Reding on Roma: The Committed Commissioner

The statement by Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, on the situation of Roma in Europe is to be welcomed for its unequivocal and forthright commitment to Roma inclusion. It is a firm and eloquent rebuttal to criticisms that the Commission has remained silent in the wake of the crisis prompted by the actions taken against Roma by the French government.  Her personal expression of regret that some of the rhetoric used in Member States of late has been "openly discriminatory and partly inflammatory" is a reminder of just how pervasive anti-Roma sentiment remains in Europe.

Protestations by the French that their actions in razing camps and repatriating Roma are neither racist nor discriminatory have cut little ice in the wider world. Such is the storm of criticism from right across the political spectrum, from religious and civic leaders across Europe, that for many, these actions have acquired the smear of turpitude.  From within the French President’s own party, the policy was described as "turning disgraceful" and the camp evictions likened to World War II round-ups.

This latest tumult is but the incendiary tip of a deeply-rooted and long neglected social crisis of discrimination compounded by abject poverty that has been the plight of the Roma.

Ms. Reding’s offer that the Commission is prepared to initiate open, frank and honest dialogue with all Member States on how best to take on "our joint responsibility for Roma" came with a definite rider: that Member States "respect commonly agreed EU rules on free movement, nondiscrimination and the common values of the European Union, notably the respect for fundamental rights, including the rights of people belonging to minorities."

The participation of the Belgian EU presidency in the forthcoming informal September meeting called by the French of immigration ministers from the "big five" EU states will be important to ensure that the meeting does not live up to its prior billing as an "anti-Roma summit" in the wake of Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni’s declared intent to push for EU endorsement of automatic expulsion of Roma.

For many years, the Open Society Foundations have called for a comprehensive pan-European Roma strategy for inclusion at EU level. The Commission’s Communication in the wake of the 2nd EU Roma Summit last April marked the clearest declaration of intent to date. It openly recognized the need for a coordinated and coherent policy response that is proportionate to the scale of the problem. While the prime responsibility for policy measures to promote inclusion in employment, education, health and housing rests within Member States, the EU has a vital role to play. Reding’s offer that the European Commission "stands ready to act as a broker between Member States and to monitor and assess progress being made" needs to be acted upon.

The EU endorsement of "explicit but not exclusive targeting for Roma" made it possible for development funds to cover housing interventions in favor of marginalized communities, especially Roma. This is a very welcome step forward and the guiding principle of "explicit but not exclusive targeting" needs to be extended to policy and funding interventions in education, health and employment. To ensure that such measures actually make a difference to life chances in the slums and settlements for millions of Roma, the EU needs to go "beyond brokerage," set well-defined benchmarks, and devise a road-map for Roma inclusion.

The Fundamental Rights Agency should be mandated to conduct assessments across Member States, and the Commission should issue annual monitoring reports to accelerate progress, and identify and remedy the abject policy failures that blight so many lives. If the EU’s Platform for Roma Inclusion is to move beyond the realm of good intentions, it needs to be bolstered by a dedicated task force to coordinate, devise and drive policy, to set clear targets and rigorously monitor how European money is spent. There is an urgent need for profound and sustainable change, because the current situation is clearly unsustainable.

In blunt terms, as long as Roma face discrimination and deprivation in their own countries they will continue to migrate. Continued neglect in tackling, as Reding puts it, "the root causes leading Roma to abandon their homes and move across borders" comes at a high price. It creates a vacuum whereby the agenda can be set by right-wing radicals, racists and populists. Moral panics and heavy-handed security responses will not yield sound and sustainable policies for social cohesion and integration. If we are to remain, as  Reding reminds us, "a Community of values and fundamental rights," all democrats need to remain very vigilant in the face of those who would make a mockery of these values and ride roughshod over fundamental rights.

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Forceful, thorough statement, Bernard. Your voice remains essential, thanks for this post. There is no avenue out of this conundrum absent address to education. The work of OSI's Roma Education Fund is crucial.

