which also requires a desire for this on both sides: from both the minority and majority. We must unite on the basis of our common values of tolerance, freedom, security and solidarity so that we can find a balanced response to this huge challenge facing the continent.

Finally, I do not want the link with Schengen to be included directly or indirectly ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Kinga Göncz (S&D). (HU) The expulsion of the Roma from France raises questions of fundamental rights as well as of fundamental values. A great deal has been said about these today. Politically, what may be even more important is that a vulnerable, particularly poor ethnic group has been labelled and criminalised. This violates the right to freedom from discrimination and may also give rise to dangerous tendencies. President Sarkozy has already found followers. In Hungary, the extreme right-wing party, Jobbik, is already talking about revoking the citizenship of Hungarian Roma and locking the Roma up in camps. The Jobbik MEP is talking about public security settlements and forced integration.

Over the summer, the Commission took slow and uncertain, ineffectual steps. I now have a few questions. What does the Commission intend to do about the spread of this hate speech, about this intensification of exclusion on ethnic grounds which is increasingly poisoning Europe? When will we have an all-encompassing European Roma strategy, which could prevent countries from passing the problem on to each other, and what does the Commission plan to do to monitor the expenditure of EU funds in order to ensure that they are effectively improving the situation of the Roma?

 
  
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  Luigi de Magistris (ALDE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I find President Sarkozy’s decision to be very serious: once again, in an effort to conceal internal political problems – as has already happened in Italy – he is attempting to regain support by criminalising outsiders and migrants, playing on people’s anxieties over social safety.

Before Europe becomes the Europe of markets, it must be the Europe of rights, the Europe of solidarity and the Europe of inclusion. This is why President Sarkozy’s statement was immediately followed by the very serious statement by the Italian Minister for the Interior, who wishes to adopt the Sarkozy method and extend it to EU citizens, expelling them without incomes or homes.

Therefore, rather than promoting inclusion policies, policies that reduce social inequalities and seek to unite people, the aim is once again to criminalise people. This is very serious because migrants, outsiders, those who are considered to be on the fringes of society are useful when they are needed, for example, for illegal work; in other words, when they have duties to perform but no rights. If an outsider, a Roma or a migrant commits a crime, he is punished, but this must not be a pretext for justifying very serious expulsions.

The Commission must react if it wants a Europe of solidarity, equality and freedom.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as I have already said this morning in another debate, I would like us to help one another to take the things we are saying seriously.

If it is true – as claimed by our socialist and liberal colleagues – that the behaviour of the French Government is anti-democratic, and if it is true that the Commission – in the words of Mr Swoboda – is weak or even colludes with this behaviour, why was Mr Swoboda backed by Commission Members from the socialist and liberal families? Furthermore, why do these Commissioners not resign, forcing the Commission and the governments to face up to their responsibilities?

If, on the other hand, it is all propaganda, then it is propaganda carried out with the very aim of not tackling the heart of the problem, because the heart of the problem and primary strategy is that people are at the centre of everything. Citizens from the Roma ethnic group are people, our poor are people, because integration difficulties are focused in marginal quarters and affect the poorest strata of the population; all these people need firm rules.

What should we call for, what did the French Government call for? To apply the European Union directives that we voted for in Parliament, to provide firm rules so that our people have a good future.

 
  
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  Rita Borsellino (S&D). (IT) Mr President, Mr Chastel, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the French Government’s decision to expel more than one thousand Roma is an extremely serious matter, above all, when we consider that this measure was taken for propagandist and populist reasons at a time when the French Government is far from enjoying favourable public opinion, and this is true political manipulation.

This measure undermines the principle of European citizenship first and foremost. Under Directive 2004/38/EC on freedom of movement, this principle must be restricted only in specific cases and the restriction assessed on a case-by-case basis. I do not believe that this is what happened.

As guardian of the treaties, the Commission’s job is to intervene quickly and to carefully assess conduct by Member States that is xenophobic and does not comply with EU law. I would also like to remind you that when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became binding and prohibits any kind of discrimination based on ethnic origin or nationality.

Today, this debate gives us the opportunity to find out what the Commission and the Council think about these measures and what action they will take in this regard, not least because, quite sincerely, I believe that the Commission’s response was a little late in coming.

