Does France really want a European solution for Roma problems?

Policy Brief No.17, September 2012

Author: Nicoleta Scripcariu

The French Prime Minister Jean Marc-Ayrault, recently stated that the Roma people are a problem at the European level and a common approach together with the governments of Romania and Bulgaria, the main origin countries of Roma migrants, is optimal. France understood to approach the problem of Roma migrants, through successive and collective evictions drawing the attention of European and other international bodies concerning the abidance of human rights and the principle of free movement of persons in the European area. In 2008, Romania tried to convince the other EU member states that there is a need for a unique institutional framework. The debate led to nothing more than a weak mechanism through which the European Commission makes recommendations, but each member state takes action according to their national strategies. Now France has seemed to be opened to an European approach so that on the 24th of September at the reunion of the Council of EU it will be  on the agenda the issue of the Roma people. Unfortunately, putting words into action is a different matter. France pledges for a unique European policy, but nonetheless enforces a non-European policy that seems to have as a sole purpose “getting rid” of Roma by sending them back to their origin countries. Social inclusion seems to have been out of the question. France spent €26 million in 2011 to pay the Roma from Romania and Bulgaria to leave France. Over 7000 Roma were sent back to Romania in 2011. But many return to France, so the real impact of this policy is unknown.

Due to the recent collective evictions (officially named “voluntary returns”) the number will probably be higher in 2012.

What should really happen? Romania and France should support a truly European strategy based on the idea that the Roma people must be integrated and not necessarily on the principle that they have to be sent back to their origin countries, as the French minister of European Affairs stated during his visit to Bucharest.

The report is available here.