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Sarkozy’s Trouble On Two Fronts: Treatment Of Roma; Press Freedom …

  • September 15th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

viviane-reding.jpgThe European Commission has accused the French government of deceiving it over its treatment of Roma people, and of ethnic discrimination, in breach of the law.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is in the meantime facing a “Watergate” confrontation over the so-called Betancourt affair; the influential newspaper Le Monde says he has breached media freedoms by sending the security services to track down a leak.


The European Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding (picture), has delivered a deliberate and calculated intervention against the French President, raising the possibility of a case against his government in the European Court.

She said French government policy against the Roma, or gypsies, moving hundreds out of encampments and deporting them to Bulgaria or Romania, violated principles of European Union law.

“Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe. It is incompatible with the values on which the European Union is founded”, she said in a video media release.

VIDEO: See Viviane Reding: :  “Statement by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding on the Roma situation in Europe” , 14.9.10., (15.9.10).


Likening actions of the Sarkozy government to the deportations during World War II, from France as in several other countries in that time, she said she was appalled by the  situation, which gave the impression “that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority.”

“This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War,” she said.

The European commissioner, herself hailing from Luxembourg, has now raised the possibility of proceedings for infringement of treaty obligations which could lead to heavy fines against the French state.

That move from Brussels followed an incident in which the Commission  recovered a copy of an internal French government memorandum, written in August, ordering that the Roma camps be cleared within  three months.

It contradicted assurances given to the Commission by two of Sarkozy’s Ministers about their policies and plans of action.


Mr Sarkozy has run into a confrontation with the news media over latest developments in the “Bettencourt affair”, accused by the Executive Editor of Le Monde of using the state security service to probe a leak of information.

Allegations that the l’Oreal cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, and her husband, had given large amounts in cash to right wing politicians, extended to Mr Sarkozy in his days as Mayor of the exclusive Paris suburb of Neuilly, where they lived.

kauffman-sylvie-editorsweborg.jpgThe matter has become something of a French “Watergate”, with the unraveling of allegations of illegal transfer or management of funds, official inquiries, the interrogation of Ministers and officials, and their exoneration from blame, followed by fresh developments and claims made against them.

Now there is talk in Paris of a “gorge profonde” (Deep Throat) in the system.

The Le Monde editor, Silvie Kauffman (picture), has defended the use of information obtained from confidential sources, stating that the Presidency was behind a government security investigation into the leak.

“We have statements from several people even within the security services who have attested to the investigations being made against our sources of information.

“These people say that a report we published on 18 July [concerning the involvements of a government Minister, Eric Woerth], greatly upset the Elysee Palace.

“Because of that they were ordered to find the source of the articles in Le Monde”, she said.

See also, EUAustralia Online, “Veils, financial scandal on Paris agenda”, 14.7.10.


The pressure coming from two eminent women has put fresh pressure on Nicolas  Sarkozy, husband of the celebrated beauty Carla Bruni, sometimes called “President Bling-Bling” for his salubrious style.

Trailing in opinion poll support at this time, he has been accused of staging the crack-down on Roma people, and also the passage of a ban on the burqa worn by many Islamic women in France, to try to get an anti-foreigner vote – though his poll figures of late have stayed sluggish.


Is Sylvie Kauffman of le Monde, in this new era of Watergate, conscious of finding herself in the role of a latter-day Mrs Graham?

mrs-graham-freemediaat.jpgThe late Katharine (Katie) Graham (picture), as proprietor of  the Washington Post, backed up the editors and reporters who probed covert, and illegal  political activities linked to President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, eventually leading to his resignation.

Ms Kauffman, a former Washington correspondent with Le Monde, this week declared that the confrontation over a government’s probe against her newspaper raised a much larger issue of freedom of speech.

Cette affaire ne concerne pas que ‘Le Monde’ mais l’ensemble de la presse”, (this affair done not just concern Le Monde, but the whole of the media), she said.


Le Monde /, Paris, Societe – Sylvie Kauffmann, directrice de la rédaction du “Monde”: “Cette affaire ne concerne pas que ‘Le Monde’ mais l’ensemble de la presse”, 14.9.10.[NL_Titresdujour]-20100914-[zonea]&ens_id=1410691, (15.9.10).

Laurent Thomet, “EU threatens France with legal action over Roma ‘disgrace’”, AFP, Brussels, 14.9.10., (15.9.10).

World Editors Forum,, “Sylvie Kauffman”., (15.9.10).


Viviane Reding ec; Sylvie Kauffman, Katharine Graham