Dear friends!
I could newer belive, that we should see, this kind of treatment anymoore, of the romapeople. Im "intrestin" why, people lika Sarkosy, who is self a immigrant and have been marriage, with a romawomen, are the worst leaders, according to the romapeople. There are others to, in other countries. In Finland we have Ben Zyskowiz, who belong to the right side. Hes a jewish and all his family, was destroied, in second world war, and he is hard to push out, the beggars roma, who is not a big issue, in Finland.
If this is going on, we are in the same place, as my group was, in before and in the war, exept the big genocide. There are killings of roma, in EuropeSo our people, have no countries to live and grow.
I hope that this is going to stop, before its to late. EU, are not to count on. They shoul have show the place, for countries like France and other countries. "We can not fly away from the world" so you have to meet us with this respect, you meet, "ordinary" people.
Oh my God, what is happen in 2010 to the romapeople, in Europe. Nobody, who is a normal human been, can understand it, not to talk abouth accept it.
Sorry for the sentimental style, in this comment but, Im so worried, what is going on and what shall be come.

My name is Bagir and i am of roma origin, I am working from Sweden for my people, wich by the way is truly a forefront nation when it comes to trying to include the roma people into all of the facets of swedish society, there approche has been exeptional and they have been very patient and understanding whith the roma people.I am 39 years old and have grown up whith my father who was born in poland before the world war 2 his experiences during the war has allways played a part in my childhood and one thing my father thaught me was that never trust the gaje (non roma)for one day when things go bad in the world they will look for someone else to blame there own shortcomings and flaws,and they will turn against us again just as they did before ww2.
I allways used to think that his experiences during ww2 made him paranoid and that the world would never let the same thing happend again, after all the world has changed since then! or has it? I allways argued against him and told him we have to change as a people i order to survive. The old ways of living are over we must go to school and learn how to live in todays world, after all the very survivivel of our people has allways been that we could addapt to any situation or society we allways found no way as a way...But now i dont have the same confidens in advocating my convictions any more, you have to be an idiot if you dont see a reocuring pattern in whats happening in italy and france and other contry`s across europa. And it makes me sad not becuse i am afraid! No on the other hand i know my people we will survive anything, our will and ability to survive is stronger than what this new age napoleon and Il duche´ ever can throw at us, no what makes me sad is that all this work and progress that we have acchived will go to waste, and my people wich were at a changing point of our roma history, will go back to closing all doors of comunication,and another generation of my people will go back to the old ways, never trusting gaje (non roma) again. Please dont let this happen write,mail and call your goverments and protest against this injustice that is going on, dont let history repeat it self. My people will change but you have to take the first step in gaining our trust, we have been thru to much to be able to trust again.

Sincerly your´s Bagir Kwiek chairman of the non profit iddealistic organisation Romer för kulturell utveckling.

The Roma/French case and the political storm stirred up by it will result in the French people despising the European institutions as much as the UK already does.

The Roma camps in France were taking on the looks of shanty towns. There were children living in them that were in danger. The people in the camps have no jobs (or are working illegally outside the French system). Crime linked to the camps was evident.

What exactly do you expect the French to do in this situation? They were not targeting the Roma ... they were targeting the illegal Roma camps.

The French transported them free of charge to their country of origin and gave them all money. I don't see any parallels between that and actions in the second world war and anyone that does is employing idiotic and inflammatory rhetoric that will increase the influence of the far right not decrease it.

What is missing is reasonable legislation on trans border migration in Europe. I have no problem (as I except have most Europeans) with people moving to find work, get education, etc. but if people move just because life is bad in their own country and with no intention of playing a legal role in their host country then that country has to have a legal recourse. The alternative is that the borders will, in the end, go up again.

So let me see if I got this right,They were right in expeling the roma from france becuse they are criminales..? And that they were worried about the children of these criminales..? Do you know anything about the roma people? or are you another one of those who think that we are all filthy thiefes and criminals? Are maybe all italians mafia? or maybe all germans nazi? or all muslim terrorists?
What I meent in my pararell whith ww2 is that there is alot of liknes in what you are doing whith my people now in what you have done in the past, Expeling jews from germany for exaple(expeling roma from france), regegstering roma people in italy(same was done whith jews prior to what followd in polen and other countrys)Explaining that they are all criminales and thats why they should go back to there country of origin..Well my friend our contry of origin is India maybe we should all be sent back there instead, and no we are not all criminales.What the french and others like them should have done is take responibility and initiativ to try to solwe what seems to be a common european problem, and act like a modern democratic european contry,instead of what they have done is just thrown out the "criminals" out and pushed away the problem to "some one else"
What they sould have done is what sweden has done, they try to give the roma people the means to be able get out of the misirable situations,by trying to improve the living conditions in there contrys of origin and forcing the eurponean contrys to agre in giving the roma people equality and dignity and try to help them to get education which in turn can give them jobs,and no!! that does not mean that they give us money to disapear from sweden (how generus of france)but rather give us a chance for an education,make laws that will make it ezeyer for roma people to get jobs,work activly in trying to change the ways that the roma people are lookt uppon by the puplic and trying to remove the stamp on ower fourheads that say Thiefes, give us a chance and a voice and we will change,We the roma people have been in europa for a thusand years and still we are the only ones who have no rights and no one to speak out for the injustises that are commitetd against us Its ok to do whith the "Gipsys" what you want becuse we are nothing but criminales. And all the borders in all contrys and areas of life,freedom and justice have allways been closed for us!! Thank you Martin for your viewes and your idiotic rethorics it just goes to show us there are still people who dont know what there talking about.
Sincerly yours Bagir...

