In mid-September Viviane Reding, the EU justice minister, accused France of targetting a specific ethnic group with their crime crackdown policies of the deportation of Roma migrants. Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hurriedprontamente to his French counterpart and friend’s side: ‘the problem of the Roma is not specificially French.’ Italy too had its Roma-EU commission brush-ins in 2008. Nicolas Sarkozy retorted that the European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship should take the Roma into her native Luxembourg. French senator Philippe Marini went one step further by claiming he wished Luxembourg didn’t exist. ‘It must be very comfortable to be a minister or commissioner for Luxembourg,’ he said. ‘This is the happiest situation that can be hoped for in Europe to like Luxembourg, a country which does not even need to recover its taxes.’
The Brussels-based French correspondent for the newspaper Liberation, Jean Quatremer, had his own choice word for the ‘perfectly francophone and germanophone’ Reding: it was ‘simply scandalous’ that she had made her accusations in ‘Shakespeare’s tongue’ and not in French.
Viviane Reding has said she feels ‘strengthened‘ by the polemic over this last week, and has kept her head up high: ‘If a man bangs his fist on the table, it is considered manly, he is defending himself. If a woman bangs her fist on the table she is hysterical,’ as the AFP news agency reported during a press conference in Strasbourg. Except that when Sarkozy banged his fist on the table, this time it was he looked hysterical.