Europe Isn’t Ready for a Reckoning on Roma Rights

Europe Isn’t Ready for a Reckoning on Roma Rights
Candles and a ribbon with the inscription “Roma lives matters” on the sidewalk where Stanislav Tomas died, in Teplice, Czech Republic, June 24, 2021 (CTK photo by Ondrej Hajek via AP).

A man from a long-marginalized minority group dies after a police officer kneels on his neck, triggering protests and bringing issues of police brutality and systemic injustice into focus. 

The place is not Minneapolis, but the small city of Teplice in the Czech Republic. The date is not May 25, 2020, but June 19, 2021. And the victim is not George Floyd, but Stanislav Tomas—a 46-year-old Roma man.

The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, numbering 12 million to 15 million, according to Julija Sardelic, a political scientist at Victoria University of Wellington and author of “The Fringes of Citizenship: Romani Minorities in Europe and Civic Marginalisation.” Yet they are barely visible in the highest echelons of the continent’s political and business life, and are treated as second-class citizens across the continent, from France to Bulgaria. Official mistreatment and neglect combine with widespread public prejudice, particularly as some politicians try to stoke xenophobic sentiments by stigmatizing and persecuting Roma. The political scientist Aiden McGarry has written that “romaphobia” is “the last acceptable form of racism”—a view borne out by Tomas’s death, Sardelic told WPR.

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