French presidency slams EU's 'unacceptable' Roma criticism

15th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

France's presidency on Wednesday slammed as "unacceptable" criticism from an EU commissioner of its Roma policy, but said it preferred a calm discussion to a "sterile controversy."

"This is not about stirring controversy, neither with the Commission nor with the (European) parliament," said an Elysee official, who asked not to be named. "Nevertheless, some statements are simply not acceptable.

"It's time for calm dialogue to deal with the heart of the matter ... there's a desire to deal with things from the bottom rather than embarking on a sterile controversy," the official said.

France has faced increasing international criticism since President Nicolas Sarkozy in August stepped up its deportations of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria as part of a security clampdown.

Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said on Tuesday 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," she added, warning of looming infringement proceedings by the European Commission.

Sarkozy is to attend an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, but the Elysee official said they did not think that he would be questioned on Roma policy while there.

The Roma "are not on the agenda" at the summit, the official said.

© 2010 AFP

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