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Sarkozy Sharply Contradicted by Merkel on Roma Issue

Translated Monday 20 September 2010, by Ellie Walsh and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The German chancellor Angela Merkel did not speak to Sarkozy about Roma camps in Germany, “neither during the EU summit nor on the margins of it” a spokesperson claimed in Berlin on Thursday evening, contradicting the French president.

One of them is lying: on Thursday evening the German government categorically denied that Angela Merkel supported Sarkozy’s policy towards the Roma and that she had spoken to him about similar expulsions in the future in Germany. Whether it was during the EU summit or “on the margins of it”, “there were no such remarks made by the Chancellor” claimed the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. This was tactfully attributed to a “misunderstanding” on the part of Sarkozy. Expelling the Roma “would, moreover, go against the German Constitution and we are not considering this matter” he added. The Minister simply reaffirmed the German government’s position, according to which the expulsions ordered by the French government cannot be compared to the policies of the Third Reich, as they were by the European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding, before she then went on to apologize.

Sarkozy asserted that the German chancellor had confided in him that she too intended to carry out “evacuations of the camps” in the coming weeks, a bit of information that was immediately denied by German diplomats. In Brussels, he boasted of “complete, total and full support once again from Angela Merkel on this issue as on so many others”.

For the time being, the Élysée has made no comment on these German denials. As though all that mattered was that Sarkozy appeared to have seized the European agenda for his own benefit.

Even the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was unable to come to the aid of the head of state and indicated on Friday that he was not aware of an exchange taking place the day before between the President and the German chancellor. Questioned on the Europe 1 radio station about the issue of who was lying, Bernard Kouchner responded: “History will decide. Personally, I wasn’t present (at a discussion on this matter, ed.) even though I was there the whole time”.

Moreover, Kouchner confirmed that there had been a “rather lively” exchange on Thursday during the EU summit in Brussels between Nicolas Sarkozy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. “Everyone plays their part. It’s not a bed of roses and so there were honest and rather lively exchanges. It’s often like that: there was one on the Middle East, on Pakistan — there’s always one”, the Minister assured. While Sarkozy made no reference in his press briefing to a heated exchange with Barroso.

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