No I'm not a Nazi. No I'm not against any European who wishes to migrate to get available work, Roma or not. I'm against illegal camps on private property, whether Roma or not, which suck up public money that was gathered by taxes on local populations.

The Nazi allegations are just an easy way to stigmatize anyone who sees the camps as a problem that needs to be dealt with. The comparison is ridiculous. As far as I read you would be better to direct this hate towards the Eastern European governments who really have been discriminating against the Roma people for many years.

By the way by your logic why should we stop at the Roma. What makes you so special? There are loads of other populations in the world living in worse conditions than the Roma. I guess we should invite those populations to set up slums in our countries?

No. The laws that are encouraging this only help push countries towards a more right wing position which in the end CAN cause the kind of atrocities that happened during the second world war.

The politically correct idea that every country is responsible for the miseries of the world is a pile of BS.

Instead of trotting out ridiculous comparisons with Nazi Germany the European commission and government needs to focus on a Europe wide solution to the problem strongly based on countries taking responsibility for their own problems. They would then be doing their job ... which would make a difference.

Martin I rest my case....
I dont have to say any more you have summed up al that is wrong whith this world.
There was a priest in polen who said "When they came after the jews I dident say anything becuse I was afraid,netither did I say anything when they came for the gypsies and the others who werent a part of my congregation,when they came after me there was no one left to say anything"

"Omnia homini dum vivit speranda sunt"
(were there is life there is hope"

As a UK citizen I distance myself from Martin Croome's racist comments. In the UK, councils are obligated to provide accommodation for 'travellers' and this would include Roma. Surely it is up to the police and the judiciary to deal with criminal behaviour and not the state to simply throw Roma out. Cannot understand how Sarkozy claims that France is a beacon of freedom and liberal values with that country's complicity in the rounding up of Jews in the second world war, a fascist Vichy regime and parts of southern france now in the hands of the ultra right!! And to cap it all in relation to the burqa, telling people how and how not to dress!

Racist implies that I am singling out one specific group. I'm didn't and I'm not. Read my comments again and show me what exactly is racist.

It's a shame that instead of trying to understand someone's view you have to insult them. This is also a good way to push people to more extreme positions.

My greatest worry is that out of a well placed concern for people's wellbeing European integration programs push Europe into the same nationalistic positions that caused previous wars.

Your comments only deepen my concern. By the way, the increasing prominence of nationalist movements in the UK (cf UKIP and the BNP) show that not all is going well over the channel.

Yes, yes, The word is going crazy, the movements of nationalism being fuelling the hate, and all the growing suspicious, reinforced by claims of criminality among the romani communities - that all are bad to hear, but - it is also necessary for the historical wave of change, for new era which already is on the way - and now all that bad new and treatment against roma, it is all to bee need to drive out all that false stuff and propagator in the sunlight, and uncover them who have been hidden up till now.
The new movement will be need this all that could ending only to be culminating to the start of the new begin.
Every active hearing towards final movement need always situoations as misery and slavery simple, because the victory can only grow up from misery.
The poor, and poverty as the question is in this case - nothing else - have always stated their fighting from bottom, but the moment - as one could say - then moment must be right when the angel raise her wings.

"the movements of nationalism being fuelling the hate"

The movements of nationalism are fueled by fear, not hate. Hate is just the result of the fear. Unless the fear is dealt with it will generate more nationalism.

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