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Europe

Sarkozy defends Roma crackdown after tense talks in Brussels

Video by Christophe ROBEET

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-16

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Nicolas Sarkozy has played down reports of clashes with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso over France’s Roma deportation policy, which the French president vowed to continue with.

 
AP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Thursday to keep dismantling illegal immigrant camps and vigorously defended his government against EU criticism that France is unfairly targeting Gypsies.
 
A war of words over France’s actions overshadowed an EU summit in Brussels and hijacked its main goal of forging a common EU front on the global stage.
 
Sarkozy insisted France’s expulsions of Gypsies, or Roma, are a matter of security. He called more than 100 Roma camps dismantled in France in recent weeks havens of crime and undignified living conditions.
 
SARKOZY FIGHTS HIS CORNER IN BRUSSELS
“We will continue to dismantle the illegal camps, whoever is there,” Sarkozy said. “Europe cannot close its eyes to illegal camps.”
 
Sarkozy had what participants called a heated exchange with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso over the expulsions, and later lashed out at EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding for comparing the expulsions to deportations during World War II.
 
“I am head of state. I cannot let my nation be insulted,” he told a news conference afterward.
 
“Reding has apologized for her deeply offensive remarks,” he said. “But the totality of the heads of state and government said it was profoundly shocking that one would speak in this way, with historical references that were deeply hurtful to the entirety of our compatriots.”
 
Reding’s office has said she expressed regret over the wartime comparison, but maintained her threat to take France to court for targeting an ethnic group in the expulsions. France deported some 76,000 Jews from France to Nazi concentration camps, and interned thousands of Gypsies in camps in France during the war.
 
The issue dominated the summit though it wasn’t officially on the agenda, and made the other European leaders uneasy.
 
“You should, of course have the right to remove people from your country is they are there illegally but it should never be done on the basis of an ethnic group,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after the meetings. But he added, “Members of the commission have to chose their language carefully.”
 
Sarkozy said the European Commission should come up with some Europe-wide solutions.

Date created : 2010-09-16

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