Commission highlights discrimination against Roma, gypsies and travellers

A European Commission report issued in November 2004 examines the situation of Roma, gypsies and travellers in the EU and calls for action to prevent discrimination against them.

On 22 November 2004, the European Commission issued a report entitled The situation of Roma in an enlarged European Union. It examines the conditions faced by Roma, gypsies and travellers in a variety of fields, including education, employment, housing and healthcare and presents a series of recommendations to the EU institutions, Member States and non-governmental organisations on how to strengthen their policies and actions regarding people belonging to these minorities.

The report, which will serve as a basis for discussion by the EU, Member States and other actors, sets out good and bad practices in policies and programmes designed to assist the people concerned, and also proposes ways to improve existing policies in order to tackle the widespread discrimination and social exclusion they face. The authors state that the EU can play a key role by, among other actions, helping to raise awareness of the situation of Roma in society and of the anti-Romani racism and extensive Roma exclusion that exists in Europe. They call for the Roma to be mentioned specifically in EU anti-discrimination and social inclusion programmes, instead of assuming that they will automatically be covered.

One recommendation, which has already been fulfilled, is for the Commission to establish an inter-Directorate-General group to examine Roma issues across a range of Commission departments. Other recommendations include recognising Roma, gypsies and travellers as distinct ethnic minorities and providing protection for them, as well as data collection and funding for sustainable measures.

However, the report also states that Roma people need to become active for themselves and to take responsibility for their future. In this respect, it is suggested that they should consider participating in single-issue lobby groups and attempt to overcome internal differences of opinions among various groups. This would allow them to present policy makers with clear and unambiguous proposals.

Finally, the Commission has announced that it is launching an internship scheme in May 2005. This will be sponsored by the Open Society Institute and will be open to 10 young Roma graduates each year and will last three months.

Odile Quintin, the Commission Director-General for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, welcomed the report, stating that: 'The European Commission is now preparing the EU's new social policy agenda, which will set out our policy priorities for the next five years. The situation of Roma will of course be a strong element within this.'

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