By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Euro-lawmakers yesterday traded barbs on the Roma immigration issue without reaching any conclusion which prompted European Commission vice-president and commissioner of Justice, Viviane Reding, to say she was ashamed of attending the plenary session.
The debate comes amid France’s massive repatriation of Roma immigrants and Germany’s warning about what Berlin calls “social tourism”, poor people from the East settling in the West in search of social benefits. The debate is likely to continue and gain intensity as the European Parliament elections are scheduled to take place next May.
The Roma origin Hungarian Euro-MP Livia Jaroka warned of an increasing number of anti-Roma declarations lately. “The Western democracies aren’t any better than the ones in the East after expelling European citizens of Roma origin who have become a burden passed around” she said during the debate as quoted by Mediafax.
In her turn, Helene Flautre, a Euro-lawmaker with the Greens, asked the European Commission to show more firmness when dealing with discrimination against Roma in various EU countries. “It is a shame how the whole minority is treated like a criminal group, deported and forcibly moved from one place to another” leftist Martin Gustaffson joined the debate.
Bulgarian Dimitar Stoyanov lashed out against France whom he accused of displaying a superiority attitude towards Romania and Bulgaria in the Roma file. Paris has not bothered to find other solutions rather the simple one of deportation, he also said.
He was soon joined by the Romanian Euro-lawmaker Corina Cretu who pointed out France has received eight times more EU funds for the Roma integration than Romania over the 2007-2013 budget. “It doesn’t do anyone any good to demonize the Roma and the countries they come from. It is our duty to help these people” she underlined, reminding all the EU countries have to lift the work restrictions for the Romanians and Bulgarians as of January 2014.
On the other side, Paul Nuttal, a British Euro-lawmaker with the far right UKIP, warned that 22 per cent of the British youth are unemployed. “And what do we do about it? Open the labor market for millions who will invade us? This is not racism, it is economy” he explained.
In the end, Commissioner Viviane Reding criticized the Euro-lawmakers’ attitude towards the Roma community. “The Roma are human beings but it seems not everyone here agrees with this reality. They have the same rights and obligations like us” she underlined, asking for a bigger stress to be put on social funds.
She refuted all the allegations concerning the so-called invasion of Romanians and Bulgarians as of January 2014 when the labor restrictions are lifted, but warned member states and their citizens should not mistake the freedom of circulation with migration. “One has the right to settle in a country, but also the obligation not to become a burden for its social system and to observe its laws” she said. Overall, she felt disappointed by the outcome of the debate yesterday and said she was ashamed of attending the session.
The European Commission has long warned next year’s EP elections would see a radicalization of the political speech from populist politicians in search of votes and which will mainly envision vulnerable communities, such as the Roma.