Commissioner Hearings: Šefčovič has to explain his previous anti-Roma remarks next week. Lívia Járóka MEP

Commissioner Hearings: Šefčovič has to explain his previous anti-Roma remarks next week. Lívia Járóka MEP

2010. 01. 14.

In January 2005, the European Commission organised a conference in Brussels  on human rights and the EU’s migration policy. At the conference, Mr Šefčovič, the then newly-appointed Ambassador of Slovakia to the EU, said that his Roma compatriots were exploiting the welfare system of the country.

Mrs Járóka pointed out during the press conference that these remarks had never been corrected despite the objection of several Roma activists and organisations and no apologies have been offered by Mr Šefčovič or from the Slovakian government over the last five years. “It was only yesterday that Mr Šefčovič issued a statement regretting if those remarks might have offended someone”, said Járóka. However, his freshly-issued statement does not allege that he never made the offending remarks, it only expresses that Mr Šefčovič has “no recollection of having said those words”.
“Such a statement is unacceptable from an EU Ambassador, but even more unacceptable from a high-ranking EC official, the candidate for the Vice-Presidency of the European Commission dealing with equal opportunity issues. However, we should not prejudge Mr Šefčovič. We should give him the opportunity to explain his comments. We are looking forward to hearing his explanation at his Hearing next Monday in Strasbourg “, Járóka said.

She added that the problem which Mr Šefčovič pointed out in his remarks underlined the necessity of the paradigm shift which she has been pursuing for the last 5 years: “We must realise that the social inclusion of Roma is not merely a moral obligation, but an economic necessity. While there are long debates about how expected needs of the labour market could be balanced by migration, decision-makers seem to neglect those living in permanent unemployment, a considerable part of whom are Roma. Instead of the collective condemnation of an ethnic group, we must do our best to reintegrate those who have fallen out of employment due to structural shifts in the post-socialist economies. We must set their wasted capital into motion and ensure that they become contributing members of society instead of beneficiaries of public aid.”

During interviews, Járóka expressed her hope that the new Commission will go beyond the theoretical approaches already adopted and the organisational issues already decided and start to take specific actions, thereby actually putting these frameworks into practice. “A community strategy on Roma inclusion is gaining shape right now and I hope that the new Commission will prove to be a committed partner in developing a truly complex strategy which targets all Roma-related policy areas simultaneously. The social challenges affecting Roma and non-Roma alike are so serious and the consequences of inaction are so dangerous that we cannot afford the blunders of the past. We expect immediate measures and a radical change to the present attitude, and for the Commission to be the flagship of a pan-European Roma Strategy to be developed as soon as possible, based on a firm legal basis, a credible budget and clear political commitment”, Járóka concluded.