Anti-Roma rhetoric in Europe : politicians should avoid feeding prejudice

Strasbourg, 09/09/10  – The French government has reacted against my statements on anti-Roma rhetoric. This I welcome and hope will encourage a serious discussion. Certainly, I stand by my position as I have stated. Politicians should be very careful about language which can promote further prejudice against the Roma communities.

During the ongoing government campaign in France against crime, Roma from other EU countries have been targeted as a “threat against public security”. French Government spokespersons have failed to make a clear distinction between the whole group of Roma immigrants and the few who have committed crimes.

This is the more serious as there is widespread anti-Gypsyism in many European countries today and extremist political groups are trying to exploit these tendencies. Their propaganda is very close to what was said in the 30s and 40s by fascists and nazis. Any political statement or action which encourages such thinking must be avoided.

One should not trivialise the consequences of negative statements by leading politicians. The unfortunate rhetoric by some candidates in the Italian election in 2008 was followed by ugly incidents of violence against Roma individuals and camps. Distorted minds had understood the political messages as an encouragement for action. The cold-blooded murders of six Roma, including a five-year-old child, in Hungary the other year were another illustration that the risk of anti-Roma violence is still present.


Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int

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