06 APR 2011
By Arthur Beesley | Irish Times
THE EU justice commissioner has imposed an eight-month deadline on member states to make new plans for the integration of their Roma communities, an initiative which aims to end rampant discrimination against Europe’s biggest ethnic minority.
Viviane Reding, who has clashed with French president Nicolas Sarkozy over his administration’s Roma deportations, said national authorities faced a “serious challenge” to end Roma exclusion from schools, jobs, healthcare and housing.
As the EU executive embarked on a new initiative to guide national Roma policies and mobilise funding, Ms Reding said “some good intentions from national politicians” had done little to change lives.
“Most important to me is that member states help ensure that all Roma children complete at least primary school,” she said.
Research from Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia found that only 42 per cent of Roma children completed primary school, compared to an EU average of 97.5 per cent. In secondary schools, Roma attendance was estimated at 10 per cent.
Ms Reding provoked a storm of controversy last year when she likened French policies to Nazi-era persecutions of the Jews and Roma. While such remarks angered Mr Sarkozy, she described the affair as a “wake-up” call for Europe.
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