EU's Barroso backs criticism of French Roma crackdown
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday lent his "personal backing" to criticism of France's Roma crackdown but swept aside parallels with World War II deportations.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding angered France after she warned of legal action over its expulsion of hundreds of Roma, which she likened to World War II-era deportations.
"One or other of the expressions used in the heat of the moment may have given rise to misunderstanding," Barroso said at a news conference.
"Reding did not want to establish any parallels between what happened in the Second World War and the present."
But community law had to be respected, he said.
"Prohibition of discrimination based on ethnic origin is one of the EU's fundamental values and the EU will do whatever is necessary to ensure respect for these principles."
Reding, he added, "has made this clear and she has done so with the full backing of the college (of commissioners) and with my personal backing."
Barroso said the commission would conclude its appreciation of the matter within the next two weeks.
The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has slammed Reding's comments as "unacceptable" and called for a calm discussion rather than stirring up a "sterile controversy."
France has faced increasing international criticism since Sarkozy in August stepped up its deportations of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria as part of a security clampdown.
Reding said on Tuesday she was "personally... 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," she added.
© 2010 AFP