EU urged to take further action on Roma ‘discrimination’
By Martin Banks
03/09/2012 – EU commissioner Viviane Reding has been told that efforts to ease restrictions on east Europeans in France will be “pointless” unless further action is taken.
The European network against racism (ENAR) said it welcomed the French government’s proposal to lift employment restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens in France.
It also greets its willingness to put the issue on the EU council’s agenda, saying this is “a first step towards encouraging the inclusion of Roma in Europe”.
However, in a letter to Reding, the justice commissioner, ENAR said “these positive steps will be pointless unless additional action is taken”.
This, it says, should include “anti-Gypsyism and structural discrimination” in the labour market – as well as in other areas such as education, housing, access to goods and services – being addressed.
The letter said, “Opening up jobs for Roma from Romania and Bulgaria will not help if employers do not hire them as a result of widespread prejudice.”
It goes on to say that “forced evictions of Roma communities must stop.
“As part of its obligations under international human rights law, France needs to ensure that nobody is forced into homelessness or made vulnerable to human rights violations as a result of evictions.
“Beyond human rights considerations, these evictions are also costly and counter-productive since many of the ‘returned’ Roma, enticed with 300 euros, have left France only to return again.”
This, says ENAR, is due to the poor conditions in which they live at home “being far worse than the precarious” conditions in French camps.
The organization also wants action to tackle the “systematic discrimination and extreme deprivation” faced by Roma in Romania, Bulgaria, and other eastern European countries.
“The EU needs to put pressure on these countries’ governments to respect anti-discrimination laws and to introduce measures to ensure their Roma communities are included in society.
“We call on the European commission and on European heads of state and government to make real the commitment to the social inclusion of Roma communities in Europe.
“A groundbreaking agreement was achieved last year with the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies, but little has been achieved since then.
“The national strategies submitted by member states to the commission in March show a clear lack of political will to confront the continued rise of anti-Gypsyism in Europe.
“We need to make discrimination and racism against the Roma a priority to make a real difference in the lives of Roma. Moreover, involving and empowering Roma would be a crucial step for achieving positive change.”
The letter, also sent to French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault, said, “The EU institutions should react publicly against any manifestations of racism targeting the Roma and hold member states accountable whenever the rights of Roma are under attack.
“The commission should support awareness raising campaigns and actions that tackle prejudice and discrimination towards the Roma.
“The EU institutions should directly involve Roma in policy development and implementation on issues that impact them, through a meaningful dialogue between Roma people and organisations, local authorities and European institutions.”