31 March 2006
I was invited to join the ERRC Board because of my experience in EU law, in particular anti-discrimination law, and I have been an academic lawyer at the Universities of Kent, London School of Economics and Nottingham and must have taught at least two generations of EU lawyers from all over the world.
Currently, I am at the University of Leicester where I hold a Jean Monnet Chair of European Community Law ad personam and I am also Professor of European Competition and Labour Law. I am the Director of the Centre for European Law and Integration (http://www.le.ac.uk/law/celi). Originally, the combination of labour law and competition law would have seen a strange coupling of interests but today competition principles are being introduced as markets are liberalised in Europe and this has a number of consequences for public services such as education, healthcare, as well as employment conditions for workers, citizens and people who are legally resident in the EU.
I was one of the first generation of lawyers in the UK to study EU law and it has remained a life-long interest – if not a passion! It was a time when radical lawyers were making their mark. There was the emergence of what were then called civil liberties issues, but also the realisation, from the American experience, that lawyers' skills could be used effectively not just in the court room. The mixture of law and politics and economics made the subject of EU law appealing. EU law is dynamic, but it can sometimes be frustrating as well. It can take years, if not decades, to get a policy through, or a case involving EU law started in the local courts. Some equal pay cases, for example, have taken over a decade to reach a final conclusion. Then a new spin, a change in policy or economic conditions can start the whole process rolling again.
I am also a practising barrister at Littleton Chambers in London. Throughout my academic career I have been involved in test case litigation, particularly discrimination issues, and given advice to individuals, the EC Commission and governments. Especially in the run up to enlargements of the EU I seem very busy! I was involved in training programmes for judges, civil servants and lawyers in Slovenia, Estonia and Poland. Now I am active in providing training programmes and legal updates for the ERRC. Roma rights present a different perspective, involving public and private attitudes, institutional and private factors. Quite often we are looking at a combination of factors, which cannot always be isolated, for example, issues of public measures, private attitudes, which have led to the role and position of Roma in Europe today. Untangling these webs is a challenge and also brings a new analysis to issues of fundamental rights.
Roma issues are regarded as an important aspect of the EU's social policy agenda and specific programmes and policies are being implemented at the EU level. The ERRC has an important part to play in shaping these policies as well as monitoring their impact. Alongside the change in the political climate there is also a huge shift in the fundamental rights and citizenship perspectives of EU law. A range of hard law measures in the shape of Directives adopted using Article 13 EC, alongside soft law measures, the creation of new monitoring agencies has made this an important time for the ERRC to engage with the potential that the EU has to offer for Roma living in Europe.