Nicolas Sarkozy has been playing the right wing populist card in France for quite a while now. It started when France banned the wearing of the burka, which was a disgraceful attack on certain French citizen's religious beliefs.
Now, he has been found to be deliberately targeting France's Roma population for deportation, a move which has brought France into direct confrontation with the European commission, especially as France has spent so long denying that it was carrying out this policy, which the leak of a new French document proves to be the case.
The European commission is charged with upholding European law, and European law insists that all Europeans have freedom of movement across all of Europe. This includes Romania and Bulgaria. Which means that the people Sarkosy is cracking down on are European citizens.
France was forced on to the defensive over Nicolas Sarkozy's crackdown on the Roma population today after the European commission threatened the French government with legal action, labelling the policy disgraceful and comparing it to second world war deportations.
In her first direct criticism of France, after being widely reviled for prevaricating, Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, attacked the Sarkozy government over the mass expulsions of Roma people and accused it of duplicity in its dealings with Brussels.
Reding likened the recent deportation of almost 1,000 Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria to Vichy France's treatment of Jews in the second world war. She said Brussels had no option but to launch infringement proceedings, meaning that France could be hauled before the European court of justice.
The volte-face was triggered by the leak of a French government document demonstrating that Gypsies from Romania and Bulgaria were the explicit targets of a Sarkozy policy to shut down 300 immigrant encampments, an apparent breach of the EU ban on ethnic discrimination.
Over the past six weeks the French authorities have expelled almost 1,000 Roma and demolished scores of camps, while repeatedly denying that the families were the target of the campaign. "I can only express my deepest regrets that the political assurances, given by two French ministers officially mandated to discuss this matter with the European commission are now openly contradicted by an administrative circular issued by the same government. This is not a minor offence. This is a disgrace … my patience is wearing thin. Enough is enough," Reding said.
The very fact that Sarkosy's government were lying about what they were up to shows just how disgraceful their actions have been. The French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, claimed to be "surprised" by this intervention from the European commission and then came out with this piece of nonsense.
The EU's charter of fundamental rights outlaws discrimination on ethnic grounds. The leaked French policy paper showed the Roma were targeted collectively.
"I am personally convinced the commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement action against France," said Reding. "I have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state 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 said the legal action should be fast-tracked.
"We do not believe these kinds of statements will improve the fate and situation of the Roma," he said. "Now is not the time for polemic, not for declarations of this kind. Now is the time for work in favour of the Roma population."They want us all to work "in favour of the Roma population", even as they deport them based solely on their ethnic background.
The greatest indication that this is the French right wing playing the lazy populist card, came from Jean-François Copé, parliamentary head of Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party.
"The French authorities have faced up to their responsibilities in this matter and pursued a policy in keeping with our laws," said Copé. "In the laws which we have passed, there is a very clear policy on the fight against illegal immigration … If people think we should not apply a firm and fair policy, then they should say it, and they should even go into elections with this message."He wants to fight elections over this because he doesn't think that there will be many votes to be won over protecting gypsies from illegal deportation. The last time Europe saw this kind of behaviour was prior to WWII, when gypsies and Jews were singled out for this kind of treatment. The European commission is right to condemn it, and now they must prosecute France to bring this to an end.
I, as a European, have the right to move to Spain tomorrow if it so takes my fancy, and there is nothing Spain could do to stop me as I am a European citizen. If that rule applies to me then it also applies to the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania. Whether they are Roma or not.
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