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.
Treasury reports central government debt stock in April rises 15.8 pct year-on-year, reaching $226.8 billion
Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom spoke ahead of talks of the EU's 28 trade ministers to discuss an attempt to woo the US away from punishing steel and aluminium tariffs and win Europe a similar break as handed China.
BIST 100 rises 0.45 percent; US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate stands at 4.5760
Sberbank of Russia will cease to be shareholder in Denizbank, fifth-largest private bank in Turkey
Assets abroad up 1.1 percent March 2018 end, from end of 2017, says Turkish Central Bank
BIST 100 falls 0.24 pct; US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate stands at 4.5500
His comments came after a joint statement issued in Washington said Beijing had agreed to reduce its trade deficit, "significantly" increasing purchases of American goods.
Euro area goods trade surplus reaches over $60B, EU28 deficit at $7.5B, official figures show
Property sales in April down 9.9 pct year-on-year, according to official data; sales to foreigners surge 25.8 pct
European stock markets meanwhile rose as the euro weakened against the dollar, but Wall Street pulled back in early New York trading.
BIST 100 climbs 0.44 pct; foreign currency exchange rates rise against lira
Banks' total assets reach over $42 billion as of March
Industrial output jumps 9.8 percent in Q1 and 7.6 percent in March year-on-year, official figures show
BIST 100 slightly increases by 0.07 percent; US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate stands at 4.4680
Emerging market monetary policy could tighten more than expected as global monetary conditions normalize, says ratings agency