Roma Inclusion

Commission’s Refusal of Citizens’ Initiative Annulled

The Eu­ro­pean Gen­eral Court has an­nulled the Com­mis­sion’s re­fusal of a cit­i­zen’s ini­tia­tive aimed at im­prov­ing the pro­tec­tion for mi­nori­ties. The court’s de­ci­sion will force the Com­mis­sion to re-eval­u­ate the ini­tia­tive.

– The Eu­ro­pean Gen­eral Court on Fri­day, 3 Feb­ru­ary 2017, an­nulled the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion's de­ci­sion re­fus­ing reg­is­tra­tion of a pro­posed Eu­ro­pean cit­i­zens’ ini­tia­tive, the Mi­nor­ity SafePack [PDF], that called on the EU to im­prove the pro­tec­tion of per­sons be­long­ing to na­tional and lin­guis­tic mi­nori­ties and to strengthen cul­tural and lin­guis­tic di­ver­sity in the EU.

While the ini­tia­tive ac­knowl­edged that “ma­jor steps have been taken in the last few years” to ad­dress Roma ex­clu­sion (through the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020), it high­lighted that Roma mi­nori­ties are still “the largest and most ex­cluded group of mi­nori­ties in Eu­rope.” State­less­ness is a par­tic­u­lar con­cern for Roma mi­nori­ties, and this is one as­pect that the ini­tia­tive aimed at ad­dress­ing. “There are hun­dreds of thou­sands of state­less per­sons in Eu­rope. Many of these per­sons be­long to na­tional mi­nori­ties, and have been liv­ing in the EU for decades. They risk be­ing ex­cluded from ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, so­cial as­sis­tance and the right to vote. A state­less per­son may not be able to travel or work legally. As a re­sult they have to con­tend with in­equal­ity and dis­crim­i­na­tion. A great num­ber of state­less per­sons in Eu­rope are Roma.”

The ini­tia­tive ac­knowl­edged that it is be­yond to com­pe­ten­cies of the EU to pro­vide cit­i­zen­ship for the state­less, but clar­i­fied that a “num­ber of di­rec­tives have been adopted that deal with the rights of cer­tain cat­e­gories of third-coun­try na­tion­als (in­clud­ing state­less per­sons) [but] there are still cat­e­gories of per­sons who are ex­cluded from this frame­work, and dif­fer­ences ex­ist be­tween the rights of state­less per­sons and those of EU-cit­i­zens in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, e.g. in re­gard to work per­mits, fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion and in re­gard to the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices.” The ini­tia­tive adds that “an ex­ten­sion of cit­i­zens-re­lated rights to state­less per­sons and their fam­i­lies, who have been liv­ing in their coun­try of ori­gin for the whole of their lives, can al­le­vi­ate a lot of these per­sons’ prob­lems.”

The ini­tia­tive specif­i­cally pro­posed to ad­dress this is­sue by call­ing on the com­mis­sion to adopt “an amend­ment to the di­rec­tives that al­lows for the ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the rights of long-term state­less per­sons and their fam­i­lies to those of EU-cit­i­zens.”

In Sep­tem­ber 2013, the Com­mis­sion re­fused to reg­is­ter the pro­posal on the grounds that it “man­i­festly fell out­side the pow­ers which en­abled the Com­mis­sion to sub­mit a pro­posal for the adop­tion of an EU le­gal act for the pur­pose of im­ple­ment­ing the Treaties”.

Fri­day’s court de­ci­sion held that the Com­mis­sion’s rea­son­ing for re­fus­ing the reg­is­tra­tion of the pro­posal is “man­i­festly in­ad­e­quate”, and the Com­mis­sion ought to have in­di­cated which mea­sures fall out­side its com­pe­tences as well as set out the rea­sons in sup­port of that con­clu­sion. By not set­ting out the rea­sons, the cit­i­zens propos­ing the ini­tia­tive were pre­vented from con­test­ing the mer­its of the Com­mis­sion’s as­sess­ment, “just as the Court is pre­vented from ex­er­cis­ing its re­view of the le­gal­ity of the Com­mis­sion’s as­sess­ment”.

Ac­cord­ing to Hans Hein­rich Hansen, chair­man of the cit­i­zens’ com­mit­tee for the Mi­nor­ity SafePack Ini­tia­tive, the de­ci­sion “is an im­por­tant step for cit­i­zens’ in­volve­ment in the Eu­ro­pean Union.” The Com­mis­sion may how­ever ap­peal the de­ci­sion within two months.

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Roma seg­re­ga­tion is fre­quent in Ro­ma­nia. In Baia Mare, a so­cial-hous­ing com­plex mostly in­hab­ited by Roma peo­ple is be­com­ing a walled-in ghetto. In Roșia, Roma chil­dren are sent to seg­re­gated schools. Both is al­legedly be­ing done for the well­be­ing of the chil­dren.

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The pres­ence of Roma peo­ple is a con­tested and di­vi­sive is­sue across Eu­rope, and of­ten­times lo­cal au­thor­i­ties make the prob­lem worse by de­stroy­ing camps and push­ing com­mu­ni­ties from one lo­ca­tion to an­other, thereby stig­ma­tis­ing and re­in­forc­ing neg­a­tive stereo­types.

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