Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Before the start of the EU Roma Platform 2018, ERGO Network and Roma Active Albania, together with the European Commission DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, organised the event “Reintegration” into the Western Balkans: Returnees’ perspective with special attention to Roma community, as part of the ‘Joint Initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey’. The event was hosted by the MEPs Cornelia Ernst (European United Left–Nordic Green Left), Soraya Post (Socialists & Democrats) and Eduard Kukan (European People’s Party).

Together the partners managed to move ‘the Roma in the Western Balkans’ perspective from the margins to the center of the EU Roma Platform’s narrative. The event strengthened stakeholders’ understanding of the situation, created a space for dialogue between Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, international organisations, national authorities, Roma Contact Points and Roma organisations from both the Western Balkans region and EU Member States. Participants of the conference discussed their view of the problems and possible measures to be taken to address them.

More specifically, there is a need for data collection, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, financing, policy frameworks and capacity-building. The event also raised awareness of the need for a stronger support for grassroots organizations to support returnees and to advocate for better policies and reflected the close cooperation between the European Commission Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

By presenting preliminarily results of a study commissioned by DG NEAR and conducted by the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, UNDP showed that the ongoing uncoordinated approach towards returnees has not been able to address the problems that Roma people experience in this context.

ERGO members and partners from OTAHARIN (Bosnia), RROMA (Macedonia) and Central Council of German Sinti and Roma presented the situation of returnees’ in their countries. Dragan Jokovic, Director of OTAHARIN argued that “Roma do not see the future in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia because they want the best for their children” and that “there are no conditions created for reintegration”. He added that Roma are the most discriminated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that even the Constitution is discriminatory. “Roma returnees only can turn to NGOs for support”, Mr Jokovic stated.

While closing the event, MEP Soraya Post sent an important message to the participants: “The EU has defined the Western Balkan countries as safe countries of origin. This does not mean that these countries are free from antigypsyism. We hope that step by step we can make positive and sustainable changes, but we have to be more responsible.”

Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania and Vice Chair of the ERGO Network board, highlighted the importance of joint efforts and coordination: “I can confirm that civil society is ready to make the reintegration of returnees a reality for the Western Balkans, but the most important is what we all take home from this successful event in terms of responsibilities that we need to fulfil”.

We are yet to see if the major actors will take more responsibility and increase their contribution to making sustainable change for the Roma in the Western Balkans.

The European Pillar of Social Rights and European Semester as tools for delivering Social Europe

The European Pillar of Social Rights and European Semester as tools for delivering Social Europe  

On 2 October, the European Commission’s DG Employment together with the European Centre of Expertise (ECE) in the field of Labour Law, Employment and Labour Market Policies organised a reflection with civil society on the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester.

Through ERGO Network’s Annual Work Programme RISE (Roma Included in Social Europe), ERGO Network closely follows the European Semester process as a possible tool to foster the social inclusion and poverty reduction of Roma in the EU, with a special focus on the five countries with the highest Roma population  – Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic.

ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova presented ERGO’s work in this area and pointed out the great discrepancies between the poor living situation of Roma in these countries and the attention Roma inclusion receives in the European Semester. Czech Republic, for example, is under the infringement procedure for segregation of Roma children in education, while this topic is not anymore included in the Czech country-specific recommendations.  Also Roma employment is not found among the CSRs in any of our target countries, even though Roma unemployment – and particularly youth unemployment – remains extremely high. Around 64% of Roma aged 16 to 24 are not in education, employment and training according to research by the Fundamental Rights Agency – a fact that should be reflected in the European Semester and the European Pillar of Social Rights, but that does not attract any special attention in mainstream EU policies.

ERGO Network chair Stano Daniel and ERGO Network member Katalin Nagy added insights from the Roma grassroots in Hungary and Slovakia to the discussion in order to stress the importance of mainstreaming Roma inclusion in European policies, if the EU really wants to deliver on a Social Europe.

TRANSITION FROM EDUCATION TO EMPLOYMENT FOR ROMA YOUTH – A Key step in Roma Inclusion

TRANSITION FROM EDUCATION TO EMPLOYMENT FOR ROMA YOUTH – A Key step in Roma Inclusion

 

On 25-26 September, ERGO Network policy officer Carmen Tanasie took part in an international expert Seminar of the Council of Europe Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM), focusing on the transition from education to employment for Roma youth.

