Roma integration in Europe

Human rights defenders call for solution

The deportation of gypsy migrants from France has alerted the European Parliament, which is trying to accelerate their integration in the EU. But, according to human rights activists, the EU pays too little attention to the problems of Roma.

In September 2009, police in the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast forcibly evicted 40 Roma families who had been living in the city for more than half a century from their own homes. The deportations of gypsies, like the Bulgarian ones, were registered by Amnesty International and in other EU countries – Greece, Italy and Romania.

Amnesty International points to Roma rights violations

Nevertheless, the head of the European branch of the international human rights organization Amnesty International, Nicolas Bejer, notes improvements at the political level that allow us to talk about emerging shifts in the integration process of Roma. Thus, the European Union annually holds summits at which the situation of the gypsy ethnic minority is discussed. “The EU has already achieved something in this direction, and just the last summit on the integration of this ethnos is clear evidence,” Bejer emphasizes. “True, we still do not have evidence of the implementation of the decisions made. There are encouraging signals, but I wanted to to see a real change in the situation with respect for human rights regarding Roma. “

The EU supports projects of EU member states aimed at improving the living conditions of Roma. EU countries allocate funds from structural funds for these needs. For example, more than one million euros have been allocated for the improvement of one of the gypsy villages in Hungary. These funds were spent mainly on repair and construction of roads, equipment of playgrounds and arrangement of kindergartens.

Among the gypsies there are still many illiterate

However, the priority issues for human rights organizations are the problems of education, since their solution is necessary for better integration of Roma into public life. “In many countries, representatives of this ethnic group still have scant chances to get an education,” said Mihai Surdu, a spokesman for the Gypsy Education Fund. In his opinion, the education systems of Eastern European countries often do not take into account the interests of national and ethnic minorities. “When Roma children are admitted to school, they are often screened out because they are not well prepared for classes,” says Surdu.

The reason is most often the same: Roma children did not attend kindergartens, therefore they are lagging behind in development, in addition, they are not used to tests for school readiness, because they never took part in them. The tests themselves, according to Mihai Surdu, are too standardized and do not take into account the cultural and ethnic characteristics of the gypsies.

As a result, in Slovakia, for example, 80% of Roma children, according to Amnesty International, fall into special auxiliary schools for mentally retarded children. Much more needs to be done to better integrate Roma into public life, said Matthew Newman, spokesman for the European Commission. “Each EU country should make its contribution,” he emphasizes. It is primarily about the problems of education and medical care. Responsibility for this, according to Newman, should be borne by member countries of the European Union.

Expulsion of gypsies from France causes concern in EU
The European Commission criticized the recent deportation of illegal gypsies from France to Romania. “We are carefully analyzing the situation in France,” said EU Commissioner for Justice and Civil Rights Viviane Reading. She doubts that the decision of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to deport Gypsy migrants from the country complies with EU legal standards.

Amnesty International in this case expresses a clearer position. Most Roma are EU citizens, so they have the right to free movement within the European Union. “Only in cases of offenses and on the basis of thorough checks can EU states expel law-breakers to their country of origin,” said Nicolas Bejer, head of the Amnesty International Brussels bureau.

Harsh criticism of Paris and Rome

According to Bejer, the EU should be guided by strict criteria, according to which one or more people, but not an entire ethnic group, can be deported from EU member states. “What is happening in France against Roma these days is discrimination that destroys our understanding of human rights in EU countries,” Bejer emphasizes.

Experts believe that France and Italy deliberately escalate the situation around gypsy migrants. A recent statement by Vivian Reading, in particular, states: “I regret that the rhetoric of some EU countries was openly discriminatory, and also partially contributed to escalating an already tense situation.” Such sharp criticism of Paris and Rome from the lips of European Commissioners is extremely rare.

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