Council of Europe urges long-term fix in France Roma row
(STRASBOURG) - The Council of Europe urged France on Tuesday to "go beyond short-term measures" for its Roma population, as the country seeks to end a row over its treatment of the ethnic 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.
With divisions in the government becoming increasingly apparent, Hollande has ordered ministers to thrash out their differences at talks on Wednesday, in a move that could result in Bulgarian and Romanian citizens being granted the right to work in the country.
"Wednesday's meeting announced by the French government on Roma is a welcome step towards finding long-lasting solutions," Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a statement Tuesday.
"The Council of Europe has consistently stressed the need to go beyond short-term measures. Simply moving Roma families around within or between states merely worsens their conditions," he added.
Jagland recalled that France was among the 47 member states of the organisation to agree to policy priorities on Roma in the 2010 Strasbourg Declaration and had "committed to cooperate with other European countries to improve life for the Roma -- Europe's most marginalised minority."
"This means focused and consistent efforts in areas such as education, housing, health care and employment. Involvement and empowerment of Roma are crucial to achieve real change," he said.
France is one of a number of European Union countries that 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 as they are subject to deportation because they cannot demonstrate that they are able to 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.
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