Ivan Ivanov: The endless Road to Recognition: The Situation of Roma in Europe

Roma are the largest minority in contemporary Europe and one of the groups at the highest risk of living in poverty throughout the European Union. Poverty and social exclusion among large parts of Roma are strongly linked to the discrimination and racism they are facing. In “Rosas Salon” on September 30, 2009 guest speaker Ivan Ivanov analyzed the current situation of Roma in Europe and discussed the approaches that national and European politicians are taking to tackle this more than urgent issue.

Ivan Ivanov, previously an attorney for the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest and today Executive Director of the European Roma Information Office (ERIO), was introduced by Cornelia Ernst, MEP for DIE LINKE. In her speech Ernst described the failed attempts of the European Institutions to address discriminatory practices within the national states. As a recent example of human right violations of EU member states she mentioned the current deportations of more than 10.000 Roma refugees in Germany who after more than a decade are being repatriated to Kosovo where they are exposed to ongoing persecution.

After giving an overview over the almost 1000-year-old history of Roma in Europe, Ivan Ivanov described the attempts of ERIO to lobby for the recognition of Roma as an ethnic minority that suffers from high unemployment, low access to education and health care, lack of appropriate housing and a wide-spread antiziganism. Moving towards the specific problems within the European framework of institutions and programs, Ivanov stated that most Roma are EU citizens and therefore do not profit from the EU programs for refugees. Even though the EU has included Roma in fundamental documents on human rights and set up equality programs such as the “Roma Decade 2005-2015”, Roma are barely represented in the European Union: Currently just one member of the European Parliament is of Roma origin whereas the percentage of Roma in some Eastern European member states reaches almost 10 % of the population.

Yet, Ivanov argued that given the fact that there is even less interest in Roma issues on national and regional level, it is the European institutions EU, CoE and OSZE that – given they develop a proactive coherent approach – can be decisive actors in the fight for Roma rights in Europe.

Speaker: Ivan Ivanov, European Roma Information Office
Organisation: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
Ave. Michel-Ange 11, 1000 Brussels
Time: 18:00 h
Contact: Anna Striethorst