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Speech by Emer Costello MEP Labour Equality Event on Travellers’ Rights Teachers’ Club, Dublin, 27th July 2013

As long ago as 1984, the European Parliament acknowledged the fact that "gypsies still suffer discrimination in law and practice", and called on the Governments of EU Member States to eliminate this discrimination. It is important to note that the term “Roma”, as defined by the Council of Europe and as used by the European Institutions, encompasses the 10 to 12 million Roma, Sinti, Kale and related groups in Europe, including Travellers in Ireland, as well as Eastern groups (Dom and Lom), and covers the wide diversity of the groups concerned, including persons who identify themselves as “Gypsies”. It is unfortunately the case that, almost thirty years later, members of the Traveller and Roma communities still suffer discrimination in law and practice across Europe.

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European-wide reports, including a number financed by European institutions, confirm an abysmal social and economic situation of Traveller and Roma communities across Europe, as well as the failure of policy efforts to date to correct ingrained discrimination and social exclusion issues facing Travellers and Roma. Travellers and Roma continue to see their basic rights violated on a regular basis. Discrimination and exclusion are rife, rendering the possibility of a dignified life for many individuals and communities difficult if not impossible. Hate speech and incidences of racist violence against Travellers and Roma are frequent, and are not met with adequate measures of redress. 窶連nti-Gypsyism continues to be rife, is rarely punished and is often used as an acceptable outlet of racism in mass media as well as in every aspect of life. European strategies for economic and social cohesion have had little effect on the well-being on Travellers and Roma communities. Large numbers of Travellers and Roma continue to live in a state of duress and material deprivation. Indeed in many places, the situation has become markedly worse over recent years. There is an urgent need for clear and concrete policies and action at the European level. 2


Just over one month ago, on 26 June, the European Commission adopted its latest report on Member States’ implementation of their national Roma strategies and issued proposal for a Recommendation on Roma and Traveller integration. This is aimed at the Member States and proposes specific measures, including positive action measures, to improve the situation of Travellers and Roma in Europe. The EU Framework for national Traveller and Roma integration strategies has been in place for over two years now. Member States including Ireland have submitted national Traveller and Roma Integration. The commitment is there. But frankly, there is a big gap between commitment and delivery. Progress is the exception rather than the rule. We see reports almost on a daily basis about Travellers and Rome facing discrimination, or being victims of racist remarks. Integration is not popular among many public representatives. But it is a necessity. Travellers and Roma are European citizens. And EU Member States have joint responsibility to put an end to the exclusion of Travellers and Roma. The Commission’s June report does see some positive signs. It states that most Member States have set up mechanism to better coordinate their integration efforts (nationally and with each other). Member States have also established a dialogue with 3


local authorities and made some efforts to fight discrimination. There is some good ‘best practice’ across Europe. Spain for example has trained 150 police officers to deal with ethnic discrimination. Romania has earmarked 15,000 places for Roma children in schools, universities and vocational training. But this is not enough. Commitments and strategies are only as good as the action that follows. The Recommendation put forward by the Commission one month ago is the first EU legal instrument for Traveller and Roma inclusion. It focuses on four areas where EU leaders have signed up to common goals for Traveller and Roma integration under the EU framework: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. The Recommendation asks Member States to earmark specific funding for Traveller and Roma inclusion. And it offers specific guidance on how Member States can use positive action in each of these four areas to protect Traveller and Roma women and children, address poverty and fight discrimination. In this regard, I should also point out that the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee is currently 4


preparing proposals on the gender aspects of the European Framework for Traveller and Roma inclusion. Last week, I tabled a number of specific amendments to these proposals that seek to reduce instances of early school leaving by Traveller girls and to provide access to quality childcare facilities for Traveller women. This report will be voted by the European Parliament in November. If Member States are serious about their national strategies, they need to deliver actions beyond paper. The Recommendation will need to be adopted unanimously by the Council of Ministers and would have to win the consent of the European Parliament, which means an absolute majority of its members, or 384 of the 766 MEPs. I will vote in favour of this recommendation. MEPs cannot amend the Recommendation but we can suggest areas where Member States should go further. Concrete actions now need to be taken at local and national level. This requires political will and commitment to turn the national poverty, education and employment targets set out at European level into operational actions that will achieve results. A sustainable result depends on your contributions. I would encourage you to take a pro-active part in the forthcoming negotiations on the design, implementation and monitoring programmes for 5


Traveller and Roma integration. This meeting today is a good opportunity to hear your voices. I look forward to working with you over the coming months to ensure the adoption of the EU Recommendation. Thank you. ENDS – 950 words

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