Roma Cafe

Roma Café discussion kicks off on Romani Resistance Day

May 16 is a symbolic date for now in the contemporary Roma movement throughout Europe – a day that intends to shift into a positive narrative by highlighting Roma heroes during the holocaust. ERGO Network together with the Diverse Youth Network organized a renewed concept of Roma Café on May 17 to engage in discussions with Roma and non-Roma on what it means to us to have a Roma Resistance Day.

During the Roma Café guests came together from all over Brussels and Europe. Ms Evelin Verhas joined us from the Budapest based Tom Lantos Institute to present the approach of a human rights organization as well as to provide insights into the Roma Resistance research that has been conducted in 5 European countries. It was important to set the scene with a video interview, where a French Roma holocaust survivor, Gerard Gureme explains his every days during the 40s in a very informative testimony. Mr. Atanas Stoyanov kicked off the discussion sharing his own motivation and experience being part of the Dik I Na Bistar movement as a young Roma who has been involved since the very beginning as a participant, later as a trainer and group leader. The DIK I NA BISTAR movement is organized by the Ternype Roma International Youth Network bringing together young people from all over Europe to Krakow and Auschwitz to commemorate the Roma genocide on August 2. Besides the remembrance initiative, a training component is also empowering young Roma and non-Roma.

The research – Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska: `Resistance and Survival of the Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz-Birkenau` – presented by Evelin Verhas pointed out a number of focal points to consider in the current discourse. The minority rights perspective requires the equal recognition of the genocides that have been committed against minorities, and inter and multicultural education must serve as a basis for that. May 16 is researched using the resources that are at disposal such as Roma and Sinti survivor testimonies, memoirs, official records etc., most of them found in the archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. It should be noted that Joachimowski submitted his testimony three times, each time giving a different date for the events at the Zigeunerlager. Whilst recalling a date from the past may be a challenge for a person submitting a testimony, one needs to be cautious assuming that testimonies necessarily describe historical facts. It should be noted that, until now, no existing research could verify or or disprove Joachimowski’s story. Therefore, this research was meant as a first step towards reconstructing events connected to Roma and Sinti resistance in the Zigeunerlager.

The intention was to stimulate new thoughts and to engage in discussions. The meaning of resistance and how it is present in our everyday lives was very important, but the questions of identity also raised a number of valid points.

 

Transparency and accountability – training for trainers

Training of Trainers – Transparency and Accountability Criteria

12 -15 May 2018, Durres, Albania

Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society organisations that are taken seriously by their institutional counterparts. ERGO members from the Western Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Visegrad countries’ Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic met in Durres, Albania from 12-15 May under the project “Strengthening Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organisations” for a training on how to become accountable, transparent and independent organization that can be examples for others.

The training was based on a set of transparency criteria developed by ERGO Network that focus on financial management, governance and political transparency of grassroots civil society organisations. Once the organisations will implement what they have learned, they will receive a ‘transparency label’, recognising their good governance, accountability and transparency.

The participants learned and practiced how to address these organisational and managerial challenges through a board game that introduced in a playful way what is needed to implement the transparency criteria. Back in their countries they will multiply what they have learned within their local grassroots organisations and in a later stage with institutions in order to increase each other’s visibility and accountability. The group also stressed the importance of building trust between institutions and grassroots civil society through the criteria.

The project receives funding from the International Visegrad Fund and is part of the Joint Initiative to Empower Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey, financed by the IPA Civil Society Programme of DG NEAR and ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’, funded by the EaSi Programme of DG EMPL.

 

Local dialogue meeting, Bijelo Polje

A local dialogue meeting under the project “Strengthening Roma NGOs as transparent and independent watchdog organisations” was organised in Bijelo Polje on 8th May 2018. in cooperation with local NGO Klub kulture and coordinated by NGO Young Roma, partner of ERGO Network in the project funded by the Visegrad Fund.

The aim of the local dialogue was to discuss the issues of the community with Roma and the representatives of the local authorities. The meeting discussed the results, extracted good practices used by the municipalities and provided ideas on future joint initiatives.

Recommendations from the meeting:

  • Increase the level of transparency of local municipalities in the process of allocation of funds (to publish all information – public call, public and final decision, total score lists as well as individual score lists)
  • Local authorities in charge of implementing policies related to social inclusion of the Roma should cooperate intensely, in an organised and structured way with NGOs dealing with the issues related to the protection of Roma’ rights. Local authorities should provide continued funding of joint activities with NGOs, in line with the Strategy.
  • Local action plan is in the process of development and it should be made in close cooperation with community representatives and local NGOs.
  • It is necessary to provide for adequate quality of education and care for all Roma children, primarily through the intensification of additional lessons (language learning and learning backlogged subject matter) with the help of teaching assistants.
  • It is necessary to work more intensely on raising awareness about the importance of education and removing the barriers between Roma children and children from the majority population
  • Introduce mediators to all schools attended by members of Roma populations. It is necessary to additionally train mediators and organise their work so that they can help schools update lists of children to be enrolled with schools as well as to regularly keep track of the risks, contact parents, schools and social welfare centres.
  • Vocational training for Roma should be designed on local level to combine the needs of the labor market and the demands for skills and knowledge of Roma.
  • Particular attention should be paid to the adequate employment of Roma in local institutions
  • Funds for solving the housing problems of Roma should be urgently taken into consideration.
  • The housing programs implemented for Roma on local level have to ensure sustainability of the solutions, meaning ensure possibility for the beneficiaries to cover their rental fee and communal services and ensure integral social services. It is also recommended that the housing programs ensure desegregation of Roma and prevent forming of new ghettoes.