I shall conclude by asking the Commission and the Council what became of the action plan for the development of a European strategy for the Roma and their integration, and how France and the other Member States are using the European money earmarked for the integration of ethnic minorities.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: László TŐKÉS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE).(FR) Madam Vice-President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am staggered at the hypocrisy of a number of the speeches I have just heard, and I want to say that the rule of law holds good in France. We do not have a policy of discrimination; we do not, moreover, even recognise minorities. The republic is one and indivisible. We take decisions in individual cases under the supervision of a judge, and the decisions demonstrate this. Thank you, Commissioner, for having reminded us of this. However, the French people have chosen security. France is generous with people who reside there legally. We take action against people who reside illegally, and the French people do not tolerate illegal situations. Of course, freedom of movement exists. Obviously, this freedom of movement applies on condition that individuals do not commit a breach of the peace, and that, after a period of three months, they have sufficient means at their disposal. Freedoms, however – this is Chapter II of the Charter of Fundamental Rights – cannot be understood in the absence of security. Freedom cannot exist without order, because freedom without order amounts to anarchy. Besides, in these circumstances, all the responsible local politicians call for the forces of law and order to intervene. What we must do now is to draw up a major Europe-wide programme for integration – something, moreover, that President Băsescu has called for – to combat mafia organisations and human trafficking, resolve problems in education, improve access to welfare, and ensure that the Roma are politically represented. We should warmly welcome a common solution. It would be a pity if we were not to have a common solution, merely in order to condemn France. We are missing a political opportunity, and I hope that, by Thursday, we shall have the means to find this common solution.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Minister, Commissioner, thank you very much for your speeches. It is entirely clear from these speeches, however, that you have no idea what is happening in Roma settlements in the European Union and in EU Member States.

What happened in France is only the tip of the iceberg, and the decision taken by Mr Sarkozy is not the first such decision of a European statesman. Such decisions have been taken before in other countries as well. They have been taken in Great Britain and in Italy, and they will surely be taken again in the future. It is abundantly clear that the Commission has failed to respond adequately, and it is not we socialists who are making a political issue of it but actually your group, which is incapable of acknowledging that this sort of thing is unacceptable in the European Union.

Commissioner, if we really want to solve the Roma issue, we must stop uttering the empty words and phrases that we have been exchanging here for some years now. It is necessary to carry out a genuinely thorough analysis and to resolve this situation in cooperation with the Roma, and not just with the Roma intellectuals, who often have very different views on how the Roma actually live, but directly with representatives from these settlements I have been talking about.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, what a lot of popular misconception about the assessments we have heard today! Assessments that are more transparent if we look at the rights: at the right not to be repatriated – on which we all agree – but also at the right of children to live and study in dignified surroundings.

If I forced my child to stay for days in his pushchair at a crossroads, exposed to the sun and rain, and I made him eat amongst the exhaust fumes of official cars, if I did this, the court would take my son away from me. If a Member State took action to address a similar situation, brought about by ethnic minority communities, a cry of racism would go up.

Article 7 of Directive 2004/38/EC states that anyone who is enrolled at a school to follow a course of study shall have the right of residence for a period of longer than three months. However, we cannot take children’s fingerprints. This means that we cannot identify them if one child turns up at school on one day and responds to the register and on the next day another turns up saying, ‘No, it’s me.’ At school, the register must not be taken with names but with sounds because you cannot identify them or you are racist.

The rule whereby we should respect the right not to repatriate people but not the right to a dignified life is a somewhat curious one, which we should undertake to guarantee also for the EU ethnic minorities present in our Europe.

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Mr President, this morning in the debate on the state of the Union, the growing distance between European institutions and the public was highlighted. This is a political problem and, moreover, a European problem. It is therefore a demonstration that Europe is not built on the internal market and a single currency, but on the public, fundamental rights and an area of freedom, security and justice.

This means that the lack of social integration of a minority that is objectively excluded is not the problem of the country concerned, or the problem of those countries that have a high level of integration of the Roma population, such as Spain.

It is a European problem and therefore, irrespective of the legal response – which is the responsibility firstly of the Commission and ultimately of the courts of justice – there is a political procedure that is Parliament’s responsibility. Parliament must firstly say quite clearly that an expulsion targeted on an ethnic basis goes against the required European integration of citizens. Secondly, it must say that populist gestures that claim to overcome the problems of the governments of the Member States in response to opinion polls in pursuit of scapegoats go against the European Union and against the required European integration of citizens. Finally, it must say that every time there is a gesture of contempt sending the message that there are governments that do not care what the European institutions say because they believe the polls, they will have to confront Parliament, the Commission and the European institutions as a whole.

 
  
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  Jan Mulder (ALDE).(NL) Mr President, nearly all the speakers have said that the law must be administered equally throughout the European Union, and the Commission has said that France still has some questions to answer in the case of the expulsion of Roma. My question to the Commission is as follows. Has a deadline been set for France to answer those questions; when will the Commission be saying, ‘Now is the time to give us a clear answer’? Also, following on from this, when will the Commission be able to adopt a clear position?

Then there is the aspect of the large amount of funds being spent on Roma integration. The Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion gave a number of examples, one of which was, if I understood correctly, a successful dialogue with the Roma in Hungary. As I see it, a dialogue need not cost so much money. Are there no better examples of successful integration projects than the dialogue that has been started in Hungary?

