News 2010

Back Roma in Europe: It is high time for states to move from words to action and eliminate systemic discrimination

Strasbourg, 30/09/10 – "Roma and Travellers continue to be subject to racism and pervasive discrimination across all social sectors in many European countries. It is high time to act to reverse this situation" said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, at the Seminar on Roma rights organised today by the ABF-Workers' Educational Association in Stockholm.

"Europe cannot be proud. It is a continent where forced sterilisation of Roma women was a state-backed policy in certain countries at least until 1990 and where segregation of Roma children in schools still persists. Progress in tackling poverty among Roma and enhancing their socio-economic status is either non existent or slow. States have clearly failed to provide services and effectively protect the human rights of the largest national minority in Europe."

Anti-Gypsyism is a crucial cause for this situation. "No national or regional programme aimed at improving the situation of Europe's Roma populations can be successful without resolute action to combat anti-Gypsyism. States must therefore promote Roma culture, knowledge of Roma history and effectively combat hate speech".

Highlighting recent cases of intolerant anti-Roma speech in France, Hungary and Italy, which were followed by violent actions against Roma in these last two countries, the Commissioner stresses that politicians have a key responsibility to foster mutual understanding and to avoid actions or statements that breed intolerance and extremism. "Leading politicians should not shrug off the consequences that their statements might engender. Their unfortunate rhetoric can in fact stir up extremist groups and lead to violent acts".

The Commissioner further underlines the need for increased protection of Roma in the context of their migration or exercise of freedom of movement in Europe, as well as the need to provide a significant number of them with identity papers. "It is not acceptable that people in today's Europe are in effect deprived of their right to a nationality, which is a basic human right. Solutions to this shameful situation can no longer be postponed".

Recommending concrete steps which can help integrate Roma people, the Commissioner states that "viable solutions are available. The question whether Europe can stamp out discrimination against the Roma is only a matter of political will".

Read the Commissioner's speech at the Seminar on Roma rights in Sweden