Despite the efforts to expand and improve education for Roma children over the years, as many as 50% of Roma children in Europe fail to complete primary education and only a quarter complete secondary education. Participation in education drops considerably after compulsory education where only 15% of young Roma adults have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education. Without compulsory education completion, many young Roma are unable to meet the basic requirements for vocational education programmes and therefore to find employment. On average 63% of Roma aged 16 to 24 are consequently not in work, education or further training, and 72% of Roma women.  

This year’s expert seminar under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of Europe followed up on the recommendations brought forward by the 4th meeting of the Council of Europe Dialogue with Roma and Traveller civil society of 2017, with a focus on vocational education and training. The different panels discussed, among others, second chance educational programmes for school drop-outs, social enterprises as an opportunity for young Roma and travellers, certification of professional skills and reach out of EU programmes for NEEET towards Roma.

Carmen Tanasie presented ERGO Network’s research on Roma youth employment ‘What work(s) for Roma, with a special focus on discussing the question: How successful is the “Youth Guarantee” programme in reaching and creating meaningful opportunities for young Roma? ERGO’s research has shown that most young Roma have never heard of the Youth Guarantee, and  are not offered meaningful options for further education or training by the Public Employment Services. She brought forward ERGO’s recommendations on better targeting of the Youth Guarantee towards those hardest to reach so that young Roma can also benefit from EU programmes.

More information on ERGO’s youth employment work: http://ergonetwork.org/our-work/monitoring/youth-employment/

Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine

Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine

On 17-18 October, ERGO Network director Gabriela Hrabanova spoke at a conference on ‘Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine’, organised by UN Women in cooperation with ERGO Network member Roma Women Fund Chiricli.

The conference brought together Ukrainian Members of Parliament, government representatives and members of the judiciary with local decision-makers, MEPs, UN officials, civil society organisations and grassroots Roma women to discuss the multiple discriminations of Roma women and provide recommendations for the elimination of discrimination.

According to UN Women, the estimated 100,000 – 200,000 Roma women are the most socially excluded and marginalized group in Ukraine. They are discriminated for being Roma, for being women and for being poor.  Roma women have limited access to education, health care, do not participate in public and political life and live under constant threat to their security. These problems become even more severe through the lack of ID documents – in some areas of Ukraine only 15% of Roma have passports, a situation that obstructs them to access social services, education and official employment.

“In our work with Roma activists in Ukraine, we sometimes feel their fear they cannot have an impact. Roma rights activists should not feel isolated. A great number of experts and activists from the around the world, as well as from Ukraine, are present in the Parliament today, to support Roma activists and to build a network which can be empowering, and strengthen our joint advocacy efforts” – Anastasia Divinskaya, Representative of UN Women Ukraine.

ERGO Director Gabriela Hrabanova stressed that mainstreaming gender equality alone is not enough, there needs to be a special focus on empowering Roma women and to include them in designing strategies targeting them, so they are able to fully participate in society.

The participants gave gender-specific recommendations to national, regional and local authorities to address the pressing needs of Roma women and to ensure their equal rights and opportunities.  They should inform the new approach of the current and future legislation or policies that promote rights of Roma.

Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT  WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

ERGO Network’s new transparency and accountability criteria give recommendations on how grassroots civil society organisations should be governed and managed in order to be reliable and accountable.  Fulfilling the criteria will bring attention to an organisation’s quality work. The set of criteria focuses on governance, financial management and performance.

ERGO Network together with its member organisations – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (Slovakia), Roma Active Albania (Albania), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Autonomia Foundation (Hungary), OTAHARIN (Bosnia and Herzegovina), RROMA (Macedonia), Mladi Romi (Montenegro) and Zero Discrimination (Turkey) – developed a set of transparency and accountability criteria for grassroots organisations with the aim to strengthen civil society organisations. Using the criteria will give more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions and ultimately reinforce the power of civil society organizations. Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society that is taken seriously by its institutional counterparts and other partners.

Furthermore, the members of ERGO Network agreed on joining their efforts and putting their thorough expertise together to empower Roma and pro-Roma civil society in their countries in implementing the transparency criteria. For this aim, ERGO Network has developed a board game that leads the players through different steps necessary to become more transparent and accountable. Anyone can download the game and play it by themselves, or invite an ERGO Network facilitator to support them through the process. Besides the offline game, there is also an online self-audit that you can go through to discover how far you are in applying the criteria in your organisation.

Fulfilling the transparency criteria means not only being able to show that Roma and pro-Roma civil society takes these very seriously, but also having the right to demand the same from other stakeholders.

Find out more about the transparency and accountability criteria and download them in several languages: http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/

Do the online audit and know how well your organisation fulfils the transparency and accountability criteria http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/transparency-audit/