Sarkozy's office hits back at criticism on Gypsies
President Nicolas Sarkozy's office fired back Wednesday at European Commission criticism of France's crackdown on Gypsies, or Roma, saying some of the complaints are unacceptable.
A day earlier, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding had called France's expulsions of Roma to Eastern Europe "a disgrace" — as well as something she "thought that Europe would not have to witness again after the second World War."
The exchange heightened tensions between France and the European Union a day before a summit of EU leaders Thursday in Brussels, and forced the European Commission president to go into damage control, saying Reding had not meant to compare World War II and today.
French authorities have recently dismantled more than 100 illegal camps and sent home more than 1,000 Roma, mainly back to Romania, in a crackdown that has drawn international condemnation. Sarkozy has called Roma camps sources of crime such as illegal trafficking and child exploitation.
France could ultimately be slapped with a fine by the European Court of Justice if its expulsions are found to have breached EU law.
A senior official at the presidential palace said France doesn't want an argument with the commission, but "some of the comments are simply unacceptable." He declined to be named, in line with office policy.
After a Cabinet meeting, government spokesman Luc Chatel also objected to Reding's remarks, saying, "It is unacceptable to compare the situation today with a tragic period in our history."
The French government has objected to any comparisons between its plane flights of Gypsies — many of whom return home voluntarily with a small stipend — and World War II, when Europe's Gypsy populations were decimated in the Holocaust.
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