 
  
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  Ulrike Lunacek (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner Reding, in the year that I have been an MEP, I have got to know you as a Commissioner who takes action against discrimination in many areas and, up to now, I had thought that it was right for you to be Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. However, your speech today, your statements over the last few weeks and the hesitant way that you are dealing with what has happened in France – the mass deportation of Roma – have disappointed me greatly. In this regard, I agree with many people who consider this to be scandalous.

On the one hand, you state that the French Government has told you that there was no targeted action in which fundamental rights were violated, then, on the other hand, you later say that you want to make sure that France is also complying with European law. That means then that France has contravened European law in this regard. Why do you not say that plainly and simply?

I expect you to use the same clarity that the Commission always uses to defend market freedom – as has already been said – to also defend the freedom of establishment and the freedom of movement of all European citizens and not simply to take this lying down.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) The countries of Eastern Europe, in which there are large Roma minorities, are often criticised for their inadequate care of the Roma. However, this general criticism is not followed up with any concrete proposals describing possible ways to integrate the Roma into the majority society in a civilised and cultured way.

The current deportation of hundreds of Roma from France to their countries of origin shows that the way of life of the immigrant Roma families, their scale of values, and their relationship with the majority society, are not understood even in a country which has a wealth of experience in integrating immigrants from virtually the whole world.

I do not want to pass judgment on the decision of the French Government. However, I know that it will not solve the problem of the Roma. It might be a starting mechanism, though, for a new common process in the European Union and the Member States towards a comprehensive and intensive solution to this problem. The European Union should take a leading role in this, however, as the individual states are more or less approaching this problem with a certain dose of egotism.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, attempts are being made to accuse President Sarkozy of political actionism in order to deflect attention away from French problems, but this unfortunate deportation of Roma is evidence of major problems. In hundreds of settlements, the Roma live shut away in a parallel world and they often descend into crime. That, of course, creates anxiety and fear for the people living in the surrounding area.

We must not forget the incident that led to the current situation. The cause was, after all, an attack on French police officers by 50 masked Roma people. The freedom of movement enjoyed by EU citizens must not be used as an excuse. I would also like consideration to be given to the fact that Romania, in particular, has a generous naturalisation policy and the Roma, in particular, but also members of the Moldovan mafia, are very generously supplied with passports.

It is, of course, unacceptable for us, on the one hand, to want unrestricted freedom of movement within the EU – a mobility that has been called for many times today – while, on the other, passports and citizenships are given away liberally, so encouraging an uncontrolled influx into Europe.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time that we have held debates about the Roma. There are many good intentions, but the results are frankly unsatisfactory. We are, of course, all largely responsible; we can say in this case that he who is without sin should cast the first stone as far as the integration of the Roma is concerned.

I would nevertheless like to thank the Commission for the new policies it has outlined today; I would have liked an in-depth debate on these topics, but this was not possible. We have witnessed the usual performance, and what annoys me most is the fact that the Roma are being used as ideological pawns for political purposes, as the Left is using them today; the same Left that has governed for years at national and local level and allowed the Roma to carry on living in indecent shanty towns where the children are forced to beg and not go to school, and so on.

Therefore, Mr Swoboda, when the Left was in power, there was no sense of outrage; I did not hear any words of indignation when these things happened. I would like to appeal to the President: next time, let us hold a real debate on policies, programmes and facts.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) I have seen the actions and statements used to stigmatise an ethnic group. I have also seen the statements that create a negative image of a state or people, something which runs contrary to the European spirit and principles and creates populist and xenophobic attitudes that undermine EU principles.

We cannot allow prejudice to be used against Roma for political ends. We cannot accept the presence of first-class and second-class citizens in the European Union. The aim of EU-level coordination must be to improve the Roma’s situation and not to restrict the rights of citizens.

The 12 million Roma, gypsies, travellers or Romanies, as they are called in their countries of origin, are a common problem requiring common solutions. I find it unacceptable to make any connection between the Roma issue and matters relating to the Schengen visa or accession for Romania and Bulgaria.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL).(PT) It was a little embarrassing to see the President of the Commission ducking the issue this morning, but I must say that this afternoon, it has become ridiculous. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights comes to see us and the first thing that she talks about is crime? Mrs Lulling, your portfolio is ‘Fundamental Rights’ and I have been a great advocate of its existence and of the energy with which you have dedicated yourself to it, but I do not recognise you in this role at the moment, Commissioner.

However, while we are talking here, the fundamental rights of European citizens – the right to freedom of movement, and also the right to non-discrimination – are being violated. It is the spirit of the treaties that is being violated and the very history of this Union that is being disrespected; not just the distant history of the Second World War, but also that of the 1990s.

