Chris Burns: "The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, wraps up his six year term at the end of this month and he's going out with a bang not a whimper. The former head of Amnesty International, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 on behalf of Amnesty says the human rights situation in Europe is getting worse not better.
"It's your chance now to ask questions to Mr Hammarberg, who is joining us from Luxembourg. Mr Hammarberg, wrapping up your six year term, how does it feel and the fact that things are worse and not better after six years..."
Thomas Hammarberg: "I think that I am a bit disappointed there is no ground for complacency in Europe about our human rights performance. One reason of course is the economic crisis, which has undermined the social rights for quite a number of people as a consequence of the austerity budgets but also I feel that the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York on the 11th of September 2001 has not had a good effect on the respect for human rights. People have been arrested and tortured even when there was no real proof that they had been involved in the planning of this terrorist attack. And torture, of course, should be absolutely forbidden."
Chris Burns: "Well, lets take a look at how the situation is now and get some questions from some of our viewers. Lets take a look at our first question now."
Gabriela, Czech Republic: "I'm Roma from the Czech Republic. I work for the Ergo Network, a Roma organisation based in Brussels. I know about the the Roma programme that the Council of Europe is organising and I would really like to know how you would motivate the municipalities - those who are against the Roma -to implement this programme? Thank you."
Chris Burns: "Mr Hammarberg, Gabriela agrees with you. Things are not getting better, what do thing about what she says?"
Thomas Hammarberg: "I think Roma is one group in Europe which has suffered from the economic crisis and the growth of extremist groups who attack the Roma both verbally but also in some violent attacks, that's a very serious problem. I think that the questioner is right, that much of the reform has to be done on a local level. And there are some attempts to do that from the European Union and the Council of Europe but more needs to be done in order to secure that people can live together on a local level. We have been very disappointed that there have been statements by politicians, in several countries in Europe, which has increased the prejudices against the Roma."
Chris Burns: "And addressing an issue like that is difficult from the European level to treacle down to the local level, let's look at another question regarding the same issue."
Florin, Brussels: "I'm a community worker based in St Georges, Brussels. If somebody really wants to do something to help the Roma people there needs to be a public policy of positive discrimination in every EU member state. We should be considered as European Roma. This problem needs solving and I hope you will be able to find some way to do this...
Chris Burns:"Well there's a rather concrete suggestion of positive discrimination, what's you're opinion on that Mr Hammarberg?"
Thomas Hammarberg: "I think there is a need for positive discrimination to catch up on the disadvantages, which has struck on the Roma population in Europe. I agree that this is also a European problem, it's a local problem, it's a national problem and it's a European problem. And politicians on all these levels must work towards a situation where Roma would be fully integrated and accepted in our societies, which they are not today. The main point there is to put an end to anti-gypsy prejudices against the Roma and there I feel that the politicians have a very important role, which they have not lived up to, so far in my opinion."
Chris Burns: "I suppose education is also probably a factor in that. Let's go on to a wider question about the situation in general, another question here."
Ronifen. Bulgaria: "In several Non-Governmental organizations it was announced in the beginning of 2012 that there is a human rights crisis in the EU. How will European Institutions guarantee human rights in the EU?"
Chris Burns: "That's almost a bit of an accusatory question there saying that the European institutions are falling down on the job here. He says there is a crisis, in a sense agreeing with you but also accusing you at the same time, no?"