European Parliament: Roma in the EU face antigypsyism and everyday discrimination that must stop
According to most members of the European Parliament (EP), Romani people throughout the European Union (EU) are being denied access to education, employment and health care. Some are forcibly displaced and racist assaults on them are investigated very slowly.
Romani people face constant, structural discrimination daily which must end. Those are the findings of a report that was adopted by most of the EP on Wednesday.
There were 470 MEPs voting in favor of adopting the report, 48 opposed and 103 who abstained. According to the submitter of the report, the Romani MEP Soraya Post, this is the first report of its kind to take aim at the widespread intolerance of Romani people in Europe.
"I want to point out the main cause of their exclusion from society and why the stigmatization of Romani people exists at all," Post said before debate began, adding that the situation of Romani people across the Member States is almost identical. "For example in Sweden, which is a very rich and developed country, 80 % of Romani people are unemployed."
"We have never openly acknowledged antigypsyism. It happens at the individual and the institutional level, and it is structural," Post said.
"Europe must acknowledge its failure. The Member States must acknowledge their failure," the Swedish MEP said.
"I am a Romani woman from Sweden from the Sinti group. I was condemned from the moment of my birth. Romani people have been neglected, discriminated against, stigmatized, excluded and dehumanized for 800 years. We have never been good enough for European society to accept us as equal citizens with the same access to fundamental human rights," MEP Post said during the debate, adding that the situation needs to improve.
"We are not demanding anything more or less for Romani people than what we demand for the majority society," her declaration reads. Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (Christian Democrats) responded during the debate by calling the report very critical.
"Madame colleague's report rightfully turns to the Member States with many demands to improve the situation of our Romani fellow citizens, especially in countries where their integration is failing. The submitted report is very critical, as if all states in the EU just inactively ignore the discrimination of their citizens, as if everything were negative, and that is not true. I must thoroughly object to this report as an MEP for the Czech Republic," Šojdrová said during the debate.
"I can confirm that some young Romani children are being discriminated against, but unfortunately they are primarily discriminated against by their own parents who do not bring them to nursery school, who do not enrol them into primary school. I am not saying all of them, because I know many parents where the situation is changing, but if more than 50 % of Romani children are not preparing for primary school, they will not succeed there and they will drop out," the Czech MEP said, drawing attention to the measure introduced by the Czech Republic as of this school year to introduce compulsory preschool education for all five-year-olds.
In her intervention, Šojdrová also reminded her fellow legislators that the Czech Republic decided this year to buy out the pig farm at Lety u Písku, which is located on a Romani genocide site, and said she is proud that it was a Christian Democratic minister who has corrected this historic wrong. "Let's have the courage to criticize and also to recognize cases of good practice," was her closing remark before she abstained from voting on the report, along with her Czech colleagues Evžen Tošenovský, Jan Zahradil and Pavel Svoboda.
All other Czech MEPs voted to adopt the report, with the exception of the MEPs for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (Jiří Maštálka, Jaromír Kohlíček and Kateřina Konečná) and Jiří Payne for the Freedom Party. According to most MEPs, Romani people in Europe face antigypsyism, which is a particular form of racism, an ideology based on racial superiority, and a form of dehumanization, as well as institutional racism fed by historical discirmination that is displayed, among other ways, thorugh violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatization, and the most shameful forms of discrimination.
The MEPs who adopted the report are deeply disturbed by the phenomenon of Romani children being removed from their families and are calling on the Member States to immediately investigate such cases and prevent their recurrence. The countries where Romani women have been illegally sterilized should also apologize and compensate the victims of such treatment.
It is also of concern to the MEPs who adopted the report that most of the main EU programs are unable to deliver aid to Romani citizens. They have called on the Commission, the Court of Auditors and the Member States to monitor the effectiveness of EU programs and to arrange for activities financed by the EU to combat segregation and promote inclusion.
Financing should be cut off in cases of abuse. The EP has also called on the Commission to launch infringement proceedings against those Member States that violate or fail to implement the Equal Treatment Directive.
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