Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Commentary----Notice the last sentence.
Reding says French reaction on Roma linked to sexism
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reding says French reaction on Roma linked to sexism


EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is standing firm in her ongoing row with France over its controversial Roma policy, refusing to apologise and arguing that the reaction to the harsh words she aimed at Paris last week would have been different if she was a man.

Speaking in a public forum for the first time since her comparison of France's deportation of Roma to events in World War II - remarks that provoked fury in Paris - Ms Reding on Tuesday (21 September) said "No, Why?" when asked directly whether she would apologise for the comments.

The Luxembourgish politician, now in her third term as commissioner, said she believed she had been "strengthened" by the resulting polemic.

"If a man bangs his fist on the table, it is considered manly, he is defending himself. If a woman bangs her fist on the table she is hysterical," she told reporters at a press conference in Strasbourg, according to AFP news agency.

She made a semi retraction of her comments ahead of an EU summit last Thursday after French president Nicolas Sarkozy, according to French daily Le Monde, threatened to boycott the Brussels gathering.

It was noticeable however that while EU leaders generally agreed that her comments overstepped the mark, virtually all accepted that the commission was within its rights as guardian of the EU treaties to examine Paris' actions.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has also authorised a tough policy against the ethnic minority, was alone in criticising the commission and siding with Mr Sarkozy.

Ms Reding on Tuesday also affirmed her intention to press ahead with investigating France's policy in light of EU law.

The commission's experts are looking at two issues: whether France failed to properly transpose EU law on the free movement of people and whether the country has violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The commissioner said the opinions will be ready within the coming days. The college of commissioners as a whole then has to decide to whether to press ahead with taking France to court, a decision it is due to take next week (29 September).

Ms Reding's determined stance came as French Prime Minister Francois Fillon warned that while the commission should guard EU law it should "not go beyond" the role entrusted to it by the EU treaties.

"It is perfectly legitimate that the European Commission verifies the legality of the conduct of operations on illegal encampments. But the Commission should refrain from any hasty value judgements," he said on Tuesday.

The apparent trigger for Ms Reding's outburst - that senior French officials had lied to her about whether Roma were specifically targetted for deportation by French authorities - has been formally denied by Paris.

According to a note from the "French authorities" addressed to the commissioner, neither immigration minister Eric Besson or Europe minister Pierre Lellouche knew of the existence of a now infamous French circular which specifically referred to Roma when talking about the clearance of illegal camps.

The note to the commissioner, seen by AFP, says neither politician was aware of the circular, signed by the head of cabinet of the interior minister, when they met Ms Reding in Brussels at the end of August to discuss France's Roma policy.

The whole episode has sparked an extraordinary stand-off between the European Commission and Paris, and caused tension between Luxembourg and France, as well as between Paris and Berlin after Mr Sarkozy indicated that Germany was planning to close similar camps, something roundly denied by Berlin.

In recent days, all sides have worked to restore calm at the diplomatic level. But little of substance has been said about tackling the root problems of the Roma, the EU's largest ethnic minority.

PHOTO: Viviane Reding, by


Rae said...

You know, this morning my cello instructor and I were discussion (harshly) the France deportations and somewhere along the line, I ended up proclaiming that, even though I've been studying French for five years, if someone offered me a plane ticket to Paris right now I'd refuse to take it.

Upon thinking about that--it's something like the slippery slope of vegetarianism. You give up eating meat, and then suddenly, your conscience can't bear the thought of dairy products, and before you know it, you're wearing 'Save the elephants!!' t-shirts and boycotting the circus. Likewise--if one were to refuse to go to France on the sheer basis of its unethical treatment of Roma, what other countries would soon be docked off? Certainly I wouldn't be visiting Europe anytime soon. And I have to admit, I'm not sure America or Australia would make the cut. Canada? maybe...? Probably the only place I'd find in the end that I could reasonably go to would be the countries without a significant presence. So what? Japan? Unthinkable. This world sickens me sometimes.

Morgan said...

Oh yes Rae, you are absolutely right in that analysis. And I'm sad to say that Canada is not much better in this issue. I just haven't posted much lately about Canada. That's the problem when ONE thing hits the press.
France is not unique in its treatment of Romani. And I don't think we can blame the country. Many French citizens have come out in support of the Romani.
Here in the US we have it better because we are invisible for the most part. Otherwise we are labeled with the onus of "Gypsy crime or Gypsy scams"
But the US has filthy hands when it comes to the situation in Kosovo. And regardless how we beg, the US will not help in any way remove the children from the lead mines in Kosovo.
It was good to hear from you again Rae.

Casimir3 said...

Sorry Rae, But if someone offered me a ticket to France...I would be on the next flight. Ah the South of France! I would play the Bourgeois role to the hilt, till they lead me into the ovens. I have been trying to figure out where to exile myself. Europe, some parts remind me of 1936 Berlin. I hear the Okanogin Valley in Washington State is Roma Country. America not all that bad, we still kinda sorta have Constitution & Bill of Rights. Australia, they had forced assimilation programs for Roma as late as 1976. Japan? Great if you have gobs of money!

Anonymous said...

PS. Hey guys...Let's start our own country? How about Casimireastan? Catchy huh? We could buy a huge Ranch up in Montana!
Signed Guess Who?