France angry at WWII allusion linked to Roma

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France angry at WWII allusion linked to Roma

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The French government has lashed out at the European Commission, after one of its vice-presidents went unusually far in criticising the crackdown on Roma migrants in France.

Viviane Reding yesterday alluded to ethnic persecution in the past: “This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War,” she said.

Paris struck back, calling the remarks inappropriate, and defending the government’s dismantling of illegal campsites across the country.

Reding, as Commissioner for Justice, is said to have been raised to anger by discovery of a French Interior Ministry document specifically targeting Roma encampments.

The Secretary-general of the ruling French UMP party, Xavier Bertrand, said: “I regret that comments were made by the European Commission. It should instead shoulder its responsibilities. The countries where the Roma come from also have to take responsibility. It is not only a French problem. France is respecting European Law.”

France has been repatriating Roma immigrants to Romania and Bulgaria.

The French minister for European Affairs said he would not “let Mrs. Reding say that France in 2010, in its handling of the Roma issue, is the same as Vichy France.”

Pierre Lelouche said no comparison could be drawn with WWII “death trains and the gas chambers”.