(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 19, 2010
THE French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, seems to have found a sure-fire way to revive his sinking political fortunes. In recent months, he has been buffeted by a series of scandals that have seriously affected his political standing. The president and his associates are deeply mired in the financial skull-duggery involving the L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, and are also trying to stave off charges of illegal party financing. Sarkozy’s popularity ratings had dipped to a record low. Now his ratings seem to be looking up after first affecting a constitutional ban on the wearing of the “hijab” by Muslim women and then ordering the mass expulsions of Roma people (gypsies), originally hailing from Romania and Bulgaria, in the third week of August.
TO EXTREME RIGHT
feelings high among a population reeling from the impact of a prolonged
recession, Sarkozy’s latest moves have won him open praise from the
Right and silent support from even sections of the centre-left. The
fundamentalists in the Left were happy after the French National
passed a resolution that made women wearing veils liable to prison
was only one dissenting vote, and that too from a member of the
“Sarkozy is surfing a radicalisation of public opinion on the question
security and immigration. His declarations are a series of landmines
that he has
slipped under the summer sand. It helps remobilise the right, while at
time creating divisions on the left,” said Laurent Dubois, a professor
shift to the
extreme right became all the more evident after a speech he delivered
speech, racially fuelled clashes had broken out in the towns of
ordered his interior minister, Brice Hortefeux to put an immediate end
“unauthorised gypsy settlements.” The minister had promised to
dismantle 51 of
the 300 Roma camps the government has identified, by the end of August.
Roma were deported within a month after Sarkozy’s
authorities are keeping up the pressure on the sizeable Muslim
French immigration minister, Eric Besson, said he wanted to deny French
citizenship to those citizens who “force their wives to wear full-face
Refuse to shake hands with female officers, or fail to accept the
secularism or non-clerical government.” Leader of the neo-fascist
Front party, Marine Le Pen, was quick to come out in support of
said that Sarkozy was doing what the party had demanded for many years.
commentators have noted that the last time any French government took
draconian steps was during the World War Two. At that time, the puppet
In World War Two, along with the Jews, gypsies were the main groups targeted for extermination by the Nazis. The Nazis and their collaborators killed between 250,000 and 300,000 Romas.
There are an
400,000 people of Roma origin currently residing in
EU GOVT’S SUPPORT
action against the Roma has elicited tacit support from other EU
In mid-September. after some initial flip-flops, the European Commission (EC)has threatened to take legal action against the French government. The EC had earlier stated that it does not view the French action against the Roma as a case of “mass expulsion”. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, an independent human rights body of the Council of Europe has accused the French government of “stigmatizing Roma migrants” and holding them collectively responsible for criminal offenses”. The expulsions however have generated widespread criticism from many other quarters too. The Catholic Church along with the United Nations anti-racism panel, have criticized the French move. Teodor Basconschi, the Romanian foreign minister, has warned against “xenophobic reaction” by European governments in the wake of the economic recession in Europe. “What has happened in France shows that we must have an integration plan across Europe for Roma citizens”, the Minister told the media.
The EU has said that France should adhere to the groupings freedom of movement laws while expelling Roma deemed to be living illegally in the country. The “Socialist Bloc” in the European Parliament has said that France has violated European Union legislation by deporting Roma migrants. “The recent treatment of Roma people in France was appalling and cannot go unchallenged”, said Martin Schulz, the leader of the bloc, the biggest in the European parliament. He said that recent events witnessed in France “should never be repeated”. Ilga Tomova, a researcher on the Roma at the Bulgarian Academy of Science told AFP that she was “saddened that France, the symbol of democracy, was contributing to the stigmatization of the Roma”. The Socialist Party leader, Martine Aubry, issued a statement criticizing Sarkozy “for sliding into anti-republican ideas that hurts France and its values”. But the leader of France’s main opposition party, probably keeping in view the opinion of the French public on the subject, has not yet publicly criticized the anti-immigrant and racist stance of the Sarkozy government.
The French Interior Minister however reacted by saying that his country has nothing to apologize for. “France is the country in Europe which most respects the right of foreigners---so we do not have any lessons to learn”, he said. France is meanwhile putting pressure on Romania on the Roma expulsion issue. France is threatening to block its entry into the EU’s Schengen border free zone if Bucharest fails to control the flow of the Roma or raise the issue in international fora. The French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon in a letter to the European Commission suggested that the $5 billion, the EU gives Romania every year, should be used by the government there to keep the Roma in the country.