World Bulletin / News Desk
France will make it easier for Roma immigrants from eastern Europe to obtain work and residence rights, the government said on Wednesday, after years of expulsions and more police raids this month on makeshift campsites where they often live in squalor.
Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, under pressure to break with a practice the left condemned when conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy was in charge, announced the policy shift after meetings with leading ministers and representatives of the estimated 15-20,000 Roma people living in France.
Ayrault stopped short of promising to waive EU-approved rules that restrict job market access to citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, the native countries of many Roma, until the end of 2013. He said that was an issue France would now start to examine while more modest measures were undertaken first.
One of the main changes is a pledge to waive a hefty tax French employers must pay to the immigration office if they hire a Romanian or Bulgarian worker - a levy that can run as high as 1,800 euros ($2,200), government figures show.
A government-approved list of jobs that are considered open to Roma people, which now stands at 150 and includes trades such as roofers, will be extended, according to a statement by Ayrault's office.
Two weeks ago, police evicted around 300 people from illegal campsites near the cities of Lille and Lyon and sent 240 of them on a plane back to Romania. The swooops recalled a crackdown two years before for which Sarkozy drew international criticism.
While Romania and Bulgaria have been members of the European Union since 2007, their citizens - Roma included - are subject to curbs on employment elsewhere in the EU until the end of 2013 imposed to slow what some countries at the time feared would be an excessive influx of immigrants looking for work and welfare.
Romanians and Bulgarians must now get work permits to stay legally beyond three months in a host country, meaning that many end up going underground and living in camps near motorway junctions on the edges of major cities, once their time is up.
"The Roma people are EU citizens like anyone else and would like to work like anyone else," Malik Salemkour, a human rights activist who met Ayrault with others to argue for change, told reporters.
The Brussels-based European Commission, which has the job of monitoring respect for EU treaties and clashed with Sarkozy over the immigrant issue, said it was again monitoring the situation in France after the early-August raids.
The Council of Europe, a broader governmental organisation dedicated to ensuring respect for human right, has also urged France to seek a lasting solution for Roma immigrants, most of whom fled poverty and sometimes persecution in their homelands.
Socialist President Francois Hollande promised a solution to the Roma issue during his election campaign.
Nick Letchford, managing director of the group that owns the Old Shoreditch Station cafe, decided to install the machine after noticing the popularity of bitcoins among his customers working nearby in the digital industries.
Varying degrees of drought are hitting almost two thirds of the limited arable land across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq.
Turkey deems Iranian gas too expensive compared with other suppliers like Russia and Azerbaijan, an assertion rejected by Tehran.
Satoshi Nakamoto, a name known to legions of bitcoin traders, practitioners and boosters around the world, appeared to lose his anonymity on Thursday after Newsweek published a story that said he lived in Temple City, California, just east of Los Angeles.
BP's exploration and production sharing agreement with Libya covers onshore acreage in Ghadames, near the border between Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, and offshore acreage in the central Sirte basin
There are discussions at high levels within the U.S. government on how to use U.S. natural gas resources
The judicial sources said on Thursday that prosecutors suspected the companies of working together on campaigns to favour Lucentis, including promoting it to local doctors
Scotland's Energy Minister Fergus Ewing offered to meet Shell to discuss the future of the oil and gas industry if Scotland votes to end its 307-year tie with England
European Commission President said that from a purely financial standpoint the crisis in Ukraine should not have much impact on the euro zone but there was potential for far greater instability
The rouble-traded MICEX lost 1.9 percent on the news to trade at 1,322.2 points. It had earlier traded in positive territory.
If tensions eventually escalate into economic sanctions, the single biggest point of vulnerability for the Gulf would probably be the Dolphin Energy pipeline carrying about 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day from Qatar to the UAE and Oman
The former Soviet republic is strategically important to Moscow as the main gas transit route to the European Union, Russia's biggest customer
Iran will soon receive a second installment of previously frozen assets which are being returned to it under an interim nuclear agreement with world powers
Economic growth jumped to 5.2 percent in the last quarter, but Romania remains the second poorest country in the European Union
Brent crude prices decreased by 1.8 percent, more than US$2 per barrel on Wednesday.
The southeast European country sets out to achieve price stability by increasing the share of private entities in its state dominated energy sector.