For the dignity of Roma people in Europe!

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European Grassroots Antiracist Movement

Who can still ignore the racial discriminations striking Roma people everywhere in Europe? The list of the persecutions that they face, like a baleful litany, is ever-growing and could sink into despair.

In Romania, entire communities are rejected to secluded areas surrounded by walls, lacking water and electricity, like in Slovakia, where Roma women are sterilized. In Bulgaria, they are confined in urban ghettos. In the Czech Republic, they are targeted by an increasing number of neo-Nazi demonstrations. In Croatia, they get Molotov cocktails thrown at them. In Hungary, they are harassed and assaulted by the Jobbik paramilitary militia and therefore have to seek shelter abroad. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, they suffer daily discriminations like in Italy, Moldavia or Serbia. In France, the calls for hatred and even for extermination increase, and Roma people still suffer from stigmatizations and even expulsions similar to the ones that took place under the former government. Some of them are forced to go back to Kosovo, as a consequence of the on-going expulsions from Germany, Denmark or Sweden.

The violence of these persecutions varies according to the countries, but their nature remains the same everywhere. They draw their origins from the same stigmatizing representations and the same over-used stereotypes.

Memory is also directly attacked sometimes; this certainly helps make these persecutions linger on. In Lety, for example, in Czech Republic, a piggery has been built on the site of a former Nazi camp, sullying the memory of the 1,300 Roma people who were concentrated there between 1942 and 1943 – only 300 of them survived deportation and their stay in the camp.

In front of this bleak reality, the reaction of the political institutions has not been up to the seriousness of the situation – in some cases it even led to its deterioration.

As it could be expected, the “National strategies for Roma inclusion” presented by the EU member-states to the European Commission in late 2011, often planning no budget, no goals and no measures, did not allow any improvement of the situation regarding the social misery and racial domination to which Roma communities are too often confronted. Because it lacks power, legitimacy and sometimes conviction, the Commission has not taken the necessary European measures, while the situation is getting dangerously worse for these communities all around Europe.

It is time for the member-states to stop implementing strategies of avoidance or even persecution, and for the UE to appear as guarantor as far as the observance of the fundamental rights for all individuals is concerned, even though this can lead to a conflict with the member-states. The fundamental values of Europe are at stake here.

Unlike political institutions, the civil society has gotten decisively involved, consequently bringing hope and prospects for the future to a whole continent.

For three years now, the Roma Pride has been both the origin and the symbol of this involvement. This vast movement of self-emancipation brings together Roma leaders and organizations and the rest of the European civil society, altogether committed for equality and against the different expressions of racism.

The Roma Pride spirit is a spirit of dignity, justice and solidarity that nourishes the numerous initiatives led by the civil society throughout Europe.

On Aug. 2, several hundreds of people gathered in dignity on the site of Auschwitz concentration camp to commemorate the Roma genocide, and more particularly the night between Aug. 2 and 3 of 1944, when 2,500 Roma people were killed there. This date must be part of the European commemorative calendar: the Samudaripen memory must be given the place it deserves and the current persecutions must be fought by pointing out clearly where they come from.

After the series of racist killings against Roma people in Hungary, the victims and the civil society asked for justice, not revenge. More than three years of proceedings later, the culprits were fairly and heavily punished.

The civil society has reacted to the revolting provocations and threats from the neo-Nazis in Czech Republic with solidarity and by calling for the respect of the law.

While the enduring crisis exacerbates nationalist hatred and incites to designate the most fragile ones as responsible for this crisis, when they are actually the first victims of it, we call on all individuals to express their desire to live together in Europe, with our differences in cultures, languages and identities, and to experience their solidarity beyond borders.

On Oct. 6, we will all gather at the same time for the Roma Pride in about 15 European countries, from Paris to Kiev, from Oslo to Istanbul via Prague, Budapest or Bucharest. We are determined to show why and how we can live together in a truly democraticEurope – that is, when we get rid of racism and nationalism at last.

*This statement was jointly signed by the Roma and antiracist associations of EGAM (European Grassroots Antiracist Movement) from 31 European countries.

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