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France is grappling with threats within its borders and the question over who it welcomes inside those borders. Parisians are on alert following terrorist threats from abroad. And the nation narrowly escaped legal action by the European Commission over its controversial crackdown on Roma, or gypsies, who are being deported by the thousands. We discuss the mood on the ground in the city of light.
- Eros Sana Chief of Staff for French Senator Jacques Muller; grassroots activist; editor for the magazine Basta
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, it's our regular food Wednesday segment. We look at consolidation in the pork industry and what it means for you and your food budget. But first, the City of Light is a city on edge this week as it grapples with threats inside its borders and questions over who it welcomes inside those borders. First, terrorism fears have swept the European continent and Paris in particular. The Eiffel tower has been evacuated twice, train stations have been cleared and military vehicles are patrolling the streets.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe mounting anxiety stems from intelligence pinpointing Paris as a particular target for a suicide attack. Meanwhile, France narrowly escaped legal action today of its crackdown on Roma, or gypsies, who have been deported by the thousands this year. The European commission said it would not bring charges, even though the European commissioner for justice had compared the deportations to the atrocities of World War II. Joining us to give us the latest from Paris on these two stories is Eros Sana, chief of staff for French Senator Jacques Muller and grassroots activist, editor for the magazine Basta. Eros Sana, thank you for joining us.
MR. EROS SANAThank you, Kojo. I'm very glad to be -- this morning. (unintelligible) friends.
NNAMDIGood to talk to you again. First, a bit of background. How visible are the Roma in Paris and how are they viewed by Parisians?
SANAHow visible they are now, how they viewed? First of all, we have the -- we have a very romantic vision of Romas. Don’t forget that we call the bohemians the Roma. We call the gypsies singers. We have a famous jazz man, Django Reinhardt who was a gypsy, a Roma. And in such a way, we have ladies' romantic vision. In the same time, we have like the opening of the -- of our high from social issues. Roma, all around Europe, are poor people. Wherever they come from, Hungaria, Romania, France, they are poor people that are struggling. Struggling to survive. And the people that have a different way of life, they are many people. And so although we see them, of course we have some stereotypes and clichés. But for most of the time up 'til now, despite of cliché, they were living little world.
SANAThey had some sickness and many of them -- but they were living well. Since the last summer, they...
NNAMDIOf course, one...
SANA... were new targets of (word?) poisoning.
NNAMDII was about to interrupt and say, Eros, one of the clichés, one of the stereotypes of Roma, indeed some people would say one of the realities, among many, is that some Roma are seen as being a little too, how shall I say this, aggressive in their entreaties from tourists and others, that some people consider it, well, frankly, stealing.
SANAWell, which national category does it steal? You have seasonal -- every category. Even French people steal. So why would we target just one category of people?
NNAMDIWhich brings me to the next question. Go right ahead.
SANAAnd especially because you had some Roma or thieves since many times. So the question is, why is it now emergency for the power of Nicolas Sarkozy?
NNAMDIThe answer to that question?
SANAIs that the Sarkozy administration has one of the worst summer ever. Faculty first is very low on the poll. Very, very low. And we talking about someone we used to be the most privileged political figure of French politics since five years when he was the former minister of (word?). He was running ahead in the poll. Since more than one years now, is very, very low on the poll and he lost the last regional election. And once he had the summer, which we have our minister of labor, someone called Vert (sp?) who is -- did in big scandal with Madame Bettencourt, the heir of the L'Oreal fortune. And one way to divert people, to give people a backbone to see something else, was to have this aggressive speech and aggressive measure against the Roma.
SANAAnd especially because he thinks that losing the last election was because he wasn't hard enough. That he didn't talk enough, harder on security. And so he erased the level of frights on people. And now, we have this situation -- this atmosphere and we have again in French history -- it's not the first time that we target the Roma for what they are not.
NNAMDISo you are saying that the targeting of the Roma is essentially political and that it is not in response to any real kind of crisis that is occurring in France right now. In case you're just joining us, we're talking with Eros Sana, who is chief of staff for French senator Jacques Muller and a grassroots activist. He's editor of the magazine Basta. We're taking your phone calls at 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website kojoshow.org. Eros, as we mentioned, the European commission announced today that it would not bring charges against France...
NNAMDI...over its deportation of the Roma. First, what is the reason for that decision and second, what kind of response are you seeing to it in Paris?
SANAI think, Europe -- the European union is facing very hard time. They don't forget that the current state -- whereas the head of the (word?) union, is Belgium that doesn't have any government right now. And we're facing the worst crisis that we ever face since the creation of the E.U. And the E.U. commission doesn't want to have a new fight with one of the main E.U. member. And especially because it's very hard to have legal evidence that a French government violated the European conventions and treaties.
