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France urged to "radically change its position"

France urged to "radically change its position"
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To find out more about the row that has broken out between the European Commission and France, over a government memo that singles out the Roma people, euronews spoke to Anaïs Faure Atger, a researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. Reporter Sophie Desjardin asked her if the row was just a question of formulation, or a real violation of European rules.

Anaïs Faure Atger: “Well, it’s absolutely not just a question of formulation. There has been a very clear violation of European law. First of all, the commission, as the watchdog of EU treaties, demanded explanations from the ministers Lellouch and Besson, who explicitly denied the existence of such a circular. So they hid the facts from the European Commission. Secondly, this circular was in itself discriminatory, openly discriminatory, by targeting a population, notably the Roma. It’s therefore a violation of the union’s charter of fundamental rights, as well as the directive on the free movement of European citizens.”

Sophie Desjardin: “The regulation mentioned by Brussels is the EU charter of fundamental rights. Is it legally binding?”

Anaïs Faure Atger: “Yes, the charter of fundamental rights is binding, ever since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. So it’s binding on member states, as well as for the European Union institutions and their agencies.”

Sophie Desjardin: “But what action can be taken by the European executive against Paris?”

Anaïs Faure Atger: “Well, as announced by Commissioner Reding, the commission can start an adminstrative procedure that aims to rectify … to encourage member states to rectify their practises. If this doesn’t happen, it can then take legal action, which means taking France to the European Court of Justice.”

Sophie Desjardin: “And if that happens, what is the risk for France?”

Anaïs Faure Atger: “A conviction and the cancellation of the expulsions that happened in the context of this circular.”

Sophie Desjardin: “Paris made revisions, with a new circular that no longer talks about Roma, while the French European affairs minister said they “weren’t at school”. Is there a real power struggle over this affair, between Brussels and a member state?”

Anaïs Faure Atger: “Indeed, there is a power struggle, because France thinks that it alone knows how to judge whether it’s correctly implementing community law. It’s not France alone who decides if that’s the case. It’s a role given to the European Commission by the treaties. Also, the lessons that Mr Lellouch says he’s receiving from the European Commission have also been given by other international institutions such as the UN’s committee against discrimination, and the Council of Europe also condemned France. So to maintain its credibility on the international stage, France has to radically change its position.”

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