BONN, Germany (CN) – Ten nations within the European Union face legal action for not conforming to a freedom-of-movement directive.
After France forcibly dismantled 300 illegal Gypsy encampments a year ago, the European Commission initiated an inquiry that it says identified 786 separate freedom-of-movement problems in the legal frameworks of member states.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called last summer’s events “a wake-up call for Europe” to pay special attention to the issue.
Gypsies, or Roma, are an ethnic minority in Europe. A nomadic people thought to have migrated to the continent from northwest India about a thousand years ago, their populations are largely concentrated in Eastern Europe, including Romania and Bulgaria – countries that acceded to the EU in 2007.
Roma live throughout Europe and often hold citizenship in European countries. Some EU countries have implemented special transitional rules, which will expire in 2014, requiring a permit for Romanian or Bulgarian nationals to work there.
Of the 786 issues identified, the commission said 711 had been resolved over the past year through dialogue or by amended legislation.
The commission has also launched legal proceedings against 10 EU countries, including Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, for apparently infringing a 2004 freedom-of-movement directive. Belgium may soon join that list of member states facing litigation by the EU’s executive branch.
France handled the situation adequately by adopting legislation against arbitrary expulsion, the commission said in a statement.
Europeans make 1.25 billion journeys per year within the union as tourists, according to EU statistics. The data also shows that mobility of labor through guaranteed freedom of movement has generated 40 billion euros ($58 billion) from 2004 to 2007.
The EU is currently developing a new framework to integrate Roma into European society, including providing better access to education and jobs.
Freedom of movement is a fundamental principle of the EU, and is enshrined in the 1985 Schengen Agreement.