I love France. I love the countryside. I love Paris. I love the food, the wine, the literature. I occasionally love the music (who can resist having a little bop to Joe le Taxi?). But I have to admit that the French can be dodgy. Well I say the French, but of course I don’t mean the entire populate of La Belle France. I suppose I am directing my accusations at the French establishment.
Only in France could they claim that the expulsion of Roma people (which has by the way been going on for over a year – sometimes as many as 1000 a month being deported to Romania and Bulgaria) was to preserve public order. President Sarkozy and his chums would have us believe that Roma camps were seething with all manner of criminal activity from prostitution and drug trafficking to organised begging and street crime and that there was nothing wrong with rounding up hundreds of people at a time, bunging them each €300 (€100 for a child) and bungling them on to a plane to Eastern Europe. And for over a year, they got away with it. The protests of human rights organisations which accused the French of deliberately targeting Roma people and breaching European freedom of movement legislation in order to shore up Nicolas’ falling poll ratings went largely unheard.
But, finally, they have been busted. We now have the evidence of a leaked a memo from the Minister of the Interior effectively confirming that Roma camps should be the target of police activity. This has finally prompted one of the angriest responses from an EU Commissioner that I have ever seen. Yesterday, Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding gave France the full hairdryer treatment to France. Condemning the expulsions as a “disgrace ”, she declared that her “ This is a situation, I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the second world war.” She is threatening the French with legal action which could result not just in very large fines but, especially for a country so enamored with the European project, the huge embarrassment that would go with it. Génial.