French unions on the Roma: condemn xenophobia but offer solutions
French union leader Francois Chereque has briefed the ETUC Steering Committee on the subject of the expulsion of the Roma from France. He says that President Sarkozy’s approach is xenophobic, “entirely out of kilter with European values” and the French constitution. But he added that unions and parties of the left needed to offer alternatives.
Chereque, General Secretary of the moderate (ie social democrat) French union confederation CFDT, accused Sarkozy of discriminating against people not just on the basis of their nationality but even of their parents’ birthplace. He had suggested that even if people were born in France, and therefore automatically French citizens, they might lose that status if they misbehaved before their 18th birthday if their parents were born abroad!
This was especially unacceptable, he said, because 40% of French people trace their roots back to other countries like Spain, Italy and so on.
Sarkozy’s approach, Chereque claimed, was unacceptable electoral populism. In the run up to the late 2011 Presidential elections, he was likely to be nationalist at home, internationalist abroad: hence his support at the UN on Monday for Financial Transactions Taxes.
But Chereque admitted that people living near Roma camps know they are living in squalid unacceptable standards, and people who live near them are open to racist ideas. They are not in the poshest areas – “we need an integration policy with access to schools, the labour market and decent housing.”
He concluded that people need alternatives that left parties are not currently offering. “We need to condemn but also propose solutions.”