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French Roma Removal and Schengen

August 20, 2010

France yesterday started sending Roma (once commonly referred to as Gypsies) to Romania and Bulgaria, and there are plans to expel up to 700 Roma before the end of August.  As former Communist countries have acceded into the EU, borders have become more permeable.  Even though Romania and Bulgaria not fully integrated into the Schengen Zone yet, citizens from these two countries are still free to travel across the EU for up to three months as part of the EU’s free movement of people.

This lack of border controls also allows people to easily over stay their three month visits.  As a result,  Roma have flocked from eastern European countries to western Europe in search of economic opportunities.  The issue is not confined to France, as according to The New York Times, Sweden, and Denmark have had similar operations.  Similarly, not all Roma live in Romania or Bulgaria, but these two countries are the poorest members of the EU and have some of the largest Roma populations (Romania has alone has somewhere between 500,000 and 2.5 million Roma citizens).

The free movement of people is one of the biggest successes of the EU, since to date 25 countries have introduced the free movement of people across their borders and more have adopted reduced border controls.  While many Europeans may be opposed to the free movement of the Roma across European borders, a brief scan of the BBC show that the movement of people across Europe is common event that is both negative and positive.

For instance, one story talks about how every year 30,000 Latvians emigrate from the small Baltic county (which is a full member of the Schengen Zone) in search of work, which is a huge proportion of the country’s 2.2 million inhabitants.  On a more positive side, the BBC also noted that Dutch universities are actively trying to recruit British students, since British universities are at capacity while universities in the Netherlands have excess capacity.  This is exactly the goal of the free movement of people—make it easier for people to move across borders to fulfill the demand someplace else.   As a result, it is slowly becoming a fact of life that Europeans will move across borders in search of a better life, even if these opportunities are not always legal.

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