French and Romanian officials have met in Paris to try to mend strained relations over France’s treatment of Romany gypsies.
France has repatriated more than 850 Roma and shut 88 illegal camps since late July as part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s much-publicised crackdown on crime.
“We will deport people in line with an EU directive that applies to all, not just Roma. It applies to Belgians, Portuguese, Spanish. It’s European law. We are giving money to assist those returning which no other European country does. I think our critics are really being over the top,” said
Pierre Lelouche, French Deputy European Affairs Minister.
France is offering each adult 300 euros as an incentive to leave in a policy which has been denounced by the Romanian government.
But French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said there would be no U-turn.
“We will continue the evacuation of illegal settlements. Can you imagine for one second that the United States, the largest or second largest democracy in the world, would allow 250 caravans to cross the border from Mexico and just set up wherever they liked. What’s true for others naturally applies to us too,” Hortefeux said.
Critics say the crackdown on Roma immigrants is merely a ploy to boost Sarkozy’s sagging approval ratings before the next presidential elections in 2012.
They say the policy is designed to divert attention from unpopular plans to raise the retirement age and cut public spending.