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Institutional racism against Romani people is spreading

Monday, 05 July 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

Institutional racism against Romani people is spreading in Europe and is becoming deadly. 

Stanislav Tomas, a young Roma man from Teplice, Czech Republic, died after a policeman held his knee to his neck for 6 minutes. A case similar to that of George Floyd. Hundreds of hate messages are pouring in against Romani people, even after a Roma man in the Czech Republic died because of this hatred and the violence by some police officers.

For George Floyd, a whole world showed support and protested for days. Even the European institutions reacted immediately. Their representatives competed in statements, one stronger and more vehement than the other. The European Commission, through its President, Ursula von der Leyen, following the death of Floyd, called for the development of a European action plan to combat racism, with specific reference to people of colour as a target group, and even created a position for a European coordinator for the fight against racism, also for a person of color.

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution named after George Floyd calling for the fight against racism. Absolutely wonderful and beneficial actions in the fight that many of us are waging against racism.

But what hurts me the most is this double standard that applies to the Romani people, the most discriminated and excluded ethnic group in the European Union. Stanislav died in the same circumstances as Floyd and as a result of the same deadly practice applied by several police officers.

This time, no one at the top of the European institutions reacted. Everyone was silent and still silent. Among the only actions were those developed by MEP Romeo Franz and supported by civil society at European and international level.

Romani people have organized protests and thousands of Romani people went out in the street and asked for justice.

The Greens in the European Parliament, through MEP Romeo Franz, even asked for a debate with resolution for the Parliament’s plenary session in week of 5-9 July. On 1st July the majority of the presidents of the political groups did not even put it on the agenda of their meeting and rejected it.

Despite letters developed by civil society organizations, such as ERGO or ERRC, or events and protests organized for many days by Romani people, leaders and activists, the EU is silent.

Unfortunately, the EU’s image will again suffer in the fight against antigypsyism, the specific form of racism against Romani people, regardless of the useless soft policy they develop. Nice words on a piece of paper will change nothing.

If in Floyd’s case, the police officer was severely punished, in Stanislav’s case they are glorified and congratulated.

Even the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic congratulates the police action despite it leading to the death of a man, as he expressed himself publicly in the Czech press.

What tears my heart, however, is the joy of many people for Stanislav’s death and the abjections said about him and his family as solid arguments for killing him. How empty can your soul be, how cold can your heart be to enjoy the death of someone like you? I turn my gaze to heaven and ask God to forgive them because they sin a lot, especially when they think out loud and believe that someone has the right to kill a person just because that person is different.

If the death of a man cannot move the European commissioners responsible for developing a law for Romani equality and inclusion and for combating antigypsyism from the comfort of their seats to concrete action, it simply means that the situation suits them.