French President Nicolas Sarkozy upended a European Union summit to defend his own nation’s honor, vowing Thursday to keep clearing out illegal immigrant camps despite accusations that France is being racist and unfairly targets Gypsies.
The summit was supposed to be a forum for molding a unifying European foreign policy, but it turned into a drama of discord–with the outspoken Sarkozy usurping the podium to preach his policies and lash out at his critics.
Sarkozy said comments by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding that linked the expulsions to the mass deportations of World War II were “disgusting.”
“I am head of the French state. I cannot let my nation be insulted,” Sarkozy told reporters.
Sarkozy insisted France’s expulsions of Gypsies, or Roma, are a matter of security and said France doesn’t have to take lessons from anyone, as long as it respects human rights. He called more than 100 Roma camps dismantled in France in recent weeks havens of crime and undignified living conditions.
Britain, so often at loggerheads with France over all issues European, backed Sarkozy.
“Members of the Commission have to chose their language carefully as well,” said Cameron, a fellow member of the center-right. He added that “you should, of course have the right to remove people from your country if they are there illegally.”
Reding’s office has said she expressed regret over the wartime comparison, but maintained her threat to take France to court for targeting an ethnic group in the expulsions.
Romanian President Traian Basescu accused EU leaders of “hypocrisy” over the Roma expulsions to his country, and warned that those expelled from France may quickly return.