Roma MEP defends Italy’s fingerprinting measures
The decision by the government of Silvio Berlusconi to fingerprint Roma in Italy was well intentioned, says Lívia Járóka, a Hungarian MEP from the centre-right EPP-ED group, in an interview with EurActiv Hungary.
"I see the good aim on the governments side," said Járóka, who is of Roma ethnicity herself.
She considers that calls by the European Parliament to stop fingerprinting Roma in Italy have lost relevance since the measure has now been extended to every person living in the country.
Lívia Járóka is Director of a working group on Roma at the centre-right EPP-ED group in the European Parliament and is vice-president of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Parliamentary Intergroup.
Earlier this month, EU lawmakers adopted a damning resolution (by 336 votes for, 220 against and 77 abstentions) condemning the fingerprinting measures as constituting an "act of discrimination based on race and ethnic origin". The Council of Europe had earlier also issued an unusually strong statement suggesting that the plan amounted to fascism (EurActiv 30/06/08).
But Járóka argues that the fingerprinting is "needed" as part of a wider effort to issue identification papers "to those children and immigrants who have absolutely no documents".
Since the public outrage sparked by the measures, the Italian government has sought to defuse the row by launching a plan under which fingerprints would feature on the identity cards of all Italian citizens and residents from 2010. The Italian Parliament passed the proposal in a vote on 17 July.
Resentment towards Roma has grown in Italy following the establishment of many illegal camps in recent years. Some camps outside Naples were even torched by locals and Silvio Berlusconi built strongly on this resentment in his election campaign.
According to Járóka, the most efficient solution to fight Roma segregation would be to give them more jobs. "Jobs for real salary," she stresses, saying "this can make Roma tax-paying citizens". She condemned a proposal by Hungarian local authorities that would link social benefits delivered to the Roma population to their participation to public works.
Járóka also criticised European institutions for failing to address the problems of the Roma people effectively. She points out that the Commission already has prepared a policy paper as part of its new social agenda unveiled early July but regretted that "it does not bring too many good ideas".
While Lívia Járóka says anti-Roma feelings are becoming stronger in Europe, she expressed her hope that the media could do more to change the negative stereotypes about them. Few media people really understand the problems of Roma and the Roma culture, she lamented.
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