Brussels, September 15th, 2008 – Tomorrow’s European Roma summit is an especially welcome initiative of the European Union: for the very first time a large number of Roma representatives has the occasion of meeting European decision-makers at the top level. Throughout the day, Roma, civil society, national governments and European institution leaders will work together to find an effective way to tackle the persistent discrimination that Roma still face everywhere in Europe.
At the same time, we hope the Summit will not be just a ‘fig leaf’ placed over the lack of concrete action which is needed to promote inclusion of the most deprived and largest minority in Europe. The Summit must instead be the first brick in the foundation for a solid and consistent European Strategy for Roma. We cannot wait until the next Roma pogrom springs up, alarming once again the decision-makers around Europe because they did not make a political response: a European Roma Strategy is needed now!
We also want to underline the need of a constant dialogue between Roma and the authorities from all levels. Here, we insist that all policies targeting Roma should be developed and implemented with the real participation of Roma themselves. The European Commission and Member States should build a more effective and steady relationship with Roma civil society. Roma can not continue to be passive observers of initiatives which concern them.
Finally, we hope that the results of the Summit will reinforce Roma related content within the Social Agenda. The EC policies towards Roma compiled in the Staff Working Paper are too weak when compared to the deep state of exclusion and discrimination experienced by Roma. In order to make it stronger and truly respondent to the real needs of the Roma minority, the European Commission should take the lead by adopting a European Roma Strategy and share its responsibilities with Member States. We hope the Summit will not be just another meeting, but the beginning of a concrete and effective action towards Roma inclusion.