Safeguard Roma rights, urges adviser
Ireland should use its presidency of the EU to ensure that the countries joining in May offer anti-discrimination measures to their Roma citizens, Mr Alan Anstead told the conference.
Mr Anstead is the legal adviser to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), based in Budapest. The Roma were the most deprived ethnic group in the whole of Europe, experiencing widespread violence and discrimination, he said.
The ERRC defended their rights both through advocacy and taking cases through both national and European courts.
In many central and east European countries anti-discrimination measures were scant, he said. Bulgaria had recently passed legislation, as had Hungary. Slovakia was discussing it, but Poland had done nothing. All the accession countries should transpose the new EU Race Directive into national legislation before accession, but this looked unlikely, he said.
"Generally in central and eastern Europe, Roma are barred from pubs, restaurants, bars and even swimming pools," he said. The law in many of these countries made it difficult to prove discrimination. A single anti-discrimination Act to define it was needed.