France’s President has come out of an EU summit with fellow leaders his head high on the question of expelling Roma people. This followed an escalation of tempers between the French government and the European Commission.
The Justice Commissioner this week went so far as to draw parallels between ethnic persecution in World War Two and current French policy.
Nicolas Sarkozy, after the talks in Brussels, said:
“All the heads of state and government were shocked by the outrageous statements by Viviane Reding, the Vice-President of the Commission.”
He added: “I know Mr. Barroso well, and I appreciate him. What’s more, I backed him as European Commission President, and I appreciated that he disassociated himself from the expressions used by his vice-president. I am the head of the French state. I cannot let my country be insulted.”
In his turn, at a separate press conference, Jose Manuel Barroso also denied that any flare-up had taken place with Sarkozy, as certain sources had said, but gave quid pro quo.
“The Commission is fulfilling its role as guardian of the Treaties. Any kind of discrimination against ethnic minorities in Europe is unacceptable. It is true that in the heat of debate we did hear exaggerated remarks. The Vice-President of the Commission owned up to that yesterday. Others should think about doing the same; the Commission could also take umbrage at certain rhetoric.”
Sarkozy insisted that European law is being respected as the dismantling of illegal encampments goes ahead, not only Roma camps, saying migration irregularities are a matter of concern for the whole EU.