On Slate.fr Thomas Legrand assesses the 30 August appearance of Hortefeux as a betrayal of republican values.
The five point programme against the Roma and Travellers (and headlined as such) had been announced by Hortefeux, following a meeting with president Nicolas Sarkozy 28 July 2010: Gens du voyage et Roms : cinq mesures pour lutter contre les camps et les comportements illégaux.
Our “Romagate” learning experience continues to profit from statements made by French government representatives. Pierre Lellouche, Secretary of State for European Affairs, colloquially minister for Europe, is an indispensable acquaintance in this respect.
According to the news agency AFP, Lellouche lashed out at the threat of an infringement process because of the wording of an administrative letter:
"On est en train de dresser le procès européen de la France pour la façon dont une circulaire est rédigée".
It may be true that the leaked memorandum specifically targeting Roma combined with the French ministers’ assurances to the contrary in discussions with the commissioners Reding and Malmström was an important triggering factor for the Commission.
However, the French government’s whole plan seems to have been targeted at Roma and Travellers, and the ministers have been keen to exploit all gains in terms of public relations, so despite the ministers’ total ignorance of the missive, the directive seems to have worked according to plan.
Lellouche on Europe
According to AFP and for the benefit of his fellow-citizens, Lellouche also shed some light on the relationship between his country and the European Union:
"La France est un grand pays souverain. On n'est pas à l'école. Nous appliquons notre loi", a-t-il martelé en réponse à des questions sur les réactions européennes. "Je n'ai pas l'intention d'être traité, au nom de la France, comme un petit garçon", a-t-il ajouté.
Il a aussi contesté que la Commission européenne soit la gardienne des traités européens, ce qui est pourtant l'une de ses missions. "Le gardien des traités c'est le peuple français", a-t-il dit.
The European Union shall respect the equality of the member states (Article 4 TEU), so the putative greatness or actual population figure for France is irrelevant in this context.
France has voluntarily pooled parts of its sovereignty with the other EU member states, which means that they have gained rights and assumed responsibilities under the Treaties. These questions are determined by EU law, so sovereignty is the wrong argument here.
EU law is – within the powers conferred to the EU – French law, but there is no separate French law applicable (at will?).
Having lied and having been caught, Lellouche resents being exposed for what he is. He invented the apt schoolboy parable.
The European Commission is the “guardian of the Treaties”. According to Article 17 TEU the Commission shall ensure the application of the Treaties and oversee the application of EU law, under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
It is astounding that Lellouche is still minister for Europe after alleging that the French people is the guardian of the Treaties. (He may have intended it only for situations regarding France directly, but with his formula European integration would return to its state before 1951; no mean erasure in so few words.)
On Slate.fr Jean-Sébastien Lefebvre offers Europe minister Lellouche a basic EU law course, after the minister’s attacks on the Commission and commissioner Viviane Reding.
Mieux connaître vos droits en Europe sent minister Pierre Lellouche a quick remedial course on European law, starting with the principle of non-discrimination, part of the genetic code since the 1957 Treaty of Rome.
Eckart D Stratenschulte, on The European Circle (in German), spoke about dangerous nonsense (Gefährlicher Unsinn), when he referred to Lellouche’s statement that the guardian of the Treaties is not the Commission, but the French people. Professor Stratenschulte put it succinctly:
Die Abschiebung der Roma ist ein Verstoß gegen europäisches Recht. Dieser Satz ist jedoch seine Abschaffung.
In other words, the expulsion of Roma is an infringement of European law. This sentence means abolishing it.
How can we hope that the citizens ever understand the European Union, if the ignorance of the French political elite is anything to go by?
Update 20 September 2010: On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer has just published a French perspective on the arguments of Pierre Lellouche.