Most Roma Friendly Mayor awards 2019

PRESS RELEASE

Brussels, 22/11/2019

Roma Active Albania and ERGO Network Award the Most Roma Friendly Mayors in the European Parliament on November 19, 2019

Roma Active Albania and the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network organized an award ceremony in the European Parliament to acknowledge positive examples of local authorities – efforts of seven Mayors from the Western Balkans and Turkey to improve the lives of Roma in their municipalities.

The competition “The Most Roma Friendly Mayor” is part of the project Joint Initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey. This project aims at mobilising Roma communities and strengthening their existing capacities to engage in a dialogue with public authorities.

The seven winning mayors, selected from 47 competing municipalities, were welcomed by the Member of the European Parliament and the Chair of Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo Romeo Franz, Co-Chair of ERGO Network and Former Member of the European Parliament Soraya Post, the Coordinator of the Roma Policy of the European Commission Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG Near) Marta Garcia Fidalgo and the Director of Roma Active Albania and General Manager of the project Adriatik Hasantari. The winning mayors were symbolically awarded with statues, the creation of  prominent artist  Sead Kazanxhiu from Albania. The Director of ERGO Network Gabriela Hrabanova moderated the event.

Ms Hrabanova highlighted the importance of partnership between local authorities and Roma civil society organizations. “The local level is the most important to achieve real societal change and improve the quality of lives of Romani people”, she emphasized. Mr Franz asserted that “the positive role models that we are awarding this evening represent another proof that only together Roma and non-Roma can succeed”. “It is a proof that change is possible when you treat your citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, as equals”, he pointed out. Ms Post urged the mayors to spread their good practice while expressing how proud she was of their commitments: “We are proud of the awarded mayors; they are real human rights fighters. It is very clear that if mayors take their duties seriously, it shows good results also for the Roma community as full members of the society”. Ms Garcia Fidalgo highlighted the ways of support by the DG Near. “The strength of a society is proven by the support to the members who need it the most”, she stated and acknowledged that the winning mayors and their civil society partners are key actors who are helping their countries on the path to the European Union. While explaining “the Most Roma Friendly Mayor” campaign to the audience, Mr Hasantari concluded with a strong message to the Mayors: “What has been done is acknowledged and appreciated. However, we need more commitment from you in the future and more good examples!”

The awards were given to the following seven mayors: Ms Majlinda Bufi, Municipality of Roskovec, Albania; Mr Aldin Šljivo, Municipality of Kakanj, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mr Kurto Dudush, Municipality of Shuto Orizari, North Macedonia; Mr Imri Ahmeti, Municipality of Lipjan, Kosovo; Mr Petar Smolović, Municipality of Bijelo Polje, Montenegro; Mr Vladan Glišić, City of Belgrade, Serbia; Mr Abdül Batur, Municipality of Konak, Turkey.

Seven independent juries were established in the respective countries, assessing the applications. The juries pointed out the following achievements: progress in Roma participation in local authority structures; efforts in creating education-related opportunities; increasing employability of Roma and especially of Roma women; building infrastructure and housing units and many more.

In the participating countries, the project is implemented by ERGO Network members Zero Discrimination (Turkey), OTAHARIN (Bosnia&Herzegovina), RROMA (North Macedonia), Roma Active Albania, Mladi Romi (Montenegro), Roma Forum Serbia and Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (Kosovo).

Hosting MEP of the Most Roma Friendly Mayor Award Ceremony: Romeo Franz

Contact: Gabriela Hrabanova (g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org, +32 2 893 10 49).

Disclaimer: This press release has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The content of the release is the sole responsibility of Roma Active Albania and ERGO Network, and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.