Ahead of International Roma Day, anti-Roma statements in European Parliament and lack of EU response to Roma discrimination: Celebrating a Day is just not enough!

Brussels, 7 April 2017 – As recent cases of racist speech targeting Roma emerged in the European Parliament, the European Network Against Racism calls on the EU institutions to lead by example when it comes to tackling anti-Roma racism and defending Roma rights.

On 5 April during a plenary debate on Roma in the European Parliament, three Members of European Parliament made racist, stigmatising and divisive statements targeting Europe’s Roma population. In addition, it has been revealed that the European Commission is blocking a report calling for sanctions against Italy for housing discrimination against the Roma, in breach of EU anti-discrimination laws. This sends an extremely negative signal that anti-discrimination laws can be breached at will by Member States without consequences. Indeed, the Italian municipality of Naples is set to forcibly evict hundreds of Roma from a settlement.

These are not isolated cases but symptomatic of the structural discrimination which Roma face across Europe, and of anti-Roma political discourses prevalent in many EU Member States, which fuel discrimination and violence against Roma.

“It is ironic that these two instances occur just ahead of International Roma Day, which is supposed to celebrate Roma culture and highlight discrimination faced by Roma”, said Amel Yacef, ENAR Chair. “How many more cases of discrimination and hate speech will there be before action is taken?”

In times of stigmatisation and scapegoating of minorities, the European Commission and European Parliament need to show leadership and vocally support and protect Roma rights.

A lot has been already been done at EU level to ensure Roma inclusion and initiatives such as the EU Roma Week are positive, but inclusion programmes will have no impact if racist narratives and discriminatory practices are left unaddressed. Leaving space for toxic discourses without providing inclusive narratives and actions will undermine implementation of these programmes on the ground and erode the EU’s basic principles.

For further information, contact:
Georgina Siklossy, Senior Communication and Press Officer
Tel: +32 (0)2 229 35 77 - Mobile: +32 (0)473 490 531 - Email: georgina@enar-eu.org - Web: www.enar-eu.org

Notes to the editor:
1. Statements by MEPs can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_ATA(2017)599376
2. International Roma Day is marked annually on 8 April to celebrate Roma culture and raise awareness of their situation.
3. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR aisbl) stands against racism and discrimination and advocates for equality and solidarity for all in Europe. We connect local and national anti-racist NGOs throughout Europe and voice the concerns of ethnic and religious minorities in European and national policy debates.

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