The urgent issue of Europe's Roma population requires concrete, constructive and responsible action by the Member States and it must not become a political football: this was the conclusion of a debate at the EESC on 2 September.
The discussion came in reaction to French Government action to deport people of Roma origin residing illegally in France.
"It is regrettable that this issue, which has serious implications for human beings and for citizenship issues, has become a political football and has been exploited for short-term political advantage. This approach creates tensions and encourages the general public to support discrimination and social exclusion," said EESC President Mario Sepi during the debate.
"The European Commission sat down with the French Government to discuss the issue right after the summer break; this shows the importance of the matter," Mr. Sepi added, referring to a meeting on August 31 in Brussels.
The Committee stressed that in trying to find concrete solutions to the problem of poor, uneducated and unemployed Roma communities, the EU member states must cooperate on hammering out a consistent approach to the issue throughout the EU.
A comprehensive, Europe-wide solution has to be based on European directives on free movement of Europeans, on the prohibition of ethnicity-based discrimination and on equal employment opportunities. This point was earlier emphasized by Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President and EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship in her response to the French government action. The EESC debate also referred to the Treaty of Lisbon's clauses on the protection of fundamental rights. The new legal instrument includes further measures specifically forbidding discrimination of national minorities and protecting cultural diversity within the Bloc.
The EESC has been actively advocating the economic and social integration of the Roma population. Recent events at which the issue was discussed in depth include the May Biennale Conference on Education as a means to fight social exclusion and a June 2009 conference and exhibition on the integration of minorities.
For more information, please contact:
Barbara GESSLER, EESC Press Unit, Tel.:+32 2 546 8066; email@example.com