Manuel Valls angers Socialists
Interior Minister Manuel Valls has once again generated controversy following his comments about the Roma people, i.e., gypsies primarily from Rumania. He later expressed his regrets, but the debate did not abate. Since there are so many articles, I'll start with Le Point, which at least gives a little background. The author, Charlotte Chaffonjon, responds to questions:
- The Roma are Manuel Valls' obsession.
- With him, it's not just the controversy of the day. You must remember that it has been a fixed idea ever since he became minister. I can prove it with three dates: On July 31, 2012, he demanded the "dismantling of the Roma camps." On March 15, 2013, he was sure that the "Roma do not want to integrate into our country." And then this past September 24, on France Inter radio, he said: "The Roma are meant to return to Rumania or Bulgaria." One important minister confided: "There are 20,000 Roma. He'd better stop this…." But Manuel Valls does not appear to be reducing the pressure.
- On this question of the Roma, has Valls gone too far?
- We can acknowledge that his statements have the distinction of clarity. But on the left, the tradition is more to hospitality, solidarity, and welcoming. (Note: The image the French have of the left is curious. The tradition has been more to gulag archipelagos, mass murder, thought control and de-culturation. Yet the delusion that the left is composed of goodies, the right of baddies, dies hard.) Not to try to show compassion, at least for show, is an error. If for no other reason than Valls' ultimate goal is to be president of the French Republic. He's cutting off a segment of left-wing voters that he will need to make his dream come true. And he turns attention away from other topics that concern him. According to what he says, crime is down since he has been Interior Minister. But who cares? Not many.
Note: We can assume that if nobody cares it's because any reduction in crime is barely noticeable except to Manuel Valls.
- Yet many elected officials support Manuel Valls on this question of the Roma…
- The elected officials agree with him. Like the Socialist mayor of Évry, Francis Chouat, who complained in Le Monde, and I quote: "In many camps there are illegal businesses, child beggars, prostitution…" Or like the sixteen officials who signed an editorial in the JDD (Journal de Dimanche) in support of Valls. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that they are thinking ahead to the municipal elections. After all, seventy-seven per cent of the French think that Valls is right to say that the Roma should be sent back to Bulgaria and Rumania. But he's taking a risk. The Roma are a problem, but nothing indicates that the left will be voted into office to solve the problem. To be clear, many Socialist leaders think that the Front National will reap the benefits of Valls' positions.
The article closes with a quote from Prime Minister Ayrault, happy for the chance to discipline Valls, who always receives the lion's share of publicity. The quote was captured on the video below, where he addresses the National Assembly, making a case for integration of the gypsies:
- Integration is possible when the laws of the Republic are respected; I am not unaware of certain Mafia-style networks among the Roma, that exploit human misery, that organize the movement between France and Rumania; France has its responsibilities towards those who live in the country and want to integrate; Rumania also has its responsibility to integrate the Roma minority and it admits that aid from the EU has not been adequately used.There is no reason to exacerbate all of these difficult questions. The duty of political leaders is to propose concrete solutions, to progress, to solve problems, not to turn some against the others. And so I call on everybody to remain calm. Calmness is the dignity of the job we perform.
One thing is certain, talking about deporting the Roma, and actually doing it are two entirely different things. So far Valls has been tough on anti-gay marriage demonstrators, throwing them in jail for a trifle, but I know of no specific action he has taken against the Roma except to puff himself up with hollow pronouncements. But more importantly, the Roma are a decoy for the more critical problem of Muslims and Africans. Deporting the Roma, even if you could (many of them have French citizenship), would not begin to mend the cultural, educational, and religious cleavages that have broken the country apart. Nor would it make much of a dent in crime statistics. It's Sarkozy all over again. Like Sarkozy, Valls presents himself as being a committed anti-immigration crime-fighter. With Sarkozy it was all talk, since the few immigrants he sent back were far outnumbered by the ones he allowed to stay. And it was during Sarkozy's term in office that the police were given orders not to shoot at rioters and vandals. It was Sarkozy who placed the gendarmes under the control of the Interior Ministry, instead of Defense where they had always been. So Valls has learned his lesson well from his predecessor and bets that voters will assume he is tough simply because he says he is tough.
Did Valls really make an error when he made those statements about the Roma? He acknowledges that some of his words were ambiguous. (Strangely enough, they were not.) Or did he calculate accurately that his reputation will be enhanced? As of now, no one knows, but the signs are that Marine Le Pen is winning the ideological war and that Valls may actually be losing the support of the voters.