2 August 2021

Helena Dalli

European Commissioner for Equality

Speech on the occasion of 2 August 2021, Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma

On this occasion we remember the circa half a million Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust.

This figure represents more than a quarter of the roma population at the time, murdered by the Nazi-led regime for no other reason than their being different. It is hard to imagine the individual and collective fear, pain and suffering of these innocent victims, but we must have it in our hearts to try. Today and forever we must keep the memories alive and teach the lessons of this tragedy to the next generations. We must never repeat these atrocities of the past.

Today I pay tribute to all of those who perished, driven by a racist ideology and supremacy. The nazis targeted anyone they viewed as asocial or a risk to the regime. The Roma and Sinti people, the European jews, persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ-people, communists and even left-handed people.

It is regrettable, that to this day too few know about these terrible atrocities and how they were executed. And even now, many deny the holocaust ever happened or minimize and distort the historical facts around it.

Today, seven decades on anti-gypsyism anti-semitism and other forms of hatred and racism are on the rise once more. This is of great concern. The holocaust had a deep effect on European society displacements lost generations and broken families from minority communities. The lack of recognition of roma and tinti suffering has been profound and for them the legacy of the Holocaust continues today in the form of anti-roma rhetoric, hate speech and stereotypes, prejudices and exclusion.

I was horrified to learn about the recent case of police brutality against a roma citizen. Europe is built on the respect for fundamental rights and police brutality and violence against human dignity have no place within it. Member states and authorities must take firm action against police brutality and ethnic profiling and ensure that adequate and non-discriminatory police methods are applied, regardless of the ethnic or racial origin, sexual orientation or religion and belief. Europe must protect its minorities from racism and discrimination.

Last year i presented a 10-year plan to advance roma equality with all other members of society, social and economic inclusion and participation to political, social, economic and cultural life. The council of the european union followed up on this and adopted in March this year. A recommendation on roma equality inclusion and participation in all member states reaffirming our commitment to effectively fight discrimination against roma people and to promote roma inclusion in the key areas of education, employment, health and housing.

I am confident that these steps will help us to tackle the long-standing injustices discrimination and exclusion of the roma people. The commission is also stepping up the fight against racism through an anti-racism action plan for 2020-2025 and i have called on member states to include antigypsyism as a specific form of racism when implementing the actions presented in this plan. I will also look at expanding the list of EU crimes to all forms of hate crime and hate speech. Whether because of race, religion, gender or sexuality.

I will use all possible means at my disposal to ensure that European society is equal, humane and fair for all. We must learn from the past to guarantee a better present and future. Let us make sure, that the suffering of the Sinti and Roma Holocaust-victims is not lost on this or future generations and let us build a better future for all.


Helena Dalli is the first EU Commissioner for Equality since December 2019. Her role is to deliver on the Union of Equality chapter within the Political Guidelines of President von der Leyen, by strengthening Europe’s commitment to equality and inclusion in all of its senses.  

Prior to taking her role as Commissioner, Dalli held various political roles in Malta including Member of Parliament (1996 to 2019), Minister for European Affairs and Equality (2017 to 2019), and Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (2013-2017). She was also opposition Shadow Minister for public administration, equality, public broadcasting and national investments (1998-2013) and Junior Minister for Women’s Rights in the Office of Prime Minister (1996-1998). Dalli holds a PhD in Political Sociology from the University of Nottingham, and lectured in Economic and Political Sociology, Public Policy, and Sociology of Law at the University of Malta.

Opening Remarks

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