French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on August 22 that he was in favour of lifting the work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals as part of a solution to the problem of immigrant Roma in France.
French authorities have resumed this summer the levelling of makeshift Roma camps, drawing parallels to a similar initiative two years ago, during the administration of president Nicolas Sarkozy.
These actions have drawn an uncomfortable comparison for current president Francois Hollande, who promised during his electoral campaign that, unlike Sarkozy, his administration would work to find alternative housing solutions for the Roma. Instead, hundreds of Roma had been repatriated to Romania earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said.
Lifting the work restrictions on all Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, however, would grant the Roma hailing from those countries a legal status in France. The measure is one of the proposals that the French government was scheduled to discuss at a cabinet meeting on August 22.
Nine EU countries have lifted their work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians. At the time the two countries joined the EU in 2007, existing EU member states were given the option to keep such restrictions in place until the end of 2013.
Currently, Bulgarians and Romanians can only work in one of 150 professions, provided they receive a work permit and their employer pays a fee to the French immigration and integration office.
(Jean-Marc Ayrault photo by Philippe Grangeaud via Parti socialiste/flickr.com)