Friday

18th Jan 2019

Opinion

Roma statelessness in Europe is not an accident

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights next year, the United Nations Human Rights Office is encouraging everyone to "stand up for human rights".

In Europe, we are good at spotlighting human rights abuses outside our borders, yet as we approach this year's Human Rights Day on 10 December, we should take a hard look at what is happening inside our borders and acknowledge that for many, these rights remain little more than words on a piece of paper.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

This remains tragically true for my community, the Roma living in Europe. Discriminated against for centuries, our situation has barely improved.

While I have the chance to practice my rights, many Roma are not as fortunate and many continue to be at significant risk of statelessness. This means that they are trapped without any documentation to prove their right to a nationality and therefore often without access to basic rights such as healthcare, housing or education.

At a meeting in the European Parliament on Wednesday (29 November), we, a cross-party group of MEPs, called on our governments and the European Commission to finally focus attention on the problem of statelessness among Roma and to discuss concrete steps to solve it.

This state of affairs has no place in 21st century Europe.

Agreed in December 1948, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that: "Everyone has the right to a nationality".

Yet living without a nationality and rights is a harsh reality for thousands of Roma in Europe.

Not only do policymakers need to take steps to address this issue in the European Union, but it should also become a priority for the commission and the parliament during EU enlargement negotiations. These can be a powerful leverage to get things moving in the right direction.

Verbal discrimination

One of the challenges when discussing statelessness is that the term itself can unwittingly evoke an image of people who are in some way 'outsiders,' even when the people in question were born and have lived their whole lives in Europe.

Indeed, statelessness is often not an accident, but a logical outcome of discrimination.

MEPs from all parties have shown their support for this view and the need for change by voting to adopt a report that sets out the undeniable link between statelessness and anti-gypsyism: Fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU: fighting anti-gypsyism.

Statelessness is also a problem many believe Europe solved a long time ago, but, for example, Roma children born in Italy to parents who fled there during the Balkan wars still face the scourge of growing up stateless, even though their families have been living there for decades.

In Romania, around 15,000 Roma are estimated to lack birth certificates, which puts them at risk of statelessness and struggling to obtain identification documents and access basic services.

Accession talks

Outside the EU in the Western Balkans, new research has revealed that complex civil registration procedures hinder access to crucial documents and are a leading cause of statelessness among Roma.

This is something that needs to be addressed before countries are given the green light to join the EU. Indeed we need to make sure that Europe as a whole is working together to end statelessness.

Left stateless, people face numerous difficulties in their daily lives: they lack access to health care, education, employment opportunities, property rights and the ability to move freely across borders.

It may be impossible for them to do many of the things that most of us take for granted - marry, open a bank account or get a driving licence.

The children of stateless parents are left trapped in the same nightmare, which puts up barriers to having a regular childhood and often leads to lower educational achievement and life-long poverty.

Almost 70 years after the UN Declaration on Human Rights was signed, it is not a moment too soon to break this vicious cycle and ensure that Roma enjoy the same rights, hopes and dreams as all other European citizens.

Soraya Post is a Roma activist, MEP, and co-chair of the European Parliament anti-racism and diversity intergroup

EU's Roma policy struggles to produce results

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, is seeking more "practical" solutions to address the issue of Roma integration as she begins to rework the policy and rethink its spending.

Focus

MEPs attack Facebook over anti-gypsy hate groups

Socialist deputies in the European Parliament have condemned Facebook, the popular social networking service, for hosting anti-gypsy groups, bearing such names as "Useful work for gypsies: testers of gas chambers," on its site.

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

Trump's wall vs Europe's sea

Though we would never admit it, the only difference between Trump and the EU is we don't need a wall - because we're 'fortunate' enough to have the Mediterranean.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us