Šefčovič has to explain his previous anti-Roma remarks next week

Brussels, 14.01.2010. Ms. Lívia Járóka MEP (EPP Group) held a press conference on the anti-Roma remark of commissioner-designate Maroš Šefčovič in which he claimed, that Roma were the "exploiters of the Slovakian welfare system". Járóka, the only Roma member of the European Parliament said that such a collective condemnation of Europe's most vulnerable minority was unacceptable. MEP Járóka said that he would have the opportunity to explain the issue at his Hearing.

In January 2005, the European Commission organized a conference in Brussels about human rights and the migration policy of the EU. In that conference, Mr Maroš Šefčovič, the newly appointed ambassador of Slovakia to the EU, said that his Roma compatriots were exploiting the welfare system of the country.
 
MEP Járóka pointed out during the press conference that these remarks had never been corrected despite the objection of several Roma activists and organizations and no apologies had been expressed either from Mr. Šefčovič or from the Slovakian government for 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 he has never said such sentence, 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 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 hear his explanation on his hearing next Monday in Strasbourg” – Járóka said.
 
MEP Járóka added, that the problem which Mr. Šefčovič pointed out in his remarks underlined the necessity of the paradigm-shift, she had been pursuing in the last 5 years: “we must realize 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 these very months, 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 emphasized.