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Roma Rights 1, 2010: Implementation of Judgments

26th, July, 2010


ERRC Advocacy at the Second European Roma Summit

Ostalinda Maya Ovalle1

We must admit that, despite our best efforts, the situation of many Roma seems to have deteriorated over the years. That is simply not acceptable. Too many Roma are still victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. Too many Roma children are still on the streets instead of going to school. Too many Roma are still denied a fair chance on the labour market. Too many Roma women are still victims of violence and exploitation.2

These were the words of Commissioner Viviane Reding at the II European Roma Summit organised on 8-9 April 2010 in Córdoba, Spain. Despite the European Commission’s commitment to taking on this problem, the adoption of an EU Framework Strategy on Roma Inclusion is still nowhere on the horizon although this is one of the loudest demands of key civil society actors.

The Summit took place under the title “Promoting policies in favour of the Roma population.” It was organised by the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council through the Spanish Ministry of Health and Social Policy. The event was planned to coincide with International Roma Day to acknowledge that “Roma are an integral part of the history and civilisation of Europe.”3 This event followed the first EU Roma Summit, held in Brussels on 16 September 2008.

Key speakers at the event included European Commission Vice-President Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship) and Commissioner Laszlo Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion). The European Parliament was represented by Lívia Járóka and other Members of the European Parliament. The Spanish Government was represented by the Spanish Minister for Health and Social Policy, Trinidad Jiménez García-Herrera, and the Minister for Equality, Bibiana Aido Almagro. Ministers and Secretaries of State from several countries including Belgium, France, Finland, Hungary, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia were in attendance. Keynote speakers included George Soros, Chair of the Open Society Institute, and World Bank Director Theodore Ahlers. The event was also attended by approximately 400 Romani and non-Romani civil society actors.

The plenary sessions of the Cordoba Summit focused on assessing European and national policies related to Roma and on health issues; parallel sessions were built around the 10 Common Basic Principles on Roma Inclusion.4

The Summit provided an opportunity to highlight Roma issues to media representatives and relevant policy makers. Several NGOs and agencies jumped to make their voices heard. The ERRC produced its Factsheet: Summit-to-Summit Roma Rights Record in English, Spanish and Romani.5 It contained a record of over 45 violent attacks across different European countries, as well as information on other key issues such as the increasing activity of extremist political parties and politicians, the continuation of school and housing segregation and the practice of coercive sterilisation of Romani women.

Since 2008, in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy, anti-Romani violence has remained a serious and even an increasing problem; Roma in other countries have also been affected. In Hungary, the ERRC registered reports of at least 45 violent attacks against Roma including 9 fatalities since 2008. […] In the Czech Republic, at least 7 attacks against Roma were reported.

Excerpt from: ERRC, Factsheet: Summit-to-Summit Roma Rights Record.

The European Union’s Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) organised a two-day roundtable preceding the Summit with Romani and Traveller women activists.6 The FRA also held a press conference to which the ERRC was invited as a speaker. The European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) issued three statements prior to and following the Summit, stressing that the Summit should avoid a declarative character and focus on strategic policy commitments.7

Perhaps the effectiveness of such actions was reduced by the level of political participation, which was disappointing in comparison with the previous Summit. While the Brussels Summit boasted the presence of the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, the most prominent speakers featuring on the agenda of the Cordoba Summit were European Commissioners. Furthermore, the event did not draw the expected level of attention from the international media; in fact the overwhelming majority of the journalists that attended the event were from national and local media outlets and this was reflected in the limited media coverage that the Summit received.

Despite these shortcomings, the ERRC used the opportunity to reach out to key actors, participating in meetings with new EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Andor and new European Commission Vice-President Reding. During these meetings, the ERRC urged the Commissioners to encourage the collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity, to take steps to condition EU funding on compliance with fundamental rights norms and to take steps to address fundamental rights violations like segregation of schools. Furthermore, the ERRC was invited to speak at the roundtable on gender issues and used the opportunity to highlight the need for authorities to address human rights violations as a result of racist violence as well as violence within Romani communities. The ERRC further stated that when it comes to intra-community violence, references to Romani culture do not serve as an adequate pretext for a lack of intervention by respective authorities in cases where the rights of children and women are violated.8

The expectations of the EU were reflected in two documents issued coinciding with the Summit: the Joint Statement issued by the Trio Presidency and the Communication from the European Commission. The former can be summarised as promoting: mainstreaming of Roma issues in European and national policies; the design of a road map of the Integrated Platform on Roma Inclusion; and increased accessibility of Roma to EU funds.9 In line with this, the EC Communication urged “Member States to take action to ensure that interventions financed by Structural Funds promote equal opportunities and tackle segregation” and called for “[g]reater cooperation between national, European and international players.”10 Unfortunately, both are silent on the adoption of an EU Framework Strategy on Roma Inclusion.

