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Brussels, 19 October 2010

Statement by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, on the recent developments concerning the respect for EU law as regards the situation of Roma in France

"The situation of Roma in France over this summer has raised substantial concerns. Therefore, the Commission, and I personally, have been following developments very closely during the past months.

On 29 September, the Commission emphasised that procedural safeguards must be respected whenever the right of EU citizens to free movement is restricted by public authorities. The Commission believes that procedural safeguards, as they are included in the EU’s Free Movement Directive of 2004, serve to protect EU citizens against arbitrary, discriminatory or disproportionate decisions.

The Commission therefore asked the French government to ensure that these procedural safeguards are included in French legislation. And that this legislation is put into place swiftly.

We formally requested France to reply to our concerns by 15 October. In parallel, we prepared a letter of formal notice to be sent to France in case of a non-satisfactory response.

I’m glad to say today that France has responded positively, constructively and in time to the Commission’s request.

Last Friday, the French authorities submitted detailed documentation to the Commission. This documentation includes draft legislative measures and a credible calendar for putting the procedural safeguards required under the EU's Free Movement Directive into French legislation by early 2011. France has thus done what the Commission had asked for.

This is proof of the good functioning of the European Union as a Community governed by the rule of law.

Following the official commitments made by France last Friday, the European Commission will now, for the time being, not pursue the infringement procedure against France decided by the College of Commissioners on 29 September.

The European Commission will closely watch over the full implementation of the commitments made by France, in the interest of EU law and EU citizens. The Commission also stands ready to assist the French authorities in ensuring that the new legislation is put in place swiftly and in full compliance with EU law.

In addition, the Commission will continue its work on promoting the economic and social integration of Roma in all EU Member States, whether country of origin or host country. We need to go to the root of the problem and encourage stronger national efforts in providing access to housing, education, health and the labour market and in eradicating poverty. In the context of the work of the Roma Task Force established by the Commission in September, we will examine how EU funds can help to further strengthen national measures for Roma integration. On this basis, the Commission will present an EU Framework for national Roma strategies next April.

It is now for all policy-makers, national as well as European, to show that the commitment to this largest European minority is not just a one-off matter. But that we now move on to action and results, on the basis of our European values and the fundamental right of non-discrimination".

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