MINELRES: Fwd: Roma in Europe: MEPs vote on anti-discrimination measures

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Fri Feb 1 10:51:33 2008

Original sender: Roma Virtual Network <romale@zahav.net.il>

Roma in Europe: MEPs vote on anti-discrimination measures
Citizens’ rights - 31-01-2008 - 12:22
With 10 million Roma people in the European Union and levels of
employment and poverty disproportionately high among them, MEPs on
Thursday voted on a European strategy to try and improve the lives of
the Roma community. Often discrimination in jobs and schooling are just
some of the problems that Roma people face in Europe. Ahead of the vote
we spoke to Hungarian MEP's of Roma origin Livia Jaroka and Viktoria
Mohacsi about the strategy and the situation of the Roma in Europe

It is estimated that there are 10 million Roma in the EU. This makes
them more numerous than the population of 14 of the Union's 27 members.
Roma communities are mainly based in Romania, Bulgaria or in Hungary. In
the last four years all these states have joined the EU pushing the
issue up the political agenda. Roma often suffer from racial
discrimination, poverty and social exclusion. 
Ahead of the vote we put some questions to the two MEPs;
The draft resolution recognizes "that the social inclusion of Romani
communities is still a goal to be achieved". Why hasn’t this been the
case yet? 
Viktoria Mohacsi (Liberal ALDE) told us that "while Member States
recognize the need of integration of Roma, most of them are not taking
responsibility for creating steps to solve the problems".
She went on to say that "the lack of minority policy of the EU could
also be a possible reason: some countries recognise the Roma as a
minority, some of them declare that all people have the same rights
according to the constitutions".
Livia Jaroka (EPP-ED): "The successful integration of Europe's youngest
and most rapidly thriving minority shouldn't fall victim of
narrow-minded party politics, since it would be a national, moreover an
all-European interest. Unfortunately parties are afraid of losing their
voters by bringing up the Roma issue and also the civil movements are
too weak, so there is no real Roma representation".
In many States Roma live in slums and are can be even expelled from the
country. What can be done to provide better living conditions?  
Livia Jaroka: "The appearance of large migrant groups in Western Europe
is the complete failure of the states that they have left. Roma and also
non-Roma migrants leave their countries, because of the terrible
situation they have to face, namely segregated living conditions and
segregated education-systems as well as poverty and social exclusion.
Roma people see the country they live in as their motherland and they
want to contribute to their societies as well".
"The European Parliament has sent a clear answer when it adopted the
resolution on free movement, on November 14, 2007", says Viktoria
Mohacsi. (This resolution "reaffirm" the value of the free movement of
persons as a fundamental principle of the European Union” and advocate
the establishment of a network of organisations dealing with the social
inclusion of Roma as well as the promotion of awareness-raising
instruments regarding the rights and duties of the Roma community).
Ms Mohacsi told us that "in some Member States ignoring the fact that
free movement is basic principle for the Roma also. That's why this
resolution on European Roma Strategy reflecting on the case of housing
is important".
One of the concrete solutions proposed would be micro-credit: can you
explain why it can be a solution?
Livia Jaroka: "I believe that a properly elaborated micro-credit scheme
might be an important instrument for the empowerment of excluded
communities, as the example of Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank
(which won the 2006 Nobel peace prize) shows. Micro-credit might be the
only tool that can replace usury which is one of the greatest problems
within Roma communities".
"In most countries, the unemployment rates amongst Romani communities
are still higher than 80%, because of exclusion from the education
system. Micro-credit scheme could be one of the adequate possibilities
to promote self-employment" says Mohacsi.
Do we need a more collective, pan-European effort to tackle Roma issues? 
"Only 5 Member States (out of 27) created an action plan for the
integration of Roma but we still do not have a result. Life long
learning, anti-discrimination, right to education has to be established
on the level of most excluded group of people, too, says Mohacsi.
Livia Jaroka: "This plan should identify and effectively address the
practical barriers that Roma face by accessing their unalienable
fundamental rights in the fields of housing, employment, health care and
Thursday's vote on draft Resolution follows up plenary debate of 16
January 2008 on steps planned to improve the situation of the

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