Strasbourg, 28 February 2012: The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) welcomes the report published by the Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg
With much courage and dedication, Mr Hammarberg has set out for all to read what the Roma and Traveller community has known for decades – that Europe's anti-Roma apartheid system intrudes on every aspect of life and death in this continent.
What concerns us now is the fate which awaits this watershed report.
The results of the commissioner's research present the clear opportunity for a complete break with the past. Will governments now work constructively with the Roma community, involve it in all programmes aimed at progress and make good their commitment to serve all citizens?
Or, will the report yellow with age as the sluggish economy, political intrigues and other issues reclaim the spotlight and Europe's leaders return to "business as usual" in their dealings with the Roma community?
It bodes ill for the future that so far, not a single political leader has made a public statement about the findings of the Commissioner for Human Rights' report.
Nevertheless, the ERTF, strengthened by Mr Hammarberg's impressive report, will continue to seek positive engagement with the authorities at national and international level, to obtain improvements for Roma communities on key matters:
- Roma and Traveller people must enjoy the full protection of the law.
- Each Council of Europe member state must put in place firm and resolute policies to stamp out vigilante groups and extremists who threaten the security of peaceful communities.
- Anti-gipsyism and incitement to hatred must be condemned and their proponents sanctioned appropriately by the courts.
- Public services, health care and education must be available to all.
It is Europe's shame that Roma and Travellers are still waiting for such basic rights in the second decade of the 21st century.
The Commissioner for Human Rights has thrown down the gauntlet to the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
Each one must now act with due diligence on the findings of the Hammarberg report. A failure to do so would be both irresponsible and inhumane.