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European Parliament

Rm ASP 14E140, Rue Wiertz, B-1047 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 284 5204/7204
Fax: +32 2 284 9204

9th September, 2003.

Petition 239/2003

Dear Mr McNeill,

Thank you for your letter regarding the submission by ECRE, which is allocated the petition number 239/2003, concerning the situation of Roma children in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

On receipt of this petition and the substantive file which was forwarded later in March, an advance copy was forwarded to a leading member of the Foreign Affairs Committee for information as it is the Foreign Affairs Committee which, as you may know, has been covering the enlargement process within the European Parliament as the lead Committee.

The file was also summarised by the secretariat of the Petitions Committee and prepared for translation. It has been forwarded to the European Commission for further investigation which is ongoing, and which is in line with the Committee's normal practice. They will report to the Petitions Committee in due course and answer questions from members, in public. On that occasion representatives of your organisation may of course be present.

You imply in your correspondence that the European Parliament has not paid any attention to the issues raised by the plight of the Roma communities in the three countries you mention. This is incorrect. While it may be the case that more efforts have been concentrated upon the problems faced by the Roma in Romania and Bulgaria - including a full hearing on the situation concerning Romania, the Parliament has also highlighted its concerns about Roma throughout the enlargement process. Indeed, in the resolutions approved by Parliament in September 2001, regarding the enlargement negotiations for example, you will find the following references:

"Whereas the situation of the Roma population continues to require special attention, despite the fact that the Hungarian Government has already begun to implement its medium term programme," or, "Draws attention to the fact that the medium-term plan...to promote the integration of the Roma minority...must be backed by practical and immediate support measures in the fields of education, employment and housing, inter alia, some of which are already under way, and which must be co-ordinated with the representatives of the Roma community and monitored jointly with them; believes that discrimination against Roma is largely due to existing prejudices and attitudes and that it can only be eliminated through information and education."

I would add that throughout the negotiations with candidate countries the Joint Committees established between the European Parliament and the candidate countries have regularly discussed and evaluated such issues, with the full Cupertino of the European Commission and all interested parties, including of course the Roma community.

I can assure you that the Committee on Petitions has clear priorities, deals with over 1500 petitions each year, each one requiring a proper assessment and we seek to treat each one fairly. The European Commission is investigating your allegations with great care and a response will be forthcoming to the Committee, and it is only at that stage that the Petitions Committee will be able to consider the issues raised in your petition. This is a thorough process but I am afraid is inevitably relatively slow.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Perry