Let us recall what we all told Romania and Bulgaria when they wanted to join the European Union. We said that if they did not persecute minorities, if they did not carry out ethnic cleansing, if they behaved themselves in human rights terms, they could join the European Union. They joined, only to then see that the more powerful countries at the centre of the European Union can, without any problems and without the Commission taking any notice, do the things that we told Romania and Bulgaria that they could not do before joining the European Union.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, a lot has been said and there have been a lot of polemics. I shall not answer in the same way, because we have to calm down and look at what we are here for – namely to solve the problems and not to create more problems. One concrete question which was asked was: Who was at the Córdoba Summit with the representatives of the Roma? The answer is László Andor and myself, two Spanish Ministers, a French State Secretary and a Finnish Minister. That was all, from the 27 governments.

If you look at the papers that are available on who spends what for the Roma population, then you will understand that, in the main, our governments are not utilising funds to invest in a better life for the Roma population, though I will leave my colleague, László Andor, to speak on this.

I will take up on the intervention by Mr Swoboda, because its tone was the same as that used by many Members of the European Parliament. I am astonished, because we share the same values and the same principles, and when I look at the resolution by the Socialist Party, it copies word for word what I said in the name of the Commission in August. I will quote what I said then: ‘I regret that ... the rhetoric that has been used in some Member States in the past weeks has been openly discriminatory and partly inflammatory. The situation of the Roma is a serious matter. It should be on the agenda not just in August, but throughout the year, and it should be treated carefully and responsibly by policy makers. National decision makers have an important role to play to ensure both public order and the social integration of all Europeans who choose to live within their territory. Because Europe is not just a common market – it is, at the same time, a Community of values and fundamental rights. The European Commission will watch over this.’

So that was the official declaration by the Commission. However, the Commission refuses to look at the Roma question in black and white, and to make a party political issue of this.

Like you, I condemned very clearly the rhetoric which has been utilised, not only in France, but in many other Member States too. Like you, I believe that freedom of movement is one of the basic freedoms of our European Union. The whole Commission supports this.

However, there are not only rights. There are also obligations, and the Commission has the obligation to balance those rights and obligations, which were not put on the table by us, but which this House decided on in 2004, expressing the interests of the voters. In order to have this balance between rights and obligations put into practice, we have been in contact on a daily basis with the French authorities. We have made this clear, and that is why the Ministers came to Brussels to have a very frank and very clear discussion with the Commission. I have told you what the ministers told the Commission.

At the same time, our legal services are continuing to analyse what the facts are on the ground, because we cannot just declare war on a Member State. There are rules for analysing what a Member State has done, and I told you very clearly that this analysis has not yet finished and that we do not yet have all the proof of whether there was discrimination or not or whether the procedural guarantees were applied, following a case-by-case assessment, with a justified decision in writing and a one month period in which to leave.

All this is still under analysis. We know – and these are hard facts – that France has not implemented the 2004 directive on free movement as regards procedural guarantees, and it is precisely those procedural guarantees that we are speaking about, so the Commission has taken the dossier in hand. That is why today, I sent a letter in the name of the Commission to the French authorities on this exact question. You can be assured that if there is legal evidence concerning France or any country – and you know from the past that ‘big’ countries too can receive accusations from me and that I normally win these before the Court – I will act. But in order to win before the Court, one has to have serious grounds; you cannot just make party political declarations. The Commission is a serious organisation which has to stick to the rules and that is exactly what the Commission does and what it continues to do.

I regret one thing. Let us forget about the party political excitement, as that is normal in politics. I regret that we have actually spoken very little about the fate of the Roma, when that is what we are here for.

We have had the communication and the action plan. We have the Roma platforms. We have all the measures in our hands. Why are those measures not applied? There is the poverty trap and the issue of discrimination. You should help the Commission to push the Member States to apply those measures. The money is available, but is not being used to solve the problem.

Why is this? Well, in my personal opinion, it might be because it is not very popular in our Member States to take EU money and invest it in the Roma community. I hope I am wrong, and that with the five actions I have proposed, things will change in the future. I count on Parliament to help me move in this direction because alone, with the help of Mr Andor, I will not manage to get that done.

I need your help, but not for party polemics. I need your help to take concrete action to solve and overcome the problems.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE).(FR) Mr President, we have just been debating a very important subject. Yet, more than 20 fellow Members have not been given the opportunity to have their say on this issue. I therefore propose that, in the near future, the President should have an opportunity to change the order of business and extend the debates, so that all fellow Members have an opportunity to take part in such an important debate as this.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (S&D). – Mr President, I will be very brief. First, Commissioner, we had a debate on Roma issues some months ago. Parliament had been pushing for that debate.

Secondly, I am not fully satisfied, but what you said in your response just now was much stronger and clearer than what you said at the beginning of the debate.

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, as in the past, I will also always be available in the future for discussing Roma issues.

Let me concentrate my part of the answer on a few key points. At the beginning of this year, soon after this Commission entered office, my first official visit was to Paris at the opening conference of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. I was really impressed with the atmosphere and with the very sincere intention of NGOs and government officials to tackle poverty and work together for what we later formulated as Europe 2020 objectives.

