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Sarkozy: Roma comments 'outrageous'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 16 September 2010

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has described as "outrageous" the comments by an EU commissioner criticising the deportations of Roma from France. Jonathan Rugman suggests the president's controversial policies are linked to falling poll ratings.

President Sarkozy has reportedly clashed with EC President Barroso over the explusion of Roma from France (Reuters).

On Tuesday, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding appeared to compare France's actions to persecutions in Nazi-occupied France.

She has since said she regretted how she was interpreted - but has stood by her overall rebuke, and threatened to take France to the European Court of Justice for breach of common EU rules.

Speaking at a European Union summit President Sarkozy described it as "deeply shocking to see someone speak thus, make such simplifications which have hurt and shocked my fellow citizens".

He defended the policy, and said Roma camps would continue to be dismantled. France has deported about 8,000 Roma migrants to Romania and Bulgaria, in what it describes as a crackdown on crime.

France's expulsions of Roma people dominated today's summit, even though the topic was not on the official agenda.


Not all the European leaders agreed with the French president. It was reported that the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso clashed with him over the issue of Roma migrants.

According to one envoy in the talks, "Sarkozy made a strong point defending France's position. Jose Manuel Barroso stood up and said he was not happy with the current situation in France. Sarkozy replied in a sharp manner".

Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that the conversation over lunch had been "lively".

Asked his views on the Roma row, he said: "It is important that countries respect the law, but it is also important that they are able to take action to remove people if there is a problem of people behaving illegally".

Foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman said: "Why is President Sarkozy doing this? Well, he thinks it is what the French people want, he has an election coming up in 2012, and perhaps only if his poll ratings go down will he cancel this policy."


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