Friday 24 November 2017

Romanian president asked Sarkozy to stop expulsion of Roma

Henry Samuel

President Traian Basescu of Romania said that he had urged President Nicolas Sarkozy last week to "try to stop" the expulsions of Roma gipsies from France.

Mr Sarkozy has been widely criticised at home and abroad for his high-profile campaign to expel Roma – European citizens and thus entitled to free movement – back to Romania and Bulgaria.

The policy sparked a slanging match last week at a European summit after Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, said she had not seen such blatant ethnic discrimination since the Second World War.

Present at a Brussels summit last Thursday, Mr Basescu said on Wednesday: "I asked President Sarkozy to try to stop the expulsions," adding he made the request in a "friendly conversation".

He said that the answer was unclear but that the pair would meet in the coming weeks "to find a solution for the nomad Roma."

France has expelled more than 1,000 Roma since Mr Sarkozy announced a crackdown on illegal Roma camps, saying they pose a public security threat.

"Romania will always defend the Roma's right to move freely in Europe. They are European citizens and as long as there is no evidence they broke the law they should enjoy the same rights of any European citizen," said Mr Basescu.

Mr Basescu's comments came as the Romanian parliament condemned France for a "serious violation" of its citizens' rights.

Mr Sarkozy managed to provoke a diplomatic incident with Germany at last Thursday's summit by telling the press that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, planned to follow France's example in razing illegal Roma camps.

In a verbatim account of her reaction in Wednesday's Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical daily, Mrs Merkel is quoted as saying: "He's a first-class liar ... This is blatant manipulation unworthy of a partner ... You can't trust him ... He is sullying France's image, he's weakening it and at the same time weakening Europe."

Mr Sarkozy received support, however, from Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister.

"(The Roma) haven't been deported because of their ethnic origin," he told the Wall Street Journal.

"The measures were adopted within the rule of law. Integration principles must work, but also public order must be respected in suburban settlements lacking sanitary or security conditions."

The European Commission is due to decide on September 29 whether to launch infringement proceedings against France.

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