EU commissioner denies having apologized for Roma remarks (1st Lead)
Sep 21, 2010, 16:32 GMT
Strasbourg, France - The European Union official at the centre of a furious row with France on Tuesday denied having apologised for drawing parallels between the country's expulsion of Roma and World War II deportations of Jews and Gypsies.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said last week she was 'appalled' by France's policy and she thought it amounted to a 'situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.'
The comparison with Nazi persecutions of Jews and Gypsies, which France's wartime Vichy regime contributed to by deporting people to concentration camps, drew howls of protest from French President Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit on Thursday.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the row erupted, Reding said her remarks had been 'distorted.'
'I regret very much that my sentences were distorted in such a way ... to make some people feel offended, and probably in order not to concentrate on the basic problem but to discuss about subsidiary questions which have nothing to do with the problem itself,' Reding told journalists in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Asked specifically whether that amounted to an apology, she answered: 'No, why?'
Reding told EU lawmakers at a closed-door meeting earlier Tuesday that the commission would consider starting legal proceedings against France on September 29, an official who was present told the German Press Agency dpa.
But the commissioner did not commit to the date with reporters, indicating only that an expert report on the legality of the French measures would be 'ready in a few days' and would be 'discussed very soon' by the commission.