Lawmakers from the far-right were the only ones to defend French President Nicolas Sarkozy's tough policies towards the Roma during a debate in the European Parliament yesterday (2 September).
A discussion on France's Roma expulsions, held in the Parliament's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE), saw the European far-right take the floor in defence of Sarkozy.
Due to time constraints, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the chair of the committee, gave only one minute for each MEP to react to a Commission presentation on France's controversial policy.
Françoise Le Bail, the Commission's new director-general for justice, explained that the EU executive had not yet finalised its assessment of the conformity of the measures by the French government with EU legislation.
She explained that an additional technical meeting will take place today (3 September) and that the Commission's first reactions would probably be heard at a plenary discussion, scheduled in Strasbourg on 7 September.
Le Bail said the Commission was ready to play the role of "honest broker" between member states over situations such as the one between France and Romania, but she also appealed for a "concerted effort" at national, European and regional level to deal with the problems of the Roma community.
Strangely, Bulgaria and Romania, the countries of origin of the Roma expelled from France, were almost absent from the discussion. Ioan Enciu (S&D, Romania), took the floor to speak about the "specific" nature of Roma ethnicity, while the only Bulgarian MEP present at the meeting, Stanimir Ilchev (ALDE), left just before the discussion.
Only Dutch Freedom Party member Daniël van der Stroep and Philip Claeys of the Flemish Vlaams Belang, both non-attached, spoke in favour of the expulsions. Both said they knew very little about what was going on between the Roma and the French authorities, but insisted that any European country should be free to expulse not only Roma, but foreigners in general.