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MEP Peter Pollák on World Roma Day: Mere declarations of willingness to solve problems not enough, it's time for results

8.4.2021 17:47
Romani community member and MEP Peter Pollák was vaccinated against COVID-19 in Slovakia on 29 December 2020. (PHOTO:  Facebook page of Peter Pollák)
Romani community member and MEP Peter Pollák was vaccinated against COVID-19 in Slovakia on 29 December 2020. (PHOTO: Facebook page of Peter Pollák)

Fifty years ago today, Romani people managed to join forces at the first World Roma Congress in 1971. "Our forebears have given us national symbols - the flag, the anthem - and the Romani language. I am proud that a Romani man from Slovakia, Ján Cibuľa, was among them," said Slovak MEP Peter Pollák, who has been appearing at several international forums and congresses today; below is a transcription of one of the speeches he made today.

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Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to take part in this important event to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Romani Congress. Romani people wanted to contribute to greater equality, inclusion and participation already half a century ago. Unfortunately, we have to admit that (also because of the Roma themselves) we have not been able to unite or to formulate our common demands that would be supported by Roma in Germany, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia or anywhere else.

Yes, it is true that many of the events that have taken place during the last 50 years were not entirely in our hands. Therefore, it is necessary to learn from past mistakes and falls, as well as from the successes, and to continue on the path started by the initiators 50 years ago. I am proud that Ján Cibuľa, a Slovak Rom, was one of them.

To have ambition is no longer enough. Today we have the strategies, programs and projects. However, the situation has not improved much. Despite the millions allocated, the living conditions in poor Romani communities are still indecent. A huge number of children are without education. Their parents are without work. Many Roma live in conditions that resemble those on the African continent. At a time when a developed Europe wants to be a leader in automation or digitalization, our children, on that very same continent, get their drinking water from open streams.

The education systems in several countries are unable to prepare Roma children for the labor market. They represent untapped potential for the whole world. It is a luxury that, at a time of labor shortage, it has not been possible to integrate unemployed Roma into the labor market.

COVID-19 has revealed huge failures on the side of the EU Member States in managing the EU's financial resources. The rise of extremism and tension over the last 10 years is also due to a lack of political will and to the fact that money has not reached those who need it the most.

Today we know that without the involvement of Roma themselves in all these processes, including the design of policies and programmes and decision-making, all efforts will fail.

Dear friends, ambition is indeed not enough! No matter what part of the world we come from, we have to look more for what unites us than what divides us.

Fifty years ago, at the World Roma Congress, people from each corner of the globe were able to reach agreement. Today the same is expected from us. The world expects that we will be able to formulate our demands today so that our children, too, will have a future, so that Roma have no problem getting jobs, so that people in the least-developed regions will live in dignity, and so that antigypsysim will no longer be part of our lives.

We all must call on the institutions that are investing into projects in poor Romani communities and tell them it is not enough just to declare a willingness to solve problems, but that it is high time to show tangible results in specific areas. Institutions have to set up measurable targets that can be evaluated regularly. The institutions involved with Romani issues must see us as equal partners, not just participants in projects.

Today there are already a number of educated, experienced, well-prepared Romani youth among us who know what our communities need. We do not want to just be assistants in these projects. We have to be the ones who set up, design and manage and monitor these programmes. We must ask institutions and national governments for results, not phrases and empty promises. We need to set clear, measurable targets - for example, that within a specific period of time, 95 % of Romani localities will have access to water and sewerage systems, or that within five years we will retrain and then employ half of the unemployed Roma. We need to be able to evaluate progress. The phrases they are offering us are not enough.

The situation of the Romani population is serious in many Member States. Urgent action is needed.

Dear friends, as I have already mentioned, 50 years ago Roma from all over the world reached agreement together. We should be grateful to them, they gave us national pride in our symbols such as our flag, our anthem, and our language. Let us follow in their footsteps so that, 50 years from now, they will be proud of us, so they will be able to say we gave our children an education, their parents jobs, the Roma their dignity, and that we silenced the voices of those spreading evil, hate and antigypsyism.

Peter Pollák
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European Parliament, International Roma Day, Slovakia, social exclusion



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