French premier urges EU plan for illegal Roma

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Wednesday that the European Union needs a continent-wide plan for illegal Gypsy camps and children beggars that he described as plagues of the 19th century.

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2010, 10:52 AM IST

Paris: French Prime Minister Francois Fillon
said on Wednesday that the European Union needs a continent-wide plan for illegal Gypsy camps and children beggars that he described
as plagues of the 19th century.

At the same time, the EU justice commissioner maintained
her concerns about France`s expulsions of more than 1,000
Gypsies, or Roma, in recent weeks, and said today her staff
could finish its analysis by Oct 29 of whether France is
violating EU law by unfairly targeting Roma.

The standoff between France and the EU leadership has
drawn attention to the Roma, among the continent`s poorest and
most mistreated minorities. French President Nicolas Sarkozy
has provoked criticism from the United Nations and the Vatican
over the expulsions, but insists France is targeting illegal
immigrants and says the Roma camps seethe with crime.

Fillon warned the European Commission against making
"hasty" decisions to take France to court over the expulsions.
He defended France`s evacuations of "shantytown" Roma camps.

"This forced begging, by very young children, in the
streets of our cities, who can tolerate this? Who wants Europe
to plunge back into the worst of the 19th century?" he asked
in a speech today.

"We need a European policy for the Roma situation,"
Fillon said. "This policy should be based on the integration
of the most vulnerable populations in their countries of
origin, using part of the billions of euros given to these
countries by the European budget."

He did not name any countries, but he appeared to be
fingering Romania and Bulgaria, the EU`s newest members, and
where the bulk of the recent Roma arrivals in France have come
from.

While Romanians and Bulgarians, as EU citizens, have a
right to enter France without a visa, they must prove they
won`t become a burden on the state for stays longer than three
months.

PTI