Monday, 20 September 2010

Sarkozy Fuhry

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government reacted angrily on Wednesday after the European Commission compared France's expulsion of Roma Gypsies to the tactics of its World War II pro-Nazi regime.

France has been under fire for weeks over Sarkozy's controversial drive to deport Roma living in travelling communities in France back to Romania and Bulgaria, and Paris now faces the threat of European legal action.

An EU founder member and the home of the concept of universal human rights, France was "astonished" and furious on Tuesday when Europe's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding condemned the clampdown in stark terms.

"This is not about stirring controversy," said an official in Sarkozy's Elysee Palace, speaking under the office's customary condition of anonymity. "Nevertheless, some statements are simply not acceptable.

France tried to play down the row, with the Elysee insisting it is time for "calm dialogue" rather than "sterile controversy" and suggesting that Reding had spoken out of place. But in Brussels, the Commission stood by her.

"Mrs Reding speaks on behalf of the commission," spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a news briefing, adding that the investigation of France "is being done in coordination" with commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

On Tuesday, Reding declared she was "appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority.

"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," she added, sparking fury in France, where talk of the Vichy-era persecution of Jews and Gypsies touches a raw nerve.

Sarkozy is to attend an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, and in Paris key ministers are scrambling to his defence, insisting that France's immigration rules are in line with its international human rights commitments.
"Today, France's credibility on the international scene is in ashes," declared France's two Green parties in a joint statement, attacking "the racist policies of Sarkozy's government."

More than 1,000 Roma have been expelled from France since Sarkozy's speech, with the latest batch of 69 flying out from Marseille on Tuesday.

Those who agree to go voluntarily receive 300 euro (390 dollars) grants to restart their lives, those who do not are brought before a judge who can expel them if they have no proven means of support in France.


The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rubbished a claim by President Nicolas Sarkozy that she planned to follow France's example and bulldoze Roma camps in Germany.

The humiliating disavowal by France's closest ally left President Sarkozy more isolated than ever in his battle with the European Union over his campaign against Roma migrants from eastern Europe.

Mr Sarkozy told journalists after an EU summit on Thursday that Ms Merkel had "indicated to me her desire to proceed in the coming weeks with the evacuation of camps". However, Chancellor Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said yesterday that she had made no such remark and that she had never discussed the issue with Mr Sarkozy.


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