No EU state will escape equality legislation says Commissioner

Belinda Pyke, European Commission Director for Equality between Men and Women (pictured), denied that the power or size of France would deter the EU from its objective of protecting equality. By Christina Finn

Following the European commission's statement yesterday that it would temporarily suspend a human rights complaint against France for its expulsions of Roma people, Ms Pyke said it was "fair to say" that the EU Commission would act as guardians of the legislation that protect those from inequality regardless of the size of any member state.

Speaking at the Equality Authority conference in Dublin Castle today, Ms Pyke said the EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, "was not going to be swayed just because France is a larger state".

France promised to alter laws to match EU regulations following an ultimatum issued by the EU. France had been given a deadline of midnight Friday to fully implement the directive on freedom of movement or face legal action.

In recent months there had been tension between Paris and the EU's head office over its expulsion of more than 1,000 Roma immigrants and the destruction of illegal Roma camps.

All of the member states have a "responsibility" to include social inclusion of the Roma, the traveller community or any other minority ethnic group into their framework said Ms Pyke.

Ms Pyke said that discrimination and xenophobia is on the increase in EU member states. Citing an EU survey of 27,000 people, commissioned by the EU, she said that the level of hostility against certain communities was very high.

When people were asked if they would mind a person of a different race living next door to them, only 6% said they would mind. However when asked if they would mind people from the Roma or traveller community living next to them, one-quarter said they would feel uncomfortable.

The degree of hostility is "phenomenal" said Ms Pyke. "Many people felt this was a mass deportation so it was important we got clarification that deportations were being dealt with on an individual basis and in compliance with EU law".