MINELRES: ERIO: Open Letter to the European Commission

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Apr 9 11:23:16 2005

Original sender: European Roma Information Office <press@erionet.org>

Dear All, 

Here is an open letter which a number of International and Roma
organisations are going to send to the Commissioners' Group on
Fundamental Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities, and the
President of the European Commission. In brief, the letter asks the
European Commission for very concrete and focused actions meant to
address the rampant anti-Gypsyism and social exclusion of Roma in
Europe. A number of Members of the European Parliament are joining this
initiative and the letter will be sent also from their side.

In case you want to join our initiative please e-mail the name of your
organization to press@erionet.org. 
Comments and suggestions are most welcomed.

For more info please contact 

Valeriu Nicolae 
European Roma Information Office 
Av.Eduard Lacomble 17, Brussels
Mobile: +32 476538194

Open Letter to the Commissioners' Group on Fundamental Rights,
Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities with the occasion of 8th of
April the International Roma Day

As long ago as 1984, the European Parliament, in a resolution of 24 May
of that year, acknowledged the fact that "gypsies still suffer
discrimination in law and practice" and called on the governments of the
Member States to eliminate discrimination against Roma. 

Although much has transpired since 1984, it is unfortunately the case
that, twenty years on, this conclusion endures: Roma and others regard
as Gypsies still suffer discrimination in law and practice. Since the
European Parliament's 1984 resolution, the European Commission's
activities have contributed to positive steps in combating
discrimination against Roma. The European Commission has played a vital
role in the promotion and legal protection of basic human rights as well
as monitoring and funding projects meant to improve the situation of
European Roma especially in the context of the accession process.
Former  European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna
Diamantopolou was among the initiators of the Decade of Roma Inclusion,
and a number of representatives of the Commission expressed support for
the Decade when it was launched on 2 February 2005.

However, these positive measures notwithstanding, recent reports,
including a number financed by European Institutions, describe an
abysmal social and economic situation of Romani communities all around
Europe, and the failure of policy efforts to date to correct ingrained
racial discrimination and social exclusion issues facing Roma.

More than 20 years after the first European acknowledgement of
discrimination against them, Roma continue to see their basic rights
violated on a regular basis. Discrimination and exclusion are rife,
rendering possibilities for a dignified life for many Romani individuals
and Romani communities across Europe difficult if not impossible. Hate
speech and incidences of racist violence against Roma are frequent, and
are not met with adequate measures of redress. Anti-Gypsyism continues
to be rife, is rarely punished and is often used as an acceptable outlet
of racism in mass media as well as in every aspect of life.

To date, despite its ambitious intentions, the Lisbon Strategy has had
little effect on the well-being of Roma, and large numbers of Roma
continue to live in extreme states of duress and material deprivation.
Indeed, in many places, their situation has in recent years become
markedly worse. There is an urgent need for clear and concrete policies
and actions at the European level.

The discrepancy between recommendations to Member States for improving
the situation of Roma coming from, on the one hand, European Union
institutions including the European Parliament and the European
Commission, as well as recommendations issued by other institutions such
as the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe and, on the other hand, the persistent reality of
extreme poverty and systemic human rights frustration or active abuse in
the Roma ghettos requires urgent concrete actions.

The establishment of the Commissioners' Group on Fundamental Rights,
Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities and the recent commitment of
President Barosso as well as a number of Commissioners to address the
social exclusion of Roma are without doubt very positive developments
and we hope to see these declarations  followed by concrete actions of
the Group and the relevant DGs of the European Commission.

We, the undersigned, call upon the European Commission to address the
social exclusion of Roma in the EU Member States, as well as in
candidate countries and other countries outside the current borders of
the Union, as well as a to act as a matter of urgent priority to curb
currently rampant anti-Gypsyism. Urging the European Commission to act
as catalyst and facilitator of European-level action, we suggest the

A. One of the future meetings of the Commissioners' Group on Fundamental
Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities should have as its
primary agenda point the situation of Roma. The need for a coherent
European Policy on Roma, ways to use to its maximum the potential of the
Decade of Roma Inclusion, the role of the future Fundamental Rights
Agency and the Lisbon Agenda and European Employment Strategy in
promoting the social inclusion of Roma and curbing the widespread
anti-Gypsyism should be among topics addressed at the meeting.

B. One of the members of the Group should be formally named as
responsible for Roma issues. The named Commissioner should be
responsible for supervising and steering the activity of the existing
Inter-Service Group on Roma. 

C. The Commissioner's Group should propose that the 8th of April  The
International Roma Day -- be preceded or followed by a European Day for
Fighting Anti-Gypsyism/Anti-Romaism, and it should launch an awareness
campaign focused on this subject. 

D. The Group should look at the possibility to replace the existing
informal Roma Inter-Group with a more efficient structure capable of
bringing a suitable high profile to the emergency currently facing
Romani communities and Romani policy issues in Europe.  The new, higher
profile body should additionally have its own secretariat.  

E. The Group should establish formal links with the European Roma and
Travellers Forum, relevant Roma NGOs and Roma Experts in order to
stimulate a dialogue between the European Commission and Romani civil

F. The Group should further make the best use of the Decade of Roma
Inclusion to implement significant changes in the countries which take
part, including by working toward specifically earmarking EU funding for
Decade activities.