"We have put in place strong legislation to root out discrimination in the EU, but the promise of equal opportunity remains unfulfilled for many Roma and Travellers in our societies", said Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of FRA's Management Board, in a statement ahead of International Roma Day (8 April).
"Roma and Travellers are subjected to racially motivated violence and hate speech. The Fundamental Rights Agency and many other organisations have documented the endemic discrimination against Roma in education, employment, health care, housing and access to services. Romani women and children are particularly vulnerable. The action plans and strategies on how to solve these issues through comprehensive programmes have all been drawn up long ago. We must now implement them rigorously, measure their impact, identify good practice and learn from our mistakes. Partnership with the Roma communities themselves must be one of the principles guiding the implementation of these programmes and policies", Anastasia Crickley continued.
A particularly acute problem across many Member States of the European Union is the housing situation of Roma and Travellers. The lack of provision of accommodation sites by local authorities often results in people from these groups living in sub-standard accommodation, which lacks even basic sanitary facilities. In some countries, the housing conditions, in which some Roma communities live are aggravated by their subjection to evictions and forced relocations.
"Member States need to step up awareness among local authorities of the importance of addressing the particular needs of Roma in the development of land use and housing policies", Anastasia Crickley commented. "They should take effective measures to prevent and remedy discrimination against Roma in access to public and private housing."
The situation of Roma and Travellers and the discrimination they face is a European concern requiring a common European response. The Agency therefore welcomes the moves towards greater coordination of Member State efforts at European Union level. At the European Council in December 2007, the Heads of States and Governments of the EU recognised the "very specific situation faced by the Roma across the Union" and invited Member States and the Union "to use all means to improve their inclusion". The European Commission was requested to examine existing policies and instruments and to report to the Council on progress achieved before the end of June 2008.
The Fundamental Rights Agency will make a strong contribution to support any common EU effort to help Roma and Travellers realise their right to equal opportunities in the EU. In this regard, the Agency attaches great importance to the expertise and views of civil society in general, and Roma organisations in particular. FRA will therefore engage in a structured consultation with key stakeholders to gather ideas for its future work on issues affecting Roma and Travellers in the EU.
The designation of 8 April as International Roma Day goes back to the fourth congress of the International Romani Union in Warsaw in 1990. The International Roma Day is celebrated as tribute to the first international meeting of Roma representatives, on 8 April 1971, near London.
Further information concerning Roma and Travellers in Europe
Roma and Travellers in Public Education
European Commission reports
European Commission Portal on Roma
Council of Europe Roma and Travellers Division
Contact Point on Roma and Sinti Issues (ODIHR-OSCE)