It should go without saying that the events of the last two months were not what we envisaged or encouraged in February in Paris. This is a disappointment for many of us and I understand that part of this House which is very critical of these developments.

However, even if we understand the very complex nature of these issues, I think we should turn our attention to the much more scandalous situation that exists in the countries of origin of the Roma people who now face very difficult situations since France and other countries have decided to expel them. We are speaking about ten million people, many of them living in impossible situations.

It is not true, as I heard in one of the statements today, that these people were never integrated. It is not true that the Roma are culturally – or for any other reason – unable to integrate with mainstream societies. I have to state here that, although again it is a complex issue, before 1989, most of the Roma people had jobs. They were very often poor and held unskilled jobs, but they were integrated to a certain degree in the labour market and had a basic level of livelihood.

We have to make it very clear that the economic transition was also a disruption. The Roma clearly became the main victims of this transitional period. If we do not appreciate, this we will fail to understand the origin of the problem today and fail to appreciate how great the efforts needed are. These have to be European efforts because the countries affected do not have sufficient resources, energy and commitment to tackle the problems alone.

I would like to reject categorically the assumption – or accusation – that the Commission has only noticed now that some of this money – the Social Fund and the structural funds – does not reach the targets and does not deliver.

We discussed this very frankly in Córdoba with the involvement of George Soros. We discussed it in the parliamentary conference chaired by Mr Swoboda; and there are other meetings which are destined to tackle this. The two-day ESF conference in June also gave attention to this matter, as has the conference currently taking place in Budapest. Similar conferences are scheduled for Bulgaria and Slovakia next year. The main one, in which President Băsescu is also expected to participate, will take place in October in Bucharest and it will exclusively focus on how the European funds could be better used to tackle these problems.

We have been very active, together with Parliament, in establishing the new micro-finance facility. One of the key arguments for the micro-finance facility was the fact that marginalised communities – and particularly the Roma – are not reached sufficiently and assisted by the mainstream financial sector or even by the European funding facilities.

But we need to have a long-term strategy. Nobody should believe that there is a silver bullet – some kind of quick fix to this problem – and that it is just a matter of finding a quick solution. We have to have a long-term strategy. We have a long-term strategy, namely Europe 2020 with a strong commitment to combating poverty and numerical targets. The Member States are working on their own reform programmes. It will simply not be acceptable if, in the countries where Roma live in high numbers, a strong commitment is not made in the poverty reduction programme for the Roma communities in terms of employment and, equally importantly, education.

Early childhood education is key. Commissioner Vassiliou is with us in spirit in all these discussions, and will also participate in the taskforce suggested by Viviane Reding when it comes into force. It starts with early childhood education and continues with a proper preparation for participating in the labour market. But it really is an uphill struggle and it will take a lot of energy.

However, I would agree with all those who emphasise that we should also take the immediate situation seriously and not only speak about the long-term plans for integration. Indeed, there is a risk of rising racism and xenophobia. As the President said in his speech this morning, these have absolutely no place in the European Union.

 
  
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  President. – Finally, allow me to announce a subjective comment. Since I am chairing this session, I have been unable to contribute to the discussion of this topic, but I submitted my own comment in writing, as I consider this matter to be of great importance.

 
  
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  Olivier Chastel, President-in-Office of the Council.(FR) Mr President, just a few quick words to conclude this debate, which has certainly been extremely interesting. I should like to say that this debate will have been useful if, in the future, it helps us to make progress on the Roma integration issue. I think that it is this, above all, that we must take away from this early afternoon session. As I have just said, this issue regularly features in the conclusions reached by the various Council configurations, including the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO); all of these conclusions are aimed at promoting the integration of the Roma people in the Member States. Reading through the various Council papers, one can gauge how often the Council regularly addresses this issue and speaks out against the stigmatisation of an ethnic group. The Belgian Presidency has, moreover, made the point recently that integration remains one of the founding principles of the European Union and that this issue deserves to be debated in the appropriate forums. To be sure, this debate must involve all the countries concerned, and with the equanimity that is essential. We have obviously taken good note of the Commission’s recent decisions and of the request for a joint EPSCO-Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) to be convened. That said, I shall make no further comment on the appropriateness of this request. I should like simply to say that the EPSCO Council has anyway partly anticipated this request, as the Roma integration issue has been put on the agenda for its next meeting, which will take place on 21 October.

