EU defends criticism of French Roma crackdown

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The European Commission rallied behind its top justice official on Wednesday after she drew the ire of Paris by comparing the French crackdown on Roma migrants to 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.

"Mrs Reding speaks on behalf of the commission," commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a news briefing, adding that "this work is being done in coordination" with commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy 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

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