Brussels (AP) -
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding expressed regret over an outburst Tuesday in which she compared
"Madame Reding ... made unacceptable statements about French policy, in particular certain comparisons with the Second World War," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has led
Yet Reding stood by her overall rebuke of
France's deportations of over 1,000 Roma, primarily to Romania, and its dismantling of over 100 Roma camps have revived uncomfortable memories of historic hostilities in Europe that the 27-nation bloc was designed to overcome, and highlighted persistent divisions between richer, older EU members and poorer, newer ones.
The dispute threatens to undermine the EU's efforts to present a unified foreign and economic policy -- the main thrust of Thursday's summit. Instead of constructively building on joint EU foreign policies in
"When we promote free trade, climate change and human rights around the world, we need to have our own backyard in order," said Finland Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb. "And, of course, anything that looks a little bit different, perhaps suspicious or complicated in
German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the criticism of Reding's comments, even though both
"I found the tone and especially the historical comparisons unsuitable," she said. "And I hope we can find a better way."
In the face of the fierce criticism, Reding acknowledged through her office that "there should not be a parallel with World War II."
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said France and the EU should use the summit as "a moment for dialogue."
EU President Herman van Rompuy called Thursday's summit to discuss how the bloc communicates and what its strategic goals are with key countries such as the
Van Rompuy says the bloc, which accounts for 22 percent of the world's economy, is "punching below its weight" and wants leaders to discuss how they can build a common foreign policy message and "deliver it effectively."
The EU has key summits in coming weeks with Asian nations including growing economic powerhouses
The EU suffered a setback Wednesday when the United Nations voted down its bid to have Van Rompuy and foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speak on the EU's behalf, starting at the 65th General Assembly session opening next week.
Ashton played down the vote, calling it a "procedural issue," but it underscored the trouble
Foreign ministers at Thursday's summit are expected to consider a proposal for EU members to waive World Trade Organization tariffs on
Extremely heavy monsoon rains unleashed floods in northwest
In one of its first actions, the summit approved a multibillion dollar free trade deal between the EU and