AEDH organises conference on Roma people at the European Parliament - 4 December 2012

On the 4th December 2012, the AEDH organised a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels together with Mrs. Marie-Christine Vergiat, Member of the European Parliament (group GUE-NGL) and the informal group of European deputies ‘Friends of AEDH’. Download the programme.

The aim of this conference was both to present the report of the AEDH ‘Roma people in Europe in the 21st century: violence, exclusion, insecurity’, in the European Parliament and to unite members of the European civil society, European parliamentarians and representatives of the European Commission on one table to explore possible solutions to ameliorate the situation of Roma people.

The discussion took place in two phases.

During the first roundtable, members of civil society described eloquently the dramatic situation in which Roma people live nowadays in Europe. Everyone painted a bleak picture of the current situation, whether based on personal observations made during work in the field or relying on statistics collected on Roma people in many European countries. All speakers denounced all forms of anti-Roma racism, be it expressed in a back-handed way or more directly.

Please find below the videos of the speakers.

- Mr. Philippe Goossens, AEDH member and co-author of the AEDH report “Roma people in Europe in the 21st century: violence, exclusion, insecurity”. Please click here to watch the video (in French).

- Mr. Ivan Ivanov, European Roma Information Office executive director (ERIO). Please click here to watch the video (in English).

- Mr. Etienne Liebig, street worker in France, author of “La peur populaire transformée en racisme d’Etat, l’utilité politique des Roms". Please click here to watch the video (in French).

- Ms. Leslie Hawke, OvidiuRo chairwoman, a Romanian NGO which aims at making education available to children living in poverty. Please click here to watch the video (in English).

- Mr. Michael Beis, European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Roma expert. Please click here to watch the video (in English).

During the question and answer time with the public present in the conference room, the speakers insisted on the necessity to include Roma people in the work, to invite them more often to this kind of conferences and to cooperate with Roma communities on the local level to make them take part in the local and national political decisions they are concerned by.

After this report on the current situation, representatives of the European institutions were invited to take the floor to explain which measures have already been taken or could possibly be taken to ensure a better protection of the rights of Roma in the European Union.

While the representatives of the European Commission insisted on the integration of Roma by improving respect for their economic and social rights (access to housing, education, labour market and health care), the European parliamentarians emphasized the urgency to guarantee first of all full civil and political rights to Roma people (fight against anti-Roma racism, non-discrimination, effective access to justice, etc.).

It was also stressed that the situation of Roma varies depending on the country and we need to take these national, and even local, differences into account. Finally, the members of the European Parliament asked the European Commission to take a tougher stand to make member states really respect the rights of Roma in practice and not only on paper.

Please find below the videos of the speakers.

- Mr. Michel Verschraegen, Policy officer at the Non-discrimination policies and Roma coordination Unit of the DG Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Please click here to watch the video (in French).

- Mr. Gyula Hegyi, Coordinator on Roma issues in M. László Andor, Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Please click here to watch the video (in English).

- Ms. Carmen Romero López, Member of the European Parliament, S&D group. Please click here to watch the video (in French).

- Ms. Tatjana Ždanoka, Member of the European Parliament, The Greens/EFA group. Please click here to watch the video (in English).

- Ms. Marie-Christine Vergiat, Member of the European Parliament, GUE/NGL group. Please click here to watch the video (in French).

In the end, M. Serge Kollwelter, the president of the AEDH, concluded the conference by asking everybody to continue to fight for the rights of Roma people during the ‘European Year of Citizens’ of the European Commission in 2013.

He also called on European parliamentarians to support the official recognition by the European Union of the genocide of Roma, since this would help to change how people look at Roma. Please click here to watch the video (in French).

The AEDH asks all MEPs to sign the written declaration n°29 (before December 13th, 2012) proposing the introduction of a European day for the commemoration of the Roma Holocaust on the 2nd of August. Please click here to read the text of the declaration.

The ‘Black Book’ of the AEDH on Roma people discloses the violence committed against Roma in the European Union and in some other European countries. It addresses at the same time three forms of violence against Roma: violence committed by the state against the Roma population, violence committed by non-Roma fellow citizens and so-called social violence, which means the violation of their economic and social rights.

Please click here to read the report (in English or in French) 

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