Latest update: 07/09/2010
Barroso calls for respect for minorities in wake of expulsions
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the human rights of all EU citizens and minorities must be respected in a speech to the EU parliament on Tuesday in the wake of French moves to expel more than 1,000 Roma in the past month.
REUTERS - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso issued veiled criticism of France for its expulsion of Roma migrants on Tuesday, saying the rights of citizens must be respected everywhere in the EU.
Barroso did not mention France by name, but said European governments were obliged to respect the rights of minorities, just as EU citizens have an obligation to respect the law.
France has expelled more than 1,000 Roma in the past month, bringing the total this year to more than 8,000. The expulsions have been condemned in France and abroad.
"Everyone in Europe must respect the law, and the governments must respect human rights, including those of minorities," Barroso said in a speech to the European Parliament.
"Racism and xenophobia have no place in Europe. On such sensitive issues, when a problem arises, we must all act with responsibility," he said.
Tens of thousands of Roma, many from Romania and Bulgaria, have migrated across Europe in recent years, taking advantage of EU laws on the free movement of citizens.
But many have not found work and are frequently the target of discrimination. In Hungary, for example, the leading far-right party has said Roma are a threat to public safety and should be placed in highly-controlled camps.
France's expulsions have drawn criticism from human rights groups, the Catholic Church and some French politicians.
President Nicolas Sarkozy says the expulsions are security measures to combat crime, but critics say they are part of a drive to revive his popularity and divert attention from pension reforms and spending cuts.
The European Commission has asked France for evidence that its expulsions are in line with EU laws on free movement of people and that respect laws against discrimination.