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France Escapes EU Discrimination Charge Over Roma Gypsies

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding (file photo)

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding (file photo)

A new twist emerged on Wednesday in the ongoing spat between the European Union and France over its deportation of Roma citizens. The European Commission said France had failed to meet minimal EU safeguards on free movement of citizens - but it did not accuse France of discrimination.

The European Commission says France has not adjusted its national legislation to meet EU standards on the protection of ethnic groups.

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the commission has decided to open infringement proceedings against France on that count.

"The commission has found that France has not properly applied in its French law the procedural guarantees which are foreseen for all EU citizens in the European directives. And that is why this needs to be corrected and that is why we have acted," Reding said.

France has been deporting gypsies from its borders since July. In that time, over 1,000 Roma have been sent to Romania and Bulgaria.

The French authorities say it's a question of security following a series of public order incidents involving Roma.

But European parliamentarians, along with human rights groups, have been critical of the move and earlier this month commissioner Reding outraged France when she made a comparison between the French policy against Roma and Nazi Germany's policy against minorities.

She said earlier this month she was convinced that the commission would take legal action against Paris for discriminating on ethnic grounds.

But on Wednesday the commission decided against opening procedures with regards to discrimination.

Pia Ahrenkilder Hansen, spokesperson for the European Commission president, said it's important that all EU countries have the same safeguards in place to ensure the free movement of people within the euro zone.

She said France will be sent an official notification letter rebuking the country for not meeting EU laws on freedom of movement. But she said France has until October 15th to set out a clear timetable to show that it would comply.