Work restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians in France may be lifted
Bulgarian and Romanian citizens living in France could soon be granted the right to work in the country. The Socialist government will meet on Wednesday to end a row over its treatment of ethnic Roma migrants.
President Francois Hollande and his Interior Minister Manuel Valls have
come under fire this summer for sanctioning the dismantling of several Roma
camps and repatriating hundreds of their residents to Bulgaria and Romania.
Valls has insisted the clearance of "illegal and squalid" camps, which are
home to an estimated 15,000 Roma across France, is necessary and justifiable.
But several leading Socialists, Green members of the government and Roma
rights groups have criticised him for continuing the controversial policies of
former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
With divisions in the government becoming increasingly apparent, Hollande
has ordered ministers to thrash out their differences at talks on Wednesday.
Housing minister Cecile Duflot, a Green, has called for a moratorium on the
dismantling of camps unless residents can be offered alternative accommodation
Valls regards that as unrealistic, arguing that primary responsibility for
the well-being of the Roma lies with their countries of origin, where they have
been discriminated against for centuries.
The interior minister has however indicated that he would be favourable to
allowing Roma to work in France.
France is one of a number of European Union countries which declined to
grant Bulgarian and Romanian workers unrestricted access to their labour
markets following the two countries' 2007 accession to the European Union.
Critics argue that the policy puts Roma migrants in an invidious position
since they can be deported because they cannot demonstrate that they can
support themselves but, at the same time, they cannot seek work legally.
One of the EU's founding principles is that citizens should be able to work
in any member state, and the transitional arrangements permitted when Bulgaria
and Romania joined must be phased out by the end of 2013 in any case.