2 August 2020

Michael O’Flaherty

Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Commemoration speech on the occasion of 2 August 2020, Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma

Thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this event. I am deeply honoured to play a part in the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma. Today we commemorate the Porajmos, the devouring, the murder by Nazis and their collaborators of somewhere between 500.000 and one million Roma during the horrors of the Second World War.

It is deeply right for us to have this commemoration in the Europe of today. Because the Europe of today is a place where we see a rise in patterns of hate and hate crime directed against Roma, Sinti and Travellers. Unfortunately we know this as fact from the repeated surveys of the Fundamental Rights Agency. We also to some extend know it from official data. All be at the levels of reporting of acts of hate, harassment and so forth is very low. Less than one in ten people report these acts in some places and some situations. There is a very close connection between the patterns of hate, the rising patterns of hate against Roma, Sinti and Travellers and the deplorable experience of discrimination across so many sectors in just about every corner of the European Union.

Look at the situation of the last few months with Covid-19 and the in some places disproportioned action taken to quarantine Roma, Sinti and Traveller communities in a way that simply would be inconceivable with regard to the general population. Things are so serious in Europe today that the United Nation´s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide just a few months ago compared the situation as he sees it today in Europe with that in the 1930s.

So what can we do? My time is limited, so let me leave you with just four thoughts on this occasion.

The first is a kind of a baseline, and that is law. We are not demanding favours when we ask for justice and equality for Roma, Sinti and Travellers. We are asking that fundamental human rights be honoured and respected and never shy away from this. We are simply demanding rights and entitlements, not favours.

Second, with the demand for law goes the requirement of accountability. Policy-makers, decision-makers, governments must be held accountable for the delivery of these legal obligations and those individuals who cross the line of law such as hate crime law they must be held accountable, they must be prosecuted.

Third of my four points is that we must acknowledge, celebrate and build awareness of the extraordinary diversity of the Roma, Sinti and Traveller communities and of their history. We must embed the Porajmos in the curricular in our schools, we must talk about it we must build up awareness across our societies of the extraordinary suffering. So little known of the Roma and Sinti and Traveller communities.

And fourth and finally and it follows very closely of what I just said, we must recognize that the problem here is not within these communities, the problems are in our societies and we must invest heavily and deeply in eradicating the prejudice, the bias and intolerance which is so prevalent today.

I thank you for your attention.

Commemoration Speeches

Stéphane Dion

Ambassador of Canada in Germany, Special Representative of Canada to the EU and to Europe

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