The participants at the meeting were able to watch a short film produced during the realization of the project “Roma from the North” organized by the NGO Klub kulture from Bijelo Polje. This video was realized through the program of granting small grants within the project Joint Initiative for Empowering the Roma Civil Sector in the Western Balkans and Turkey, in which the NGO Young Roma is a partner, while financial support is provided by the European Commission.

ERGO’s recommendations for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework

ERGO Network and its partners urge the European Commission to prioritise the position of Roma in Europe in the next Multi- Annual Financial Framework

ERGO Network together with the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI) and 70 national and local Roma civil society organisations is asking EU decision-makers to dedicate funding for the social inclusion and empowerment of Europe’s largest minority in the next EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

ERGO Network presented key recommendations to the post 2020 Multi-Annual Financial Framework in the European Parliament at the event “Roma and the post 2020 policy: Challenges and opportunities”. The event was opened by Member of the European Parliament Ms Soraya Post. It was organized in cooperation with Open Society European Policy Institute, Roma Standing Conference Bulgaria, the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), European Network Against Racism (ENAR), European Public Health Alliance and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Even though social cohesion in the EU stands and falls with the effective inclusion of Europe’s most marginalised community – Roma – as well as other minorities, they are not direct beneficiaries of cohesion policy funds, a troubling sign regarding future funding. Besides this lack of direct access to funding for Roma communities, ERGO with its partners identified a number of shortcomings that must be addressed in the next funding cycle of the European Union, namely compliance with the rule of law as a condition for Member States to receive EU funds as well as effective monitoring mechanisms on the use of EU funds for Roma inclusion.
Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO Network, pointed out that “integration of Roma failed, because so far Roma people and civil society are not full partners in all stages of processes such as Partnership Agreements”. She also stressed out that “there is a need of active involvement of beneficiary communities to be part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programs in the next programming period”.

Marc Horstadt from the European Court of Auditors stressed “mainstreaming vs. dedicated funding for Roma to follow the explicit but not exclusive principle for better results and this to be highlighted in the next programming period”. He also mentioned “the need of having indicators and target values which are relevant for fighting antigypsyism. These indicators should also be taken into account in the design of measures promoting the inclusion of marginalised Roma communities within the ESIF framework, in line with the requirements of the racial equality directive”.

We now urge the European Commission to follow the recommendations provided and ensure that future political priorities of the European Union will prioritise Roma as a target group in all relevant areas of funding,
policies and programming in order to truly foster social cohesion within the European Union and to leave no one behind.

You can read the recommendations here.

ERGO Network Statement on recent neo-Nazi attack against a Roma camp in Ukraine

02/05/218 – Brussels, Belgium

The European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network strongly condemns the recent neo-Nazi attack against a Roma camp that took place on April 21 in Lysa Hora, Ukraine dispersing and setting fire to Roma families’ tents. The criminal investigation of the violent dispersal has been initiated after days of negligence and implausible denial by Kyiv police forces, which is yet another example of pure antigypsyism.

As an international Roma and pro-Roma network with 28 member organizations from all over Europe advocating for better policies for Roma and fighting against antigypsyism, we believe it is our duty to step up and call on the following actors to take further steps and measures to restore democratic functioning and institutions, to enforce the fundamental rights of the Roma people and to express our worrying concerns related to extreme right wing activism.

Our claims are listed, as follows:

1.     ERGO Network urgently calls on President Petro Porosenko and the Ukrainian government to speak out against the targeted far right attack and potential similar attacks on Roma, condemning all forms of bias motivation, violence and extreme right ideologies threatening Roma people.

2.     The public condemnation of police negligence and omission, and the call for transparent, impartial, objective and time-bound legal procedures and investigations.  We strongly claim to conduct proper investigation that complies with the rule of law, as well as fair and equal treatment and other fundamental principles.

3.     ERGO Network calls on the respective Ukrainian authorities and international non-governmental organizations to more effectively monitor far right, extremist, and neo-Nazi riots, marches, gatherings and all other forms of activities and movements (online and offline) that are able to pose a threat, denounce, verbally or physically attack, thus violate the fundamental human rights of the Roma people.

4.     ERGO Network calls for the engagement of the European Union to have a stronger position in condemning the Ukrainian neo-Nazi attack against Roma, as well as human rights violations and antigypsyism that is very much present in Europe.