France 'willing' to meet EU concerns on Roma expulsions

Image caption,
France insists its policy of clearing illegal camps and expelling Roma is legitimate

France says it will change its laws to address concerns raised by the European Commission over the expulsion of Roma (Gypsy) people from the country.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the government was "willing" to adopt into law some provisions of a 2004 directive on the free movement of EU citizens.

France has been given until midnight on Friday to submit plans to do so.

Paris has been widely condemned for expelling thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma living in illegal camps.

On Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France was "willing to insert certain provisions of the directive into the texts of its national law".

Asked about details of the proposed changes, Mr Valero said they would be made public at a later date.

By the middle of Friday, the commission said it had received no communications from France.

"What matters is facts, not words," commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

Court warning

Mr Bailly reiterated that the EU was seeking the full incorporation of the 2004 directive on free movement into French law.

The European Commission has warned Paris of possible court action if it fails to do so.

It says the onus is on France to prove that it is not targeting Roma as an ethnic group.

The French government insists it has law on its side.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says France has the right to expel foreign Roma who are jobless and lacking the means to support themselves. He has also called the camps breeding grounds for prostitution, people trafficking and child exploitation.

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