Austria hits back at France's "great state" comment

16th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann hit back Thursday at French complaints over the EU's treatment of a "great state", insisting that all EU members be treated equally, regardless of their size.

On Wednesday, France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche complained of Brussels' criticism of its Roma policy, noting: "That's not the way to speak to a great state."

But Faymann hit back Thursday in comments to Austrian television ORF from Brussels, where he was attending a one-day EU summit.

"One thing is undisputed: the Commission is a guardian of treaties and it must decide whether a treaty has been violated or not," he said.

"This applies to France as much as to smaller or medium-sized countries: there can't be two different standards here," he insisted.

Lellouche's comments were in response to EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding's criticism of France's recent expulsions of Roma.

Earlier, Austrian Socialist MEP Hannes Swoboda had also highlighted Lellouche's comments as "particularly revealing."

If criticism "against a great state is not acceptable, that means conversely that the Commission may only enforce European legislation on small countries," Swoboda said in a statement.

"This way of thinking is unacceptable."

France's expulsion of Roma led to a war of words on Wednesday between Paris and Brussels that threatened to overshadow the EU summit in Brussels Thursday.

© 2010 AFP

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