Despite some glimmers of hope and signs of progress, two reports published by the Council of Europe last Tuesday (October 13), paint a broader and quite frankly dismaying picture of persistent segregation of Roma in schools and housing, worrying levels of anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime, numerous reports of police brutality, and a general climate of intolerance among majority populations towards Roma in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) following a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on Friday 9th October, await further clarification before they decide whether or not to suspend Fico’s party (SMER) following his stance on the Syrian refugee crisis. The President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella said that Fico’s position was an embarrassment to the “whole Progressive family."
Back in 2005, at the launch of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, World Bank President, James D. Wolfensohn, described the plight of the Roma as ‘one of the great moral issues facing Europe’, and the Decade an opportunity ‘to turn the tide of history’; for Open Society Chairman George Soros, the Decade signaled ‘a sea change’ in Roma policy.
I have worked for years in an NGO using strategic litigation as a tool to protect women’s rights and I strongly believe that strategic litigation is a key tool for protecting Roma rights too. The strategic litigation I have most often taken was in the context of Albania’s struggle with the rule of law: it aimed at the implementation of international standards stemming from international acts ratified by the Albanian state, the implementation of standards found in the jurisprudence of international courts and other bodies, and the implementation of the rights foreseen in the law, but which are not used before and changes of the available judicial practices which affected women.
On 30 May 2015, the Court of Rome condemned the city for discriminating against Roma by forcibly relocating them to La Barbuta camp in the outskirts of the city. We waited for more than three years. It was worth it.