EU Minster Compare France With Nazi Germany; Receive Standing Ovations

The French government are under heavy pressure because of its decision to expel over 1000 Romans from the country. But now the French have had it; EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding indirectly compared the French actions with Nazi Germany‘s deportation of Jews during World War II, saying that “this is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.”

“This is not how you speak to a major power like France, which is the mother of human rights.”

Bernard Valero

Over 440 Roma camps have been dismantled in the past month and more than 1,000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens sent back to their home countries as part of the massive crackdown on illegal immigration, ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of July. The expulsion of gypsies from France have been met with with storm of protest from both EU politicians and human rights organizations.

“A plane ticket to one’s country of origin in the European Union is not a death train, and is not the gas chamber.”

This remark by EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding in a radio interview, yesterday, have really got the French out of their chairs and up on the barricades.

Viviane Reding

Viviane Reding

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Ms. Reding said she was “appalled” at the French policy. She called the developments a “disgrace” and said the commission will take legal action against Paris at the EU court in Luxembourg.

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All the political groups in the European Parliament have welcomed Viviane Reding’s intervention, except for the center-right European People’s Party, to which, awkwardly, both President Sarkozy and Ms. Reding are affiliated.

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The Mother Of Human Rights

Focusing in on the commissioner’s remark, Tuesday, the French politicians today says that Ms Reding’s “unseemly” remarks in effect compare France to the Nazi regime.

Bernard Valero

According to the EUobserver, spokesman for the French foreign ministry Bernard Valero says that Paris is “astonished” by Ms Reding’s statement.

“We don’t think that this kind of declaration will help improve the predicament of the Roma, who are at the heart of our concerns,” Valero says.

“This is not how you speak to a major power like France, which is the mother of human rights.”

Head of Mr. Sarkozy’s UMP party in the National Assembly, Jean-Francois Cope, also dismiss Ms Reding’s comments as “baseless accusations” and suggested the EU commission had “ulterior motives.”

Voluntary Deportations

French authorities deported over 200 Roma to Romania the same day that Ms. Reding spoke out on the commission podium. Some 230 explees, including children, landed in Bucharest on Tuesday in what France is calling “voluntary deportations” in defiance of human rights groups.

Over 440 Roma camps have been dismantled in the past month and more than 1.000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens sent back to their home countries as part of the massive crackdown on “illegal immigration” ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of July.

Most of the Roma interviewed by journalists upon arrival in Romania said they would return to France, because the economic situation is better, even if they get deported again.

Romanian local authorities are speed-tracking procedures for social assistance, but the fresh aid is unlikely to keep them in the country.

Xenophobic, Discriminatory And Nationalistic

Spokeswoman for the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, says to the EUobserver that “the commission is the guardian of the EU treaties. If it finds that France broke the law, it should proceed accordingly.”

The head of the Liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt, says in a statement: “Europe is finally proving its worth by not ignoring xenophobic, discriminatory, and nationalist policies perpetrated by member states. We welcome commissioner Reding’s action to bring fast-track infringement proceedings against France.”

Socialist leader Martin Schulz also welcomed the Reding speech, but says the reaction came “too late for hundreds of Roman people,” already deported by the French government.

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Human Rights Groups Flabbergasted

Human rights groups have rallied behind the commission.

Amnesty International, which has behind the scenes been trying to push the commission to take action, was flabbergasted by the force of the response.

“This has never happened before. I mean, there were 10,000 Roma deported by various member states last year and the commission didn’t say anything,” Nele Meyer, the group’s Roman expert says.

“We are absolutely surprised and delighted that Reding took such a strong line.”

“Ms. Reding’s forceful statement comes not a moment too soon,” Benjamin Ward from Human Rights Watch says in a statement. “The French government needs to heed the calls from Brussels and halt this abusive policy.”

The European Network Against Racism urged the commission to take legal action not only against France “but also against all other member states putting in place similar policies infringing minority rights.”

The French parliament also on Tuesday pressed ahead with another controversial policy – the total ban of burqas and other full-body robes worn by Muslim women in public, even by visitors who pass through France.

Offenders face a maximum fine of €150 and could be asked to attend courses on what the government calls “republican values.”

Individuals who encourage others to ignore the ban would face tougher penalties: up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of €30,000.

On Econotwist’s account:

Thank you, Ms. Reding! This kind of courage is rarely seen in any political environment today, and is exactly what the world needs at the moment. Wishing you the best of luck.

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