NNAMDIBut if -- and by the way, allow me to invite our callers at 800-433-8850. Have you noticed the Roma in public places in Paris or other European city -- cities? What's your take on the France deportation of the Roma? 800-433-8850 or you can send us an email to email@example.com. But there seems to be a kind of, what we would call, catch 22 here, Eros Sana, and that is that aren't the Roma originally from places like Romania? Aren't they a part of the European union and therefore don't they have the right to travel any place, including back to France? If they are deported, can they not simply return?
SANAYeah, you are pointing something very interesting. For every Roma that are deported right now, all of them, I'm going to say, all of them have the right as soon as they arrive in the country to come back in France. Because, like, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungria are member of the E.U. They do have the right to walk in every European states. The thing is that you don't -- you cannot settle yourself in a country without the authorities -- the authorization of the -- that country. So they cannot stay in France more than three months. So after three months, they are deported. Sometimes they -- the French government give them some money and then they can come back. So this is a real futile measure.
NNAMDIOne more political question on this Eros, what benefit, in the view of many ,does President Sarkozy derive from these deportations?
SANAI didn't get you?
NNAMDIWhat is the political benefit that President Sarkozy either derives or expects to derive from these deportations?
SANAWhat we have right now in France, we have, like, an increase of a sitting of (unintelligible) season. And especially we have the extreme right wing party called the Front National, the National Front. We had a very good score in the late regional elections. So Sarkozy was preparing two major elections in this coming two years. One from the senate and the second one from the presidential, wants to have the vote from people of his party. And so what he's doing right now is trying to (word?) that vote by using the speech of the party. Literally word by word, sometime he use the word that Jean-Marie Le Pen used 10 years ago, five years ago. And now, the president of France is using the same speech and he's applying those measures.
SANAAnd what he's doing, it's so not common with French President that he's facing a lot of criticism from the center right to the left wing.
NNAMDIHere is Tom on the phone in Gainesville, Fl. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMYeah, actually, I'm right here in Virginia, Kojo. But I wanted to answer your question, have we seen the gypsies in action in the trains of Europe. And the answer is anybody who goes over there can see it. When I saw a crew of two gypsies, children and a man under a train in Barcelona ten years ago, I said, uh-oh, watch out, gypsies. My French wife, like your interviewee, immediately chastised me for my prejudice. And then, we immediately saw them go into action and very professionally picked a pocket of a German tourist. That's what they train the kids to do. That's their tradition.
TOMHow can you so flippingly dismiss it saying there's people from all nationalities who've stolen? What kind of relativism is that? This is a -- people who come in and live illegally and take pride in stealing from the dumb marks of the non-rom. Who would welcome such a people? I completely agree with Sarkozy policy. Whatever party originated the idea. Thank you.
NNAMDIEros Sana, care to respond to that, please?
SANAYeah, I can respond to that. Like I said before, most of the people who are in French jails, are French people. They are not Roma. And the thing is, first of all, Roma are poor people. Secondly, Roma are one of the most disconnected category of people in Europe that have disconnected for centuries in Romania, in Hungria and in Bulgaria. And what they're facing right now is that in every places they go, they cannot have the condition to live in the country and to have the right to work. So what will they do? Really, I’m asking people, why are we saying that the most important risk of French democracy is two young Romas, girl or children stealing someone's wallet?
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Tom. Eros, I'd like to move on to another issue. It's my understanding that security is very tight in Paris right now due to concerns over a potential terror attack. The Eiffel tower was evacuated yesterday. What kinds of security are you seeing on the streets and in the metro right now?
SANASince now one month, we are like you guys were just two years after 9/11. Day after day, the intern minister is increasing the level of threats. And, for example, you mentioned the Eiffel Tower had been evacuated. One week ago, there were like a threat of so-called Muslim woman who'd attempt to -- had a (word?) bomb attack on the French subway. So it's like mostly a fear that we're facing right now. And it's very strange because most of the people that working in the intelligence services -- and I worked for a senator who was a member of the standing committee against counter-terrorism for three years.
SANASaying that, for most of the time, France is not threatened by terrorists groups for -- if you compare it with the, for example, U.K. or the U.S. So it's like I say before, the security administration is using it like a backbone to divert people from one thing. For example, right now we are talking about a new pension load that are -- is being -- talking French parliament.
NNAMDISo the focus on security, as far as you're concerned, like the deportation of the Roma is also political. If indeed it is political, do you or do you know anyone who is taking particular precautions due to the security situation? Or are most Parisians -- do most Parisians share your view, that it's political and that there's not necessarily any particular threat?
SANAFortunately, people just don't buy it. All the café are full of people, the metros, too. And thank God, French people are saying -- are not buying the fact that they have not to take the subways, they have to be careful about whatever Muslim woman will be on their side and they're living the life. And what you have to understand is that people from Sarkozy's party are also saying that it should not use the terrorist threat as a political bargain for its coming presidential campaign.
NNAMDIWe'll have to see what happens. Eros Sana is chief of staff for French Senator Jacques Muller and he's a grassroots activist. He's editor for the magazine Basta. Eros, thank you once again for joining us.
SANAThank you very much.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, consolidation in the pork industry and how it's affecting your budget and your health. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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