Italy's leader reiterates support for Sarkozy over Roma row

19th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi led the Italian government in a chorus of support for French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sunday in the row over France's expulsion of foreign Roma.

European citizens could move freely within the European Union -- provided they had sufficient money, said Berlusconi at a meeting of his People of Freedom party (PDL) in the northeastern town of Cortina d'Ampezzo.

"I agree with Sarkozy," he said.

"The foreigner who turns to delinquency and respects neither our laws nor European legislation, shows he has no intention of integrating culturally or socially... ," he said.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said there was a gap in the existing European law on this issue.

"You have to punish immigrant communities that are not following the rules," he said.

"If we arrest a Romanian, French or British citizens who lives (in Italy) without any money, we have no other choice but to tell him to go home, but obviously, he won't do it," he said.

It should be possible to force that person to do so, and to punish anyone who did not comply, he argued.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini backed Sarkozy in Sunday's edition of the Catholic daily Avennire.

"France acted because for too long the European Union has been happy to just watch what was happening," he said.

"Europe cannot tell Italy that it's our problem if boats loaded up with desperate people arrive in (Italy's) Lampedusa," he said.

The French crackdown has caused a fierce political row which hijacked a summit of European leaders last week after a top European Union official likened the measures to World War II deportations.

© 2010 AFP

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