According to EU sources, French president Nicolas Sarkozy‘s was heard yelling loud at EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in a violent verbal attack to defend “the honor of France.” At a press briefing, Thursday afternoon, an infuriated, defensive Sarkozy, played down the violent clash with Barroso over the issue of Roma expulsion.
“If there was one person in the room that remained calm, it was me.”
The French president’s shouting was reportedly heard at the other end of the corridor. Mr. Sarkozy later, during a press briefing, denied reports from officials that his verbal exchange with Mr. Barroso had been violent. But EU sources says that Sarkozy’s yelling during the EU leaders’ meeting was widely heard as he attempted to – in his words – “defend the honor of France.”
“If there was one person in the room that remained calm, it was me,” the French president later claimed during a press briefing, denying reports from officials that his exchange with Mr. Barroso had been “violent.”
Speaking in front of cameras, Mr. Sarkozy blamed justice commissioner Viviane Reding and her “deeply shocking” and “insulting” comments made on Tuesday that indirectly compared his Roman deportation policy to the pro-Nazi regime in the Second World War.
He denied having “any problem” with Mr. Barroso and reminded the EU politician that he last year supported him in his efforts to win a second term as chief of the EU commission, the EUobserver.com writes.
“I appreciated the fact that Mr. Barroso distanced himself from Ms. Reding, but I am the president and cannot allow my country to be insulted.”
In a long debate about if the French policy is a non-discriminatory crackdown on Roman camps and expulsion of irregular migrants and EU citizens, or not, Mr. Sarkozy said he had no intention of bringing a halt to his policies, as it was the “duty” of his government to uphold the rule of law and public order.
The document that caused the turmoil, giving instructions to police to target Roman camps “with priority,” was allegedly signed by a minor official from the ministry of interior, Sarkozy said and claimed it had been “immediately withdrawn” when he found out about it, one month later.
Mr. Barroso, speaking two floors below the French leader at a parallel press briefing, also tried to play down the escalating row with France and stressed the need to focus on the “real problems,” and not to “deviate” into “useless rhetoric or unnecessary controversy.”
They said that each government has the right and duty to apply the rule of law on its territory, but the European Commission has the responsibility of overseeing the application of EU law, for instance in the areas of freedom of movement and non-discrimination.
EU leaders also took note of Mr. Barroso’s statement on Wednesday, in which he regretted the historical reference made by Ms. Reding.
He made the concession despite having made a similar remark last week when warning EU states not to “awake the ghosts of the past.”
“Relations between institutions and member states have to be inspired by respect,” Mr. Van Rompuy commented.
Bulgarian premier minister, Boyko Borisov, present during Mr. Sarkozy’s tirade against the commission, said he was happy his country had stayed out of the controversy.
“There was an argument, not to say a scandal, involving the president of the European Commission and the French president,” Mr. Borisov told journalists after the meeting.
Romanian President Traian Basescu intervened in the debate and backed the commission’s stance on the Roman repatriations, pointing that “these are nomadic people” and they cannot be forced to stay in one country.
Asked about the clash, Mr. Basescu laughed and said, ironically: “There was no clash, they are very good friends.”
According to the Romanian politician, the consensus around the table was that the commission needs to come up with a strategy to help Romans in the areas of employment and education.
Watch President Sarkozy defend his policy as he claims the EU commission has insulted France:
Related by the Econotwist:
- Sarkozy, EU leader clash over Roma dispute (reuters.com)
- Sarkozy attacks Roma row critics (bbc.co.uk)
- EU leaders agree on trade but clash over Roma (reuters.com)
- German chancellor rebuts suggestion that she plans gipsy clearances (telegraph.co.uk)
- Nicolas Sarkozy tells Luxembourg to take in Roma (guardian.co.uk)
- Sarkozy, EU Step Up Fight Over Gypsies (online.wsj.com)