The question this week in U-talk is “Why is racism against the Roma still so widespread in Europe?”
The response comes from Jeroen Schokkenbroek, the Special Representative on Roma affairs, for the Council of Europe:
“What is important in any question of prejudice and discrimination is that, let’s say mainstream populations perceive Roma people as being different. They don’t have the monopoly because we see the same with other minority groups in society, we see in different countries, that, for example, lesbians and gay groups are being discriminated against, but the Roma have these special stigma in all member states.
“There’s an important role for the law – laws against discrimination and also the laws that the Council of Europe has prepared. This is a principle of human rights, it’s very important. But we’re talking about attitudes of people, and to change attitudes it requires more than just a law, it requires strong political courage.
“European society has also not really digested past history. We’ve seen the Nazi persecutions of the Roma in Europe.
“We’ve seen that after WWII in most countries there has been no recognition of the holocaust that carried out against the Roma. This is why, for instance, the Commission of Human Rights of the Council of Europe has pleaded to set up national commissions for reconciliation and truth commissions to come to terms with this past.
“Two things I’d like to mention that we’ve been doing since 2010: we’re training Roma mediators. That is, people who work at local level to promote better communication, and dialogue between marginalised communities and the public institutions.
“Another point which is much more general: we’re now working much more closely with national governments and among governments to improve their policies to make them more effective. Roma integration is not an easy issue to tackle for governments and we need to give them support.”
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