The EU Observer reports today on France deporting some of its Roma residents:
In a move that has given President Nicolas Sarkozy a bump in opinion polls, the government has ordered the destruction of some 300 Roma settlements which were constructed without permission, and the expulsion from the country of a number of gypsies and their repatriation to Romania.
This is about as mild as a deportation gets, though: according to the same reports, adults get a €300 compensation for getting on the plane, and children get €100. And Bucharest is less than three hundred euros' worth of petrol away:
...European law allows for the free movement of EU citizens anywhere in the bloc's 27 member states. Despite the expulsions, there is nothing to prevent the individuals from heading back to France the very next day.
On closer inspection, this is really no more than a PR stunt from the French government: over the three flights, only 5% of the country's estimated Roma population are being sent back.
Paris for its part maintains that it is indeed in compliance with European rules. Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told AFP news agency European law "expressly allows for restrictions on the right to move freely for reasons of public order, public security and public health".
I don't suppose this lends much credibility to Europe's image of a tolerant, welcoming place. Still, if you're going to have a disliked minority in your community, a voluntary relocation with compensation is not the worst way of resolving the situation. And Paris is following a somewhat established precedent.
Is this something Europe should be ashamed of? Is this our internal matter, and no business of anyone outside our borders? Is it an example of successfully buying yourself out of a potential conflict before it escalates? Or is it just a stupid publicity stunt, of the kind that ought not be practiced by a statesman with ambitions of leading Europe?
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