Although such conclusions are generally positive, they do not seem to go far enough if contrasted with the expectations expressed by civil society: an end to all forms of discrimination with a specific emphasis on “education (particularly segregation), housing (particularly forced evictions and sub-standard living conditions), employment (particularly low employment rate) and health care system (coercive sterilisation and lack of adequate coverage).”11 However, there are indications that the gap in expectations is being bridged in certain areas. For example, during her speech and the meeting held with civil society actors, Commissioner Reding made clear that the Commission will not tolerate segregation or discrimination and suggested that the Commission was willing to support efforts to end segregation in schools. The ERRC has started to advocate for conditionality of EU funds on respect for fundamental rights and for obligations to be placed on the EU Member States to ensure that ethnic disaggregated data is collected as a way to ensure that adequate policies to improve the situation of Roma can be designed and monitored.

The Summit appears to have provided impetus for the strongest conclusions of the Council of the European Union on Roma to date. Following the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 7 June 2010, the Council issued Council conclusions on advancing Roma Inclusion.12 In these conclusions, the Council called on the European Commission and the Member States:

28. To make progress towards a specific road map for the Platform, in order to provide a mid-term framework of stakeholder actions and expected outputs and to reinforce horizontal cooperation between the Member States and civil society in matters related to Roma by taking such matters into account within the existing Open Method of Coordination; the aims set out in the road map should include coordination and creating synergies between existing parallel policy processes and gathering in-depth information on national policies having an impact on Roma inclusion; it should also prioritise issues within different fields of action and define central points/axes, in accordance with Common Basic Principles 116 and 417, focusing especially on education, housing, healthcare, and equal access to employment; […]

30. To participate actively in the Platform, so as to guarantee its effective functioning, management and continuity; […]

33. To take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the amendment of Article 7 of Regulation 1080/2006/EC by initiating appropriate integrated actions for the support of Roma communities in both rural and urban areas, with a view to the improvement of housing conditions and desegregation.

Endnotes: 

  1. Ostalinda Maya Ovalle is the ERRC Coordinator of Research and Advocacy. Ms Ovalle attended in the Summit, delivering a presentation during the session “Gender, inequalities and discrimination,” and participated in a connected roundtable organised by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
  2. Viviane Reding, “The need for convivencia: European values and non-discrimination at the heart of Europe’s Roma strategy” (keynote speech, Second European Roma Summit, Córdoba, 8 April 2010), available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=4935&langId=en.
  3. European Commission (EC), Second Roma Summit, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=88&langId=en&eventsId=234&furtherEvents=yes.
  4. Report on the II Roma Summit, Spanish Presidency of the European Union 2010: Promoting Policies in Favour of the Roma Population, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/images/icons/lang/en.gif. Four roundtables were held around the following principles:
    Principle No. Two: “Explicit but not exclusive targeting”. Segregation versus integration. Specific projects with Roma versus general projects.
    Principle No. Five: “Awareness of the gender dimension”. Gender, inequalities and discrimination.
    Principle No. Seven: “Use of Community instruments”. How can EU instruments be more effective at the local level.
    Principle No. Nine: “Involvement of civil society”. Attracting civil society towards Roma causes.
  5. ERRC, “Factsheet: Summit-to-Summit Roma Rights Record”, press release, 8 April 2010, available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=3573.
  6. Participants of the roundtable agreed on a common set of key points on the occasion of the Summit. Romani and Travellers Women Position Paper Resulting from the FRA Roundtable with Romani and Travellers Women Activists: “On a Road to Equality”, 6-7 April 2010, available at: http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/attachments/RT_roma_summit_key_messages.pdf.
  7. ERPC, “ERPC Declares Expectations from the 2nd European Roma Summit”, press release, 11 February 2010, available at: http://www.romadecade.org/erpc_declares_expectations_from_the_2nd_european_roma_summit; ERPC, “Second EU Roma Summit – ERPC Joint Statement”, press release, 30 March 2010, available at: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2010/apr/eu-roma-coaltion-joint-statement.pdf.
  8. Ostalinda Maya Ovalle, “Presentation by the ERRC on Gender Issues on the Occasion of the II EU Roma Summit” (lecture, Second European Roma Summit, Córdoba, 8 April 2010), available at: http://www.2010contralapobreza.msps.es/actoPresentacion/Roma/Ostalinda-En.pdf.
  9. “Joint Statement by the Trio Presidency (Spain, Belgium, Hungary) on the Occasion of the Second Roma Summit”, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=4846&langId=en.
  10. European Commission, Communication from the European Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: The social and economic integration of the Roma in Europe, 7 April 2010.
  11. ERPC, “ERPC Declares Expectations from the 2nd European Roma Summit.”
  12. Council of the European Union, Council conclusions on advancing Roma Inclusion, Luxembourg, 7 June 2010, available clicking here.

 

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