EU inaction on Roma is a disgrace

OK I have a bee in my bonnet. Today is “International Roma Day” and I find it truly astonishing that in this day and age Europe’s nations continue to not only tolerate prejudice against the Roma community, but in some cases peddle hatred against them.

There are an estimated six million Roma in the European Union, yet they face increasingly widespread discrimination, racially-motivated violence, forced evictions and segregation. 

The simple fact is that more than a decade after EU anti-discrimination laws were adopted, EU member states are failing to enforce these laws to combat this discrimination. 

The 2000 EU Race Equality Directive clearly prohibits discrimination on grounds of race and ethnicity in a variety of areas including access to goods and services, social protection, health, housing, employment and education.  Yet Amnesty’s new briefing – Human rights here. Roma rights now – points out, discriminatory policies and practices against the Roma are still common in EU member states in all of these areas, and, to date, the European Commission has failed to act effectively.

In housing, Amnesty has documented forced evictions of Roma communities in several EU countries, including Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia and in some cases those communities have been moved lock, stock and barrel to polluted sites or to houses that do not comply with the very basic of habitability standards.

Often unable to afford rents in the private housing markets, hundreds of thousands of Roma in Europe are also denied access to social housing. 

In education, tens of thousands of Romani pupils in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Greece attend segregated Roma-only schools and classes or institutions for students with “mild-mental disability” where they are taught a reduced curriculum. Hard to believe in 2013.

Faced with such serious human rights violations by EU member states, it is difficult to understand why the European Commission has not yet acted more swiftly and strongly

The EU has plenty of laws at its disposal. It can initiate infringement proceedings against any of the 27 member states whose policies or practices are contrary to EU law, including the Race Equality Directive.

It has used its arsenal of sanctions in areas such as transport and taxation, yet not a single piece of action has been carried out to date against member states whose polices or practices are discriminatory against the Roma.

The EU prides itself on being “founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, but daily experiences of discrimination against Roma starkly show that the EU has yet to translate these principles into reality for one of Europe’s largest ethnic minorities.

Today, of all days, the EU should start to wake up and put a stop to this ingrained and disgraceful prejudice.

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