Roma campaigners dismiss Brussels’ claim on evictions and expulsions

News article originally published in the Guardian on Thursday 25 August 2011.

A year after a succession of countries in Europe began breaking up Roma encampments and expelling hundreds of EU citizens back mainly to Romania, the European commission has claimed it is winning the battle to protect citizens’ right to free movement across the bloc.

But advocates of Roma rights have warned Brussels that it is not doing enough to protect Europe’s largest minority ethnic group, and that evictions and deportations continue to be carried out, primarily by France and Italy.

The EU executive said it had resolved 90% of identified cases of infringement of freedom of movement since last summer.

The justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, warned that the commission would “not hesitate to speak out” if member states did not properly apply the fundamental right to freedom of movement and safeguard EU citizens “from facing arbitrary or disproportionate expulsion”. She said: “Last summer’s events were a wake-up call for Europe.” Continue reading →

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Don’t let your slightly racist gran be the only one to take on Europe’s silent coup

Article originally published in Red Pepper in April 2011.

She’s lovely really.

She has a painting of her you did when you were six framed in the kitchen, and however old you may be now, she still keeps Mars bar ice creams in the bottom freezer-bit of her little fridge for when you pop over. And the baby-blue and lemon-yellow Marks & Spencer’s golf shirt with three sailboats on the pocket that she sent you in the post last year for your birthday is now just quaint and endearing instead of the mortifying sartorial disaster similar gifts had been when you were thirteen (mainly because now as you live in your own flat, your mum can’t force you to wear it in public).

It’s just those slightly racist comments your gran makes from time to time that irk. All right, completely racist comments.

‘It’s terrible! Did you hear? Romanian gypsies are eating our donkeys! I tell you, ever since we joined the common market, waffle, waffle, nativist ignorant waffle, Churchill would never have waffle, waffle…’ But you’re only there for the weekend, so you zone out from most of it or politely disagree, but you try not to make too much of a fuss.  Continue reading →

Getting off our knees?

Article originally published in Red Pepper in November, 2010.

‘Austerity strikes roil Europe’ – Christian Science Monitor; ‘Anti-austerity protests sweep across Europe’ – Associated Press; ‘European cities hit by anti-austerity protests’ – BBC.

From the nigh-on identical, panicked headlines that raced around the world on 29 September, the day of the pan-European day of action organised by the European Trades Union Congress, you would have thought that the entire continent was aflame with civil unrest, furious at the measures introduced by our governments – a sacrifice of the public sector, labour rights, social benefits, hurled into the volcano to slake the anger of the markets.

Perhaps there was a glint of something to it. Only weeks later, France would be paralysed by strikes and refinery blockades that left the country days away from running entirely out of petrol. Those clichéd, magic four integers, 1968, tumbled trembling once more from the lips of commentators and politicos. Greece, on the surface, appears to be tearing itself apart. One report in September from that most sober of news wires, Reuters, quoted a German economist from the Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research, warning how ‘political fatigue with austerity policies typically sets in in the second year and could yet push Greece to default or the brink of civil war’.  Continue reading →

The rise of European Bobo politics

Feature originally published in Red Pepper in August 2009.

The success of Europe Ecologie in France and moderate advances elsewhere in the June European elections have emboldened the green right but disaster in Ireland, where the party was wiped out – and to a lesser extent in the Czech Republic – shows what happens when they abandon their principles for a shot at the big league. 

Since the France’s Europe Ecologie triumph in the European elections, the European media have been talking of a Green wave across the continent, with leading member Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s gurning visage nigh on inescapable.

But the effervescent Cohn-Bendit has every right to be in an especially jolly mood – the result was indeed truly spectacular. It saw them soaring from the 7.45 per cent of the French vote in the 2004 EU elections and their embarrassing 1.57 per cent in the 2007 presidential elections.  Continue reading →