EU must act if France acted illegally on Roma: Reding

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If the European Commission establishes that France has broken European law with its deportations of Roma then the European Union will act, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said on Friday.

"At the moment the Commission is carrying out an investigation of France, where authorities are unfortunately suspected of... taking decisions directed against an ethnic minority, the Roma," Reding said in a speech in Berlin.

"If these suspicions are confirmed, then the Commission, as guardian of (EU) treaties, must assume its role," Reding said in a speech in Berlin. "And it will do so."

She stopped short of saying what action the Commission could take, however.

Reding was heavily criticised by French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- and by others including Germany -- after comparing on Tuesday the deportation of Roma in France to the treatment of Gypsies and Jews in World War II.

Reding later told AFP she regretted that her comparison was "distracting attention from a problem that must be solved now. I in no way wanted to draw a parallel between World War II and the actions of the French government today."

France has been under fire for weeks over Sarkozy's controversial drive to deport ethnic Roma living in travelling communities in France back to Romania and Bulgaria, and Paris now faces the threat of European legal action.

© 2010 AFP

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