France’s Expulsions Of Roma Come Under Fire

EU and France play down tensions over reforms

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France challenges Iran to act quickly on nuclear talks

Rehn made no mention of Hollande’s pension reform plans, which do not raise the country’s retirement age as the Commission has demanded. Germany also wants to see the euro zone’s second largest economy address overspending. Brussels says Paris is not taking radical enough action to combat rising labour costs, a falling share of international export markets and an industrial decline, threatening a shock to its economy that would resonate through the 17-nation euro zone. France’s economic well-being is central to the health of the currency area, but the country’s pride in its status as a leading member of the European Union means it resists taking advice from EU institutions. The pension reform, among the most closely watched measures undertaken by Hollande since he took office in May 2012, aims to fill a hole in the pension system that could reach almost 21 billion euros ($28 billion) by 2020. Though Hollande’s reform will lengthen the number of years worked, it does not change the legal retirement age of 62 years for a full pension, which is one of the lowest in Europe. “NO CONSTRAINTS” In the shadow of the pension reform, Moscovici presented France’s 2014 budget to parliament on Wednesday. He plans 15 billion euros in savings to reach a deficit of 3.6 percent of economic output, which should allow Paris to bring the budget deficit to below the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2015. Under EU rules, sharpened at the peak of the debt crisis in late 2011, euro zone countries can face fines if they fail to meet deficit targets and risk damaging investor confidence. Moscovici was also keen to convince Rehn, who has new powers to check countries’ budgets, that France’s planned budget savings and economic forecasts are in line with its commitments. He also sought to play down any suggestion that France would not respect the Commission’s new monitoring powers. “Europe does not pose a constraint. Europe is not a problem. In France, Europe is a solution,” Moscovici said. In one of the most far-reaching responses to the region’s debt crisis, euro zone countries must submit their draft 2014 budgets to the Commission by October 15.

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In releasing its tally of evictions including one as recent as Sept. 18 Amnesty brought together a doctor and a teacher who had both cared for Roma from families they said wanted to join French society, contrary to the image of Roma as resistant to integration. What we see on the ground is a break with the stereotypes of social and sanitary problems, and other cliches that are being invoked now, said Jean-Francois Corty, a doctor with Medecins du Monde. Most of the people we see want to integrate, want work, want their children in schools and want the benefits of modern medicine. Roma started arriving in Europe from India in the 14th century and there are an estimated 8 million in Europe, with the largest population in Romania. Facing discrimination and bleak prospects in Romania, many head west to France and other richer European countries. There are an estimated 20,000 Roma in France, a population that has remained stable over several years despite repeated attempts by both Socialist and conservative governments to persuade them sometimes forcibly to return home. Many French blame the Roma for a rise in petty crime and an influx of street beggars, especially in tourist areas of Paris, where crime rings involving children have been broken up, and where subway announcements warn every few minutes against pickpockets. In Sweden, police this week acknowledged compiling a secret, illegal registry of more than 4,000 Roma, including children, coming under criticism from politicians who said it was unconstitutional to register people by ethnicity. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls provoked anger Tuesday for saying the Roma migrants had a duty to return to their homeland and despite a wave of criticism, refused to back down Wednesday. Valls said the Roma had failed to integrate and that France had no responsibility to them. We dont have the obligation to welcome these populations, we need to say it clearly and calmly. It is not about stigmatizing a population, but facing the truth, he said. John Dalhuisen, Amnestys Europe and Central Asia program director, offered a different interpretation. The Roma have a duty to live in misery. Thats how the comments of the interior minister should be translated, Dalhuisen said.

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“The Iranian foreign minister discussed the heart of the matter … he spoke about taking a year to move forward, but I reminded him that his president had spoken about three to six months, and he said that he’d be pleased if things could be done more quickly,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in New York. “I told him that we had to move quickly and that’s one of the issues that needs to be dealt with, because does nuclear production continue during the negotiations?” Fabius added. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States at the United Nations to discuss the nuclear issue on Thursday. Zarif, promising to address concerns within a year, made a presentation about the next steps that Iran and the six powers might take to try to resolve the standoff, which has eluded a solution for a decade. French President Francois Hollande was the first Western leader to meet new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly this week, warning that Paris expected “concrete gestures” by Iran to show it will give up a military nuclear program. France has been a strong advocate of sanctions to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking nuclear bomb-making capability despite Tehran’s insistence that its program has only peaceful aims. “We can’t find ourselves in a position where the discussions last a year and during this time the number of centrifuges increase, and to enter the technical details that the Arak reactor progresses, which would be a problem,” Fabius said. Hollande told the U.N. General Assembly he was encouraged by the words of the new Iranian government but he now wanted Tehran to follow through with concrete action. (Corrects day of the week in lead paragraph) (Reporting By John Irish; editing by Christopher Wilson)