Berlusconi chides EU for attack on France Roma policy
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday scolded an EU commissioner who likened France's treatment of Roma people to the Nazi's persecution of Jews and Gypsies.
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding of Luxembourg on Tuesday condemned the expulsion of Roma from France, drawing a parallel with the deportations during World War II.
Reding said she was "appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority.
"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.
In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro to be published on Thursday Berlusconi threw his support behind French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"It would have been better if Madame Reding had dealt with the subject in private with French leaders before expressing herself publicly as she did," he said.
"The problem of the Roma is not specifically French. It concerns every country in Europe. It is therefore necessary to put this subject on the agenda at the European Council so we can all discuss it together in order to find a common position, he added.
Reding's comments shocked the French government and sparked a furious reaction from Sarkozy on Wednesday, the eve of a one-day summit due to be held in Brussels on Thursday.
Italy has also had its own brush with the the Commission over its policy on the Roma people in 2008 when it started to register those living in camps, taking finger prints and documenting their ethnicity and religion.
Italian Foreign Minister Roberto Maroni, one of the leading figures in the anti-immigrant Northern League which is a coalition partner in Berlusconi's government, last month praised France's expulsion of Roma, declaring that Paris was "simply copying Italy."
France stepped up its Roma round-up in August, after Sarkozy called for unauthorised Gypsy and Roma camps to be dismantled, and foreign-born Roma to be sent back to their Eastern European homelands.
More than 1,000 Roma have been expelled from France since Sarkozy's speech.
© 2010 AFP