Sarkozy summons ministers over Gypsy 'problems'
Violence between police and Gypsies prompted French President Nicolas Sarkozy to summon ministers for crisis talks on Wednesday, warning that the minority posed security "problems".
Rights groups have complained that Sarkozy is stigmatising minorities after he last week declared a "war on crime", partly in response to an attack on a police station in Saint-Aignan, central France.
Masked rioters tried to break down the door of the police station, damaged other buildings and burned cars during last week's attack, sparked by the shooting dead of a Gypsy by police when he allegedly rammed them in his car.
Sarkozy's declaration was also a reaction to separate riots, not linked to the Gypsy or Roma minority, in a poor suburb of Grenoble, in southeastern France.
Sarkozy called the meeting of ministers and police chiefs to review what he dubbed "the situation of travelling people and Roma and the problems that certain members of these communities pose to public order and safety."
Gypsy groups and political opponents complained that Sarkozy's approach stigmatised minority communities and did not distinguish between ethnic Roma, or Gypsies, and the separate community of French "travellers."
"As happens too often in history, Gypsies are once more being made scapegoats by a ruling class tangled up in political and financial scandals," the Gypsy rights association UFAT said in a statement.
The comment referred to a tax and political funding scandal involving alleged links between Sarkozy's Labour Minister Eric Woerth and France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
"If Nicolas Sarkozy must repeat his declaration of war, the Collective of Gypsy Associations will be prompted to take legal action for incitement to racial hatred," the statement added.
© 2010 AFP