Soros: EU disintegration poses threat to Roma

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 9th of November 2011   Source: euobserver.com

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BRUSSELS - International financier and philanthropist George Soros has warned that a European process of “disintegration” is heightening the threat to the continent’s minorities, in particular the Roma.


As a result of both government cuts and the increase in support for far-right parties, the eurozone crisis is having a dangerous affect on the Europe’s most vulnerable groups.

He also said that EU leaders’ attempts to preserve the Union’s political “status quo” are “unsustainable”.

“The problem of the Roma is deteriorating with the economic situation. And the majority of the public is releasing its anger and frustration at its own economic situation by attacking the Roma,” he told EUobserver in an exclusive interview while in the European capital for a conference on Roma rights in the European Parliament on Tuesday (8 November).

The Hungarian-born investor has made Roma rights one of the flagship issues of his philanthropic work.

In April, the European Council backed a plan that would require EU member states to develop targeted strategies for Roma integration by the end of 2011.

Soros warned that seven member states are currently at risk of not making the deadline. The meeting in the parliament on Tuesday was to encourage member states to stand firm behind the EU framework.

“The other side of the economic crisis is this growth in the far right. Now Europe is in a process of disintegration which is self-reinforcing, just as the process of integration was self-reinforcing,” he warned.

“When Europe was in the positive mode, its leadership was in the forefront of pushing further EU integration,” he continued.

“Now they are just trying to preserve the status quo, which actually is unsustainable and many people who recognise that is unsustainable or intolerable are pushed into an anti-European position.”

“We are now in a situation where we are pushed to greater economic integration out of necessity of preserving the euro and that creates a very bad political dynamic where people are very close to each other and fight with each other and there is a lot to fight about.

“When people are forced to live together out of necessity and not desire, it leads to a very unhappy marriage,” he said “ You need to re-invent the process of economic of European integration.”

He highlighted the growth of the far-right Jobbik party in his own country and its associated militias that target Roma communities. Soros said that while the government has begun to make moves towards ending discrimination, the “deteriorating economic situation is increasingly pushing them [away from this direction] because of lack of resources and the current economic measures have particularly negative effects on the poor and the Roma.”

Meanwhile, the government is being pushed towards trying to “take the wind out of the sails of Jobbik and competing with them” on Roma issues.

However, he said that now more than ever, when there is more pressure on minorities, governments and the EU need to be embracing anti-discriminatory initiatives.

“This is off the agenda because the other issues are more pressing but paradoxically, dealing with the Roma issue effectively could give Europe a very welcome lift altogether.”

He tied support for such issues to a new vision of the EU: “You need to re-invent the process of European integration.”

He said however that he was “disappointed” that justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, had failed to attend the conference.

In August, she declared that the European Commission had resolved 90 percent of identified cases of infringement of freedom of movement since last summer, when the round-up and expulsion of Roma from France and Italy made international headlines, and Reding compared the French situation to Nazi-era deportations.

This position was gainsaid by NGOs working in the field, who noted that France and Italy were still engaging in expulsions of Roma from their countries.

Soros said that Reding “declaring victory was premature.” But he finished on an optimistic note, saying that Brussels could still be a force for change.

“In this issue, the European Union in the form of the commission and the parliament is the practically the only positive force.”


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