France’s Expulsions Put Roma on Europe’s Agenda

France’s Expulsions Put Roma on Europe’s Agenda

Last week, the controversy over France's expulsions of illegal Roma immigrants reached a peak, when EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding implicitly compared the policy to those of Nazi Germany. Calling for legal action against France, Reding said, "Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe," adding, "I thought Europe would not have to witness [this] again after the Second World War."

Reding's remarks came after French media leaked an internal Interior Ministry memo from early August ordering the dismantling of 300 camps, with the Roma settlements singled out as "priority." The French government had previously claimed that the expulsions were being conducted on a case-by-case basis, without specifically targeting any ethnic group.

Reding subsequently apologized for her incendiary comparison, but not before French authorities responded with equally provocative remarks. President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly replied that if Reding and Luxembourg -- her country of origin -- felt so strongly about the Roma, then they should take them. As a result, the issue dominated last Thursday's EU Summit, where a heated and "virile" discussion reportedly took place between Sarkozyand EU Commission President Manuel Barroso. Although the tone was eventually lowered, Sarkozy insisted that the expulsions would proceed.

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