Henry Samuel, Telegraph (London), August 22, 2013
The cover story of a French magazine headlined “Roma overdose” has sparked outrage after a summer simmering with tensions over the presence of the minority in France.
The ruling Socialist Party today accused Right-wing weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles (Current Values) of inciting violence over its latest edition whose front page picture is a sign of a caravan with a red line through it.=
“Handouts, crime, the things we don’t have the right to talk about,” read the subheadings.=
The feature story reports on the “incivility” and “criminality” of some Roma – many from Bulgaria and Romania – in the Loire-Atlantique region. It also publishes the results of a new survey suggesting that 70 per cent of French people are worried about the presence of the Roma people in France.=
The cover sparked a furious response on Twitter, while the Socialist Party slammed it as “outrageous, anti-republican and it incites xenophobic violence against a minority of the population.”=
“These sickening values that are conveyed have nothing to do with current sentiment, they are anti-republican,” it said in a statement.
“This is a demonstration of an intolerant and intolerable political campaign. We have warned against the trivialisation of such campaigns and ideas, which the Socialist Party are fighting against.
“Stop this xenophobic overdose.”
Valeurs Actuelles said it was considering suing the government for defamation.
The magazine’s director general Yves de Kerdel, added: “The issue aims to tackle a deep problem which the government has shown it is incapable of dealing with.
“It is not aimed at stigmatising a population that suffers from the incompetence of politicians.”
He told l’Express: “All we did was transcribe to the cover the telling results of this survey.”
The controversy follows a string of rows involving the Roma and traveller community in France in recent weeks.
Earlier in the summer, the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) announced it would be suing far-Right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen for incitement to racial hatred for branding the local Roma community of Nice “smelly” and “rash-inducing”.
The next day, Christian Estrosi, the southern city’s Right-wing mayor, was threatened with prosecution for inciting racial hatred against the Roma by saying he “wanted cameras everywhere” to monitor “these criminals”.
Last month, centrist French deputy Gilles Bourdouleix was forced to resign from his party after allegedly claiming “maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough gipsies.” He was said to have muttered the comments under his breath at a meeting with travellers at a camp in the western town of Cholet, where he is mayor.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, was criticised by the European Union for his policy of deporting Roma people. His successor, François Hollande toned down the rhetoric but followed suit. Last year his government deported 13,000 Romanians and Bulgarians an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year.
In Britain, EU “open borders” legislation is due to take effect in January, meaning Romanian and Bulgarians will be free to live and work in the UK, just as they currently are in France.
Last week it emerged that the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain had risen by more than a quarter in three months, according to figures which provide the first evidence of an influx of migrants from the two countries, even before border controls are lifted next year.