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CoE Human Rights Commissioner says anti-Roma rhetoric comparable to Nazis’

Strasbourg, 9.9.2010 16:45, (ROMEA)

AFP reports that Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg has compared the current “anti-Roma political rhetoric” to the kinds of statements used in the past by Nazis and Fascists. French diplomats have indicated they will be demanding an explanation from Hammarberg.

Hammarberg made the remarks through Twitter and posted a link on his internet profile to a 3Sat television program which includes just such a critique of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. The 3Sat network broadcasts to German-speaking countries.

Pierre Lellouche, State Secretary for European Affairs at the French Foreign Ministry, responded by declaring he would be demanding an “official explanation” from Hammarberg. “I am surprised and shocked by his statements on Twitter in which he uses very serious expressions – Nazis, Fascists – seemingly in the context of the Republic of France,” Lellouche said.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has recently expressed the opinion that the French measures might be perceived as smacking of racism.

At the EP on Tuesday, France became the target of sharp criticism by many MEPs during a debate on Roma policy in the European Union. Paris, which according to some MEPs has violated EU law, rejected the criticism immediately. In addition to France, the European Commission also became the target of this wave of displeasure. Some legislators said the Commission has been simply inactive on the matter.

Today MEPs will vote on a resolution on this topic. AFP reports the EP’s largest political group wants to push through a document calling on France and other EU Member States to immediately halt all deportations of Roma.

Since the start of this year France has returned more than 8 300 Roma who had no residence permits to their home states. Sweden recently sent 50 Roma back to Eastern Europe, and Denmark expelled 23 Roma from Eastern Europe in July. Belgium has forced 700 Roma to leave Flanders and seek refuge in Wallonia.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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