Napoli, November 27-28, 2009 - Policy Center’s intervention during the forum “Fight Against Poverty in Europe and in the World: Towards the European Year 2010 for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion”.
“We are lost in ambiguities. We are lost in a permanent and unproductive exercise of ducking responsibilities between intergovernmental institutions and governments. We, at the Policy Center believe that stakeholders need to say clearly what each of us can do and how are we planning to do it rather than having great speeches with no effect whatsoever.
In concrete terms :the European Commission talks when it comes to Roma mostly about social inclusion, education, housing, health, employment – all good but jurisdiction for all these domains remain with Member States. The only clear EU mechanism to do something is related to anti-discrimination. There is an anti-discrimination Unit within the European Commission and a Fundamental Rights Agency which clearly says for the last years that Roma is the most discriminated ethnic group in the EU. We at Policy Center reported tens of cases of hate-speech against Roma . We are not aware of any reaction of the anti-discrimination Unit related to anti-Gypsyism. We do not know of any letter of concern sent by the head of unit or director general or for that matter by the Fundamental Rights Agency condemning widespread anti-Gypsyism in Romania. We are not aware of any indeed innovative approach which to shock people out of their racism or indifference.
The Policy Center would like the Commission to discuss about its own responsibilities and not to tell us what the situation is like- we do know that. How are the funds for anti-discrimination campaigns used and how can we help to reform or make the existing mechanism of the EU regarding discrimination effective when it comes to Roma issues is in our opinion a much more constructive discussion.
Despite the fact that the European Union has clear commitments and responsibilities on issues regarding discrimination, it still proves to be ineffective in the case of Roma.
Many reports released by EU or NGOs show an increased number of Roma who face discrimination. Prejudice is to be found often in the public speech. The EC has two directives and a special unit for implementing anti-discrimination measures. We do not argue on its willingness to act against Roma discrimination, but there is a large agreement proved by EC reports that there is an obvious lack of efficiency. We need to move beyond rhetoric if we want change. And I am convinced that all of us here do want a change.“
The Policy Center also recommended for the next programming period, that EU should create a special fund for grassroots Roma NGOs that deal with active citizenship, poverty and discrimination.
The meeting in Naples was organized by the European Commission Representation Office in Italy, together with the Municipality of Naples and the Campania Region.
High ranking representatives of the European Commission (vice-president Antonio Tajani), of the European Parliament (vice-president Gianni Pittella) and of the local and regional government have highlighted in the opening speeches the important role of the activities dedicated to eradicating poverty both for the citizens and for the stability of the European edifice. An important intervention was that of professor Guy Standing from the Bath University who described the importance of ensuring a minimum income for everyone in order to increase the involvement of the citizens in the political issues that influence their own lives.
The representative of FEANSTA has pointed out that the EC invests in 2010 in raising awareness on poverty but studies show that Europeans are well aware of the dimensions of poverty in their countries.
For further details about the conference please visit http://ec.europa.eu/italia/news/ue_e_societa_civile/forum_poverta_it.htm
Policy Center was represented by Florin Botonogu
Policy Center for Roma & Minorities
Bucharest, 010152, Intrarea Rigas 29A, Ap. 31, Sect. 1, Romania
Tel : (004) 0742379657 or
Fax (004) 0318177092