Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

Roma MEP sees French row as golden opportunity

  • "There should be 21 of us," says the only Roma MEP (Photo: MEP office)

As France is about to change its legislation to avoid a court case with the EU over its treatment of Roma, Livia Jaroka, the only Roma MEP in the European Parliament is hoping the media interest will help her push for a "micro-regional" strategy for Europe's largest ethnic minority.

"I hope it's a good time to come up with constructive policies, because now everybody wants a European response to the failure of Roma integration in most member states in the last 20 years," Ms Jaroka, a Hungarian MEP from the centre-right European People's Party told this website in an interview on Tuesday (12 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

A "crisis map" of eastern Europe's most disadvantaged "micro-regions" is in the making, she says, with a legal proposal to be adopted under Hungary's EU presidency, in the first part of 2011.

In her view, funding could be modeled on the EU's macro-regional strategy drafted for the countries around the Baltic Sea, which may receive its own funding from 2013 on.

"Or 12 countries could go ahead under Hungary's leadership in the form of enhanced co-operation," she said, referring to a mechanism in the EU treaty allowing at least nine member states to push ahead in one area. But she admitted this would leave out Roma communities in the Balkan countries which are not EU members yet.

The Roma expulsions from France and the subsequent row with the EU commission ended up working to the good of her cause, Ms Jaroka believes, since now there is much more willingness among member states and MEPs alike to push forward with proper laws to improve the lives of the Roma communities.

The commission's threat of legal proceedings against France for bad transposition of the freedom of movement directive "clearly shows what it means to have a legal base."

"What we have on Roma now is not enough: soft law and good resolutions, empty words and window-dressing from the politicians," says the deputy.

Politicisation of the issue, as witnessed in France and Italy with the recent dismantling of Roma camps, is only aggravating the situation of her community, Ms Jaroka said.

But she also admitted that the biggest challenge is to motivate young, educated Roma to stand up for their group and assume leadership.

The 36 year old mother of two is the only representative in the EU legislature of a minority of 10-12 million. "There should be 21 of us, according to the numbers of our population," she says.

From her work field as an anthropologist, Ms Jaroka "sadly" realised that the revival of Roma identity which was slowly emerging seven years ago in Hungary among young proud Roma rappers "has vanished by now".

Poverty and segregation have taken over instead and her own mixed family model has failed to become more common in rural communities.

"Knowing both cultures – my mother is non-Roma, my father Roma - I am convinced it is possible to live peacefully together, to have a shared future, because actually we have the same values: the importance of family, hard work, willingness to learn from other people."

As to her decision to join the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) - both the leaders of France and Italy where the most active anti-Roma policies have occurred come from this political family - Ms Jaroka explained that although her career was shaped by the liberal civil rights movement, it was ultimately the EPP who offered her an eligible position on the party list in the European elections.

"Fidesz (the Hungarian ruling centre-right party) was saying we want a Roma person on the list, because every tenth person in Hungary is Roma. The last few years show that I had a lot to work on in the EPP to make my argument heard, but it was much more than I could have achieved as a very full-hearted leader of anti-discrimination movement," she said.

France to alter its legislation

Meanwhile, France has indicated it will modify its laws on free circulation of EU citizens, in order to meet a deadline by 15 October and avoid a court case filed by the European Commission. A draft bill introduced by Friday would be enough for Brussels not to start legal procedures.

"Since it [the European Commission] has a doubt about French implementation of the relevant EU directives, France will modify its law to take account of their remarks," French immigration minister Eric Besson told Public Senat television station Tuesday evening.

An inter-ministerial meeting on Thursday (14 October) is set to come up with the response awaited by the EU commission, but actual law changes would only come into effect by the end of the year or early 2011, Mr Besson told Reuters.

He added that the polemics with Brussels had "largely calmed down" and that the dialogue on Roma policies was now "constructive."

Last week, justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she would closely watch a French probe into an alleged secret ethnic data base on Roma ran by the Gendarmerie, after lawyers for four Roma rights groups filed a formal complaint for breach of the national law against ethnic profiling.

On Wednesday, the general director of the Gendarmerie, Jacques Mignaux, denied the existence of such files and said the complaint was an attempt to "discredit our institution".

Feature

New year, old problems for one of EU's poorest places

The year is off to a rocky start in Vaslui, one of EU's most impoverished regions and Romania's poorest county, where two 12-year olds were found in alcohol-induced coma after having spent their Christmas carol-singing money on alcohol.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

NGO reveals German firms fail to meet UN human rights rule

A new report reveals that the biggest companies in Germany fail to manage measures to protect their employees and supply-chain from human rights abuses - ahead of the government deadline for introducing tough new regulation.

News in Brief

  1. UK watchdog unveils online child-privacy standards
  2. Alleged 'bully' nominated for EESC presidency
  3. Greens/EFA fail to agree on accepting Catalan MEPs
  4. MEPs approve over 55 gas projects for EU funding
  5. Italy deputy PM Di Maio quits as Five Star party leader
  6. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  7. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  8. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us