France was embroiled in an extraordinary war of words with the European Union on Wednesday after an EU commissioner launched an unprecedented attack on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policy of expelling Roma minorities, likening it to Nazi-era practices.
"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said, warning that France now faces EU legal proceedings.
"I have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed...just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority," said Reding. The EU, formed in the shadow of World War II and Nazi atrocities against Jews, is particularly sensitive to human rights issues, and mistreatment of Roma rights across Europe has been a constant reminder of its challenges.
This year around 9,000 Roma have been deported from France. Sarkozy, who accuses Roma (also known as Gypsies), the largest ethnic minority group in Europe, of being criminals and prostitutes, has drawn global flak for his policy of mass expulsions to Romania and Bulgaria. But this is the first time an EU official has gone this far in condemning his policies.
French Minister Pierre Lellouche accused Reding of unjustifiably suggesting expulsions of Roma from France smacked of the Nazi persecution of gypsies during World War II.
(With agency inputs)