Wednesday 15 September 2010

The Commission bravely missed a good opportunity to stay quiet

"This is not how you speak to a major power like France," said France's junior EU minister, echoing Chirac's comments on the support of some eastern European member states for the Iraq War: "It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."

It was a response to yesterday's strong position taken by Commissioner Reding on the treatment - the mass deportations - of the Roma in France:

"My patience is wearing thin. Enough is enough," Ms Reding said, while pounding her fist on the pulpit.

France will be taken to court by the Commission for breaching EU law, which does not permit mass explusions based on ethnicity, which seems to be have been explicit French policy according to a French memo on the policy. Though the explusions were taking place too quickly for a case-by-case approach (which would have been permitted), French officials had been reassuring the Commission that they would deport people on a case-by-case basis. This deception by French officials empowered to discuss the matter in Brussels has upset Reding too.

I'm glad the Commission is finally taking a strong, outspoken stance on the issue. Reding had made an earlier statement, but this goes much further and has rightly attracted more attention, and is a welcome counter to attempts to make the explusions respectable by Europeanising the issue.

France's response highlights the government's view on Europe: as a place where a privillaged few major powers are treated differently to the smaller member states. This is a destructive attitude for the EU, since it erodes the confidence of small states and of citizens in the Commission when this vision is played out. When Paris feels that it can issue a lettres de cachet and not be effected by the rule of law, it naturally strikes at the heart of a system backed up only by the rule of law. It is easy for the Commission to become trapped between the big states and to play down its voice when they verge on breaking the law, so it's great to see the Commission bravely miss an opportunity to remain quiet.

You can watch Reding's statement here.

1 comment:

  1. It's about Good God's time that something be done about this! Well - already, we see the tendency to want to fall back to wanting to make this "a national problem."

    But - European values are really at stake here, as is part of the founding mission of the European Community. We really do, these days, with a rising radical right gaining political clout - have strong institutions that can really defend human rights.

    Also - don't think that the rest of the international community, which often admired and modeled the European Union - does not see the hypocrisy of pointing the finger at third country human rights violators - but not minding the human rights violations in the EU.