 
  
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  President. – I have received six motions for resolutions(1)tabled in accordance with Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 9 September 2010.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) I firmly believe that the problems facing the Roma cannot be resolved using drastic measures. We need to take action responsibly and involve all European states in this process, no matter how hard this effort might seem. Roma are European citizens and must enjoy all the fundamental rights guaranteed by European legislation: the right to establish a residence and the freedom of movement. The violation of these rights in France creates a dangerous precedent and may have adverse long-term effects. I believe that it is our duty to avoid incriminating and, especially, criminalising a particular group of immigrants, especially as the Roma repatriated voluntarily did not have criminal records. I also believe that the solution is not to expel Roma citizens from one region of Europe to another or, even worse, to carry out collective expulsions. We need to take joint European action to integrate this minority and devise a European Roma strategy. The priority areas of this strategy will have to be education, health and facilitating access to the labour market. It is vital for us to find together concrete solutions supporting social inclusion for Roma and not to allow, in any way, the representatives of this community to feel marginalised.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE), in writing.(RO) I wish to stress that the expulsions of Roma citizens carried out by the French authorities do not necessarily contravene the treaty. The issue must be examined on a case-by-case basis because European citizens do not have an unconditional right to freedom of movement, but exercise this right in accordance with the provisions of Directive 2004/38, which clearly sets out the conditions for their stay. Moreover, EU citizens can be expelled for reasons of security, public order and public health. The issue of whether these measures are unlawful only arises if Roma who are resident legally have been expelled. On the other hand, Roma, like other European citizens, have both rights and obligations. The solution is to devise an effective, coherent European strategy supporting Roma social inclusion to enable them to fulfil their obligations as citizens. Another key aspect is to eradicate discrimination by changing people’s perception about Roma. Neither France nor the other Member States should leave Romania to shoulder the entire responsibility for sorting out the Roma’s situation. The media distortion in France and the attempt to capitalise on the expulsions for electoral purposes are totally unhelpful. We need to demonstrate solidarity and responsibility in dealing with this sensitive issue. Indeed, our ability to achieve this is a test for the values declared by the EU over the years.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D), in writing.(RO) I utterly condemn the human rights violation committed by the French Government by the collective expulsion of Roma. Unfortunately, this model of extremist populist behaviour promoted by Silvio Berlusconi also operates in a country which likes to declare that it is the home of human rights. At the same time, I must point out to the European Commission that its passive stance towards France’s violation of the provisions of Articles 14, 27 and 30 of Directive 2004/38 indicate its complicity in perpetuating and exacerbating the discrimination against Europe’s largest minority. The Roma’s situation is getting worse, due both to a lack of a coordinated European integration policy and to extremist exploits which compromise European values. Consequently, I call for firm intervention from the Commission to put an end to the collective expulsions, in accordance with the powers granted to it under Article 258 of the consolidated EU Treaty. Otherwise, we run the risk of this undemocratic, shameful behaviour spreading, as indicated by the statements made by representatives of the Finnish Government and by feedback from yesterday’s informal ministerial meeting in Paris.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing.(RO) It is clear to everyone that the freedom of movement within the EU is a fundamental right guaranteed to European citizens. Another crucial right is not to be the target of actions triggered by being of a particular gender or racial, ethnic or social group, or by speaking a particular language, professing a religion or having certain political convictions. This is why I would like to emphasise that the attempt to associate the issue of social integration of certain EU citizens with Romania’s or Bulgaria’s process of accession to the Schengen area is unjustified and unfair. Responsibility for the Roma’s social integration does not only lie with Romania, Bulgaria or France, but with Europe. For this reason, I believe that the Roma’s integration must be a priority for the EU and that common solutions need to be identified by Member States along with the European Commission.

 
  
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  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D), in writing. (RO) The European Parliament resolution on the Roma expulsions from France is a necessary act in the battle against the abuses committed by right-wing governments. This is a resolution which we are using to call for respect for a fundamental right enjoyed by the European Union’s citizens, the right of free movement and access to the labour market.

