France defends Roma expulsion policyMinister attacks EU for comparing crackdown with second world war deportations
France today angrily defended its controversial Roma crackdown, attacking the European commission for comparing the policy with second world war deportations and for failing to address `the mother
[country] of human rights` with sufficient gravity.
Pierre Lellouche, the French European affairs minister who yesterday found himself in the firing line from Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, said he could not allow her to compare `the France of 2010 [with] the France of Vichy`.
`The tone she took is not the manner one uses to address a great state like France, which is the mother of human rights,` he told French radio. `We are not the naughty pupil of the class whom the teacher tells off and we are not the criminal before the prosecutor.`
Lellouche, who was told yesterday that France could face legal action over the summer crackdown, added that he had spoken to Reding this morning and told her he would like to think `her passion [had] exceeded her rationale`.
`A nest egg, a plane ticket going to their native country within the EU: these are not death camps, these are not gas chambers,` he added, referring to the one-off payment of 300 ( 250) per adult made by French authorities to Roma returning to their home country on so-called `voluntary` return flights.
Lellouche`s strident defence of the policy, which has seen nearly 1,000 Roma expelled and dozens of `non-authorised` camps broken up since the beginning of August, was echoed in more mild language by the Elys e. Insisting there was no desire to further the `pointless controversy` with Brussels
, it added, in an oblique reference to the second world war comparison: `However, certain comments are quite simply not acceptable.`
On French radio, Eric Besson, Nicolas Sarkozy`s minister for immigration and national identity, criticised Reding`s reference to Jewish deportations in the 1940s, calling it `shocking` and `anachronistic`.
The U-turn by the European commission, which came after weeks of criticism by human rights activists for failing to take a tough line with Paris, came in the aftermath of the leak of a French government document showing that the Roma were the explicit target of the crackdown. The government, which was deeply embarrassed by the leak, has since modified the order to remove all reference to a particular group of people.
`There was a mistake in the circular it has been corrected. The end. Done,` said Benoist Apparu, a junior minister and member of Sarkozy`s rightwing UMP party.
Among French critics of the Roma crackdown, however, the criticism from Brussels came as proof of their country`s tarnished image. `It is a true disgrace for men and women to be hunted down in our country just because they are of a certain ethnicity and not because they have committed crimes,` said Martine Aubry, leader of the opposition Socialist party.