An EU law for the Romani people becomes possible

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Demonstrators are led by musicians as they march through the streets of Budapest, Hungary, to demand human rights, solidarity and democracy on the occasion of the Day of the Roma or Gypsy Pride celebrating the Roma identity, self-respect and dignity 7 October 2017. [Zoltan Balogh/EPA/EFE]

The European Parliament will pass today (17 September) its Resolution “on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies: combating negative attitudes towards people with Romani background in Europe”. The rapporteur, Romeo Franz, who is of Roma origin, shares his emotional reaction.

Romeo Franz (Group of the Greens, Germany) chairs the delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and is vice-chair of the Committee on Culture and Education.

17 September 2020 will remain a day of reference for the Romani people in the EU. On this day, the European Parliament will have adopted a historical resolution. The resolution asks, for the first time in the history of the European Parliament, for an EU Law for  Romani people.

It was a huge responsibility and in the same time, a great honour for me, as a rapporteur of the European Parliament, to develop the resolution and to make the Romani voice heard at EU level. I am a Sinto, a man with Romani background, the son of a Holocaust survivor and I have never forgotten the sufferance of my family.

Many of my people are still suffering even these days because of antigypsyism, the specific form of racism against Romani people. EU has more than six million Roma, 80% of them living in extreme poverty.

Today I am a member of the European Parliament and I have worked together with my people to finally make their voice heard. It is precisely the voice of the Romani people that can be heard through the report.

I have decided to develop this report because the current EU Framework for National Roma Integrations Strategies (NRIs) failed to improve the situation significantly.

The NRISs effectively remain in the hands of the member states. Although EU funding is allocated to implement the NRISs, in the absence of binding targets, benchmarks and monitoring, the efficiency of EU coordination remains very limited.

The NRISs also frequently fail to recognise that the underlying cause of existing situation is systemic antigypsyism, therefore the focus on socioeconomic integration cannot change the situation radically.

My report lists a number of key demands addressed to the Commission and the EU member states.

Apart from a number of specific recommendations in the field of education, employment, housing, healthcare, gender equality, the report makes it clear that the Commission must propose a legally binding instrument for the Equality, Inclusion, Participation of Romani people and Combating Antigypsyism.

This should combine the socioeconomic aspects with a rights-based approach in the future EU strategy, as well as to use the term ‘Romani people’ in order to better reflect the heterogeneity of Romani community.

The adoption of the report marks the beginning of an historical change: A better life for almost 80% of people with a Romani background who live in precarious living situation.

A strong call for equality, justice and inclusion was heard from the heart of the European democracy. The European Parliament made a big and very important step towards justice for one of the most oppressed and largest ethnic minorities in our European history.

I will continue to work together with my people to fight inequalities and injustices, and I strongly affirm that equality must work for all, regardless of ethnicity and I will not stop until this law will become reality.

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