While the French authorities claim that the Roma repatriation was carried out voluntarily, there are countless statements available to prove the contrary. The decisions made by the French Government demonstrate its inability to handle such a situation. From a political perspective, the current French Government is creating a scapegoat on the back of which it is hoping to grab some political capital. France needs to rethink its attitude towards immigrants, regardless of their nationality or ethnic origin.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) The situation of Roma citizens who commit crimes in EU states must be dealt with without any generalised prejudice and stereotypes, especially based on unacceptable criteria, such as ethnic origin, or without a collective approach. In relation to the situation of the Roma communities, the European Commission must ask Member States to provide specific measures for helping to resolve their problems, as identified at national level in each state, in partnership with their representative structures. Moreover, the Commission can encourage such approaches by allocating additional resources from budget lines which have remained unused. The issue of social integration of European Union citizens has nothing to do with and does not come under the remit of the Schengen acquis. Schengen is a common area of free movement and Romania meets the requirements of the Community acquis applicable to areas such as police cooperation, personal data protection, visas and maritime and land border control, which has been confirmed by every expert evaluation. Consequently, Romania has already proven that it is capable of managing efficiently the flows of migrants at the Schengen area’s external border, according to the standards which are observed by the current Schengen Member States dealing with this issue at the moment.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) All European citizens must abide by national and European laws. Roma are European citizens. All Member States must abide by their own and EU laws. The EU has 27 Member States. The reality is that Roma pose a specific problem. This is not down to circumstances where they face discrimination, but to their social circumstances. It is a situation dictated by the economic situation in general, but especially by aspects of their own tradition: nomadism and a low education level, resulting in a lack of professional qualifications. If we really want to resolve this specific problem, we need to devise and enforce a European policy which is implemented by all Member States. This policy must be based primarily on education. Education can offer job opportunities, which will make a significant contribution to Roma social integration.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, the situation of the Roma minority in Europe is really critical. Members of this group are often victims of attacks and even ethnic cleansing. I would like to add my voice to criticism of the recent steps taken by the French Government, which has expelled several hundred of these citizens of the Union, and threatened them with various breaches of the law. However, the fact of the matter is that we do not know of any other mass expulsion of people who were accused of similar breaches of the law. The events in France may therefore be characterised as ethnic cleansing. My question is: who next? Will it be citizens from other minorities or immigrants? We are standing on very thin ice in the EU. We have tolerated such measures in the past in the case of other Member States, namely Great Britain and Italy, and here they are again. We must unequivocally distance ourselves from such measures, and severely punish countries which pursue them. Through measures of this sort, we will create two tiers of equality, and the Roma will end up on the lower level. We must find solutions to the current situation. In my opinion, we should invest more in education for this community, as that is the only way. It may be too late to save the current generation, but perhaps we can save future generations.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE), in writing. (IT) We need to start a serious debate with the aim of finding a European solution for a problem that affects many of our States. Yet this debate must be tackled in a constructive manner, avoiding pretentious posturing or crowd-pleasing.

Yet again, the European Left has shown itself to be blind in the face of an emergency such as that of the Roma, which it has not wished to and not known how to tackle. It is using this problem to fan the flames, turning the emergency into a tool purely for propaganda purposes.

I have always promoted a society of inclusion and acceptance, and this is precisely why all those who wish to form part of and integrate into a society, a nation, must respect certain rules. The socialist, Tony Blair, stated that immigration and fusion of cultures have always represented a form of enrichment, but people who arrive in another State are faced with a system of values. And those values must be observed by all. That is why, leaving aside any cultural or religious differences, there are certain shared principles of the rule of law that are part of our collective legacy and must be accepted by all.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE), in writing. (FI) The European Union’s fundamental values include a respect for human dignity, tolerance and openness. Furthermore, the free movement of persons is one of its supporting pillars. With the Treaty of Lisbon, the Charter of Fundamental Rights becomes legally binding, adding weight to the Union’s human rights dimension. The situation regarding Europe’s Roma shows that matters of equality on an everyday basis and the implementation of fundamental rights still leave a lot to be desired. As far as the legal instruments available at European level are concerned, the problem is that, apart from anything else and despite the legally binding nature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Commission is unable to interfere in issues that do not, at least for now, fall within its competence. The Equality Directive, which prohibits any kind of discrimination, and progress on which is being held up by the Council, is, I think, one of the most important tools to combat discrimination against the Roma and many other Europeans. There are many vulnerable groups, including older people and sexual minorities. It is important to ensure that the directive has horizontal coverage, to ban both active and passive discrimination on all grounds, with no loopholes or exceptions. There is no place for discrimination in civilised European society, with its respect for human rights and equality, and each of us should have an equal chance to participate in it. Fundamental rights need to be implemented right away, and not in five or ten years’ time.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), in writing.(RO) Roma are not only the largest minority, but also the most marginalised community in the European Union. Their lot will not be improved if the dispute between left and right is going to shift from national to European level and if it is going to generate greater social intolerance, rather than more political responsibility. Roma need inclusion policies at national level, no matter which country they live in, and European intervention when the national level is inadequate, as is the case when dealing with migrant communities. On the other hand, the expertise of certain NGOs in Romania or Bulgaria, in France or in Spain, should provide models of best practice for government or EU agencies.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing.(RO) I wish to add my voice to those which have condemned the unacceptable measures taken by the French Government against Roma. The Roma population is the largest ethnic minority in the European Union. We are talking about 10 or 12 million people, more than the population of Belgium. Roma’s problems are not the problems of any particular state: they are the European Union’s problems. As long as we fail to understand and take this point on board, any measure adopted will end in failure. The issue of Roma integration is not resolved either through forced expulsions or through violence, EUR 300 bonuses or symposiums on cultural diversity. If we continue with such methods, we will waste time and resources and the problem will get worse, while the Roma population becomes increasingly poorer, more excluded and inclined towards crime. We must stop brutal approaches and look seriously at the causes of their behaviour, which means at their precarious circumstances in terms of education and healthcare, blocked access to the labour market, discrimination and ineffective crime control. A clear strategy for integrating these people into society must strive to achieve concrete long-term results. We must take these measures together, without passing the buck indefinitely from one state to another.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE), in writing.(PL) The Roma, or Gypsies, as they were once called, are as worthy of respect as all other ethnic groups. They are a people who have been present in Europe for centuries. The Roma have brought the riches of their culture, too, to European culture, and this is how they should be perceived – with their poetry, song and music, with their knowledge of crafts and with their tradition of travelling and endless wandering. Attempts have been made to exterminate them, while others have tried to force them to settle down, to teach them to give up their customs and to make them renounce their traditions and values. They have not yielded – the Roma are still with us. However, the world is changing. Today, their own world is radically different from the one which surrounds them – a world of a career at all costs, of consumption, getting rich and success. This situation is a challenge for all of us, for all of Europe. The European Union must develop an effective programme of support for the people in this community, so that while respecting their traditions, we allow them to break out of their isolation and exclusion. The European Union was not founded just for people to live in peace and get rich. It also has to deal with the most difficult challenges. I do not believe, either, that any Member State of the European Union is not able to bring the real perpetrators of crimes to justice instead of being satisfied merely with a general suspicion of any group that they have criminal tendencies.

