In recent weeks Sarkozy has deported around 1,000 Gypsies and has destroyed about 100 of their Roma camps. A leaked document from the French Interior Ministry revealed that the Roma were being deported "as a priority", despite French denials that this was taking place.
The confrontation between Paris and Brussels over French president Nicolas Sarkozy's anti-Gypsy campaign expanded into a war of words between France and Luxembourg, when Sarkozy told the principality to take in France's unwanted Roma.
Sarkozy was said to have reacted furiously to a verbal broadside from the European commission yesterday. Viviane Reding, the justice commissioner, branded the French policy of deporting Roma a disgrace, appalling, and likened the treatment of the Gypsies to that of the Jews in the second world war. She accused French ministers of duplicity and said she expected disciplinary action against France for breaking EU laws on freedom of movement. Reding is from Luxembourg.
Sarkozy allies emerged from a presidential lunch today to report that the French leader would take the commission to task when he arrives in Brussels for an EU summit tomorrow.
"He says he is only applying European regulations, French laws, and that there is absolutely nothing to criticise France for on the issue," said Bruno Sido, a senator from Sarkozy's UMP party. "But if the Luxembourgers want to take them [the Roma], there would be no problem."
Of course, Le Monde newspaper are claiming that Sarkozy is only deporting the Roma as a way of distracting everyone from his party's relationship with France's wealthiest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, who has given what have been described as "illicitly large donations" to the Sarkozy campaign.
Sarkozy knew that deporting Roma citizens would result in headlines, but he gambled that those headlines would please a certain section of the French electorate who would love to see him get tough with gypsies.
He also did so because people talking about Roma deportations might win him cheap votes, and that is preferable to people talking about his relationship with Bettencourt and the steps he has taken to uncover the source of leaks in the L'Oréal family feud. Steps which some are saying were clearly illegal.
The whole thing reads like a bad soap opera, with the man who leaked information which was embarrassing to Sarkozy finding himself moved to "a minor legal mission to French Guyana."
This is being described as "a scandal having many parallels with the Watergate affair". It's worth clicking here and reading about the whole thing.
He's upping the ante with Luxenbourg because Reding has called him out on what he is doing.
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