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The French president invariably hogs the limelight at EU summits but, even by the high-octane standards of Nicolas Sarkozy, the one-day leaders’ summit in Brussels in September proved spectacular. At a lunch, the fierce rift between Paris and Brussels over the rights of the Roma came to a head with all the politesse and diplomatic etiquette of a scene from Reservoir Dogs.

The clash ended weeks of tension which had been simmering after the leak of a French government circular. This document made it plain that, in clearing illegal camps, the French authorities had targeted the Roma—in breach of both…

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