 
  
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  Michèle Striffler (PPE), in writing.(FR) The situation of the Roma in Europe is a problem that especially concerns me, not as a French MEP, but as a European citizen. The great majority of Roma are European citizens. As such, they fully benefit from the freedom of movement and the right of residence provided under the treaties and Directive 2004/38/EC.

This right, however, like all rights, is linked to obligations. Moreover, the law, in all its dimensions, must be respected by everyone. There are currently estimated to be 11 million Roma in Europe. This is clearly an issue for the whole of Europe, and my group is the only one, yet again, to show that it has really given some thought to this issue, by contributing to this debate in a constructive manner.

We must, for example, consider how best to mobilise European funds so as to improve the conditions for integrating Roma into their country of origin. We must equally put a real strategy for the Roma into action at European level, and involve the Roma community in its development, implementation and follow-up.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D), in writing.(HU) In the past few weeks, events in France have shown, on the one hand, that an oversimplification of the problem cannot lead to a lasting solution that improves the situation of those concerned. The Roma are a special minority group in so far as they have a double minority status. They form an ethnic community, and most of them belong to the socially disadvantaged groups of society. Today, the Roma are still victims of discrimination, marginalisation and segregation in numerous areas of public and private life. The Roma community is still not a recognised national or ethnic minority group in every Member State, and thus it does not enjoy the rights pertaining to this status in all of the countries concerned. As a result, their ability to participate fully in public life is limited and, in many cases, can only be realised on a voluntary basis. The majority society and the Roma share the social responsibility for the integration of Roma communities in an asymmetrical measure The majority society must accept the Roma without assimilation, and support them as a disadvantaged social group. On the other hand, the Roma must accept the rules governing society as a whole, and should take more initiative in solving their own problems. Another lesson from the events in France is that social integration of Roma communities cannot be carried out solely at a national level. In addition to the local, regional and national level, Member States must cooperate at EU level as well. Substantial resources should be made available for this task in the post-2013 budget cycle from the EU’s Structural and Cohesion Funds.

 
  
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  László Tőkés (PPE) , in writing.(HU) Day after day, we are witnessing sharp attacks on France’s policies and strict measures against the Romanian and Bulgarian Roma. Among the Socialists and Liberals, some are calling President Nicolas Sarkozy a populist, a xenophobe and a racist, using for their own party political ends, the misfortune of the gypsies streaming into Western Europe. Unfortunately, the problem of the expelled Roma has been excessively politicised. Overemphasising the principle of free movement within the European Union in a one-sided manner, many people tend to forget that the issue of the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe cannot be resolved through emigration or a continent-wide ‘nomadisation’; rather, their situation can only be satisfactorily settled in their home countries, by the Member States, and with the collaboration of the EU.

Some people, moved by purely propagandistic goals, also forget that the freedom of movement cannot be an end in itself. On the contrary: the right to remain in one’s home country and have a decent human life is a fundamental universal and European value, to which Europe’s largest ethnic and social minority is also entitled. We must therefore strive to ensure that all citizens of the European Union feel at home in their own country and – as a result – are not forced to seek their fortune abroad. The best response to the falsely democratic defenders of the Roma, whose behaviour borders on the politically cynical, may be with the words of the Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel: After all, the Roma are not being sent to Auschwitz, but only to Romania.

 
  
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  Traian Ungureanu (PPE), in writing. – There are two ways to deal with the Roma question. One is to join our socialist and liberal colleagues in saying: We are all racists now! But this would only benefit the moral posturing of the left. It would not be of any help to the Roma people.

The other way is to deal honestly with the real problem. We should admit that the right to safety and the right to free movement are of equal importance. Furthermore, instead of linking the Roma problem with Romania’s accession to Schengen, we should understand that Romania did a lot to facilitate Roma education and integration. The Romanian experience should be built upon – in cooperation with other European states – because the Roma problem is not a national problem, but a pan-European reality that requires a pan-European policy.

 
  

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