France To Examine Laws Curbing Sunday Shopping

“If there is not a change in conditions, we won’t be in favour,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said of a forthcoming European Union decision on whether to grant passport-free movement to these citizens beginning January 1, 2014. His comments came amid fierce debate within France’s ruling coalition over the treatment of the Roma population. Some 20,000 Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria live in hundreds of squalid make-shift camps on the outskirts of French cities. Tensions with local communities have made Roma migration a contentious issue ahead of municipal elections next year. Romanian and Bulgarian citizens currently have the right to travel with a passport throughout the Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries as well as non-members such as Switzerland and Norway. Temporary restrictions that imposed passport checks were put in place when the two countries joined the EU in 2007, and are due to be lifted in January. But each EU country has the right to veto the admission of a member state into the Schengen zone and a vote is expected before the end of the year. Germany said in March that it too opposed the entry of the two countries into the zone. Fabius said France was concerned about the ability of Romanian and Bulgarian authorities to ensure border security. “People coming from outside Europe could enter Romania and Bulgaria and then freely enter the rest of Europe,” Fabius told France Inter radio. “There’s a problem there, we must be sure that Bulgaria and Romania have the means to verify that.

The current debate stems from a 2009 move by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right government that eased back curbs on Sunday store openings. The efforts faced political opposition and resulted in a mish-mash of legal waivers, special-zone exemptions and other loopholes. Most French consumers are used to the country’s Sunday rhythm: Shopping is restricted to tourist areas or owner-operated stores. Restaurants are exempt, but even supermarkets only open a half-day with some exceptions. France, the world’s most visited country, gets 7 percent of its gross domestic product from tourism. But France ranks only third in terms of tourist spending, and French tourism boosters say that is directly attributable to Sunday store closings. Europe is far from uniform on the issue. Many British stores open on Sundays. In Germany Europe’s economic engine a 57-year-old law requires stores to close at 2 p.m. on Saturday until Monday, though some exemptions apply like at train or gasoline stations. Berlin allows stores to open 10 Sundays a year. In Spain, the Madrid area has peeled back Sunday-closing restrictions in recent years, aiming to boost job creation and commerce to help lift the country out of economic crisis. Since then, consumers regularly flock to megastores like furniture and hardware retailers on Sundays.

France to review century-old Sunday store-closing law after court ruling fans employees’ anger

Ayrault commissioned a panel to report on the complex issue by late November. “The government notes that Sunday rest is an essential principle in terms of protecting workers and social cohesion” while recognizing that “the existence of Sunday work is a reality,” his office said in a noncommittal statement. The current debate stems from a 2009 move by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right government that eased back curbs on Sunday store openings. The efforts faced political opposition and resulted in a mish-mash of legal waivers, special-zone exemptions and other loopholes. Most French consumers are used to the country’s Sunday rhythm: Shopping is restricted to tourist areas or owner-operated stores. Restaurants are exempt, but even supermarkets only open a half-day with some exceptions. France, the world’s most visited country, gets 7 percent of its gross domestic product from tourism. But France ranks only third in terms of tourist spending, and French tourism boosters say that is directly attributable to Sunday store closings. Europe is far from uniform on the issue. Many British stores open on Sundays. In Germany Europe’s economic engine a 57-year-old law requires stores to close at 2 p.m. on Saturday until Monday, though some exemptions apply like at train or gasoline stations. Berlin allows stores to open 10 Sundays a year.