Roundtable in the European Parliament on Transparency Criteria

Transparency and Accountability Criteria for Roma Grassroots NGOs

Brussels, 28 June 2018

At a round table discussion in the European Parliament ERGO Network and its members from the Western Balkans, Turkey and the ‘Visegrad countries’ Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic presented a new project that will strengthen Roma civil society as independent and transparent watchdog organizations.
The event was kindly hosted by Soraya Post (Greens/EFA), Peter Niedermuller (S&D), Tomas Zdechovsky (EPP) and Javor Benedek (Greens/EFA).

Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society that is taken seriously by its institutional counterparts and other partners, and at the same time gives the right to demand transparency and accountability from other stakeholders.
–Therefore ERGO Network developed a set of ‘transparency and accountability criteria’ and a corresponding capacity-building tool to improve the quality in governance, financial management and performance of grassroots organisations.

The discussion was opened by ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova who stressed the importance of promoting transparency and accountability within NGOs and among institutions.

Benedek Javor MEP welcomed the transparency criteria through a video message. “In particular I found especially meaningful the goal for equal partnership with the institutions for the better connection with the grassroots level and greater sustainability of NGOs” Benedek Javor said. He also stressed the importance of funding for NGOs in order to be able to fulfill the duties as watchdogs organisations. Tomas Zdechovsky MEP added that the spotlight on Roma participation in the European Parliament needs to happen all year long and not only during the Roma Week.

Jelena Jovanovic, Policy and Research Coordinator of ERGO Network presented the transparency criteria and explained the cooperative development process between all partners, followed by Andras Nun, director of the one of Hungarian ERGO member organisations Autonomia Foundation who introduced the participants to a board game ‘to help you fall in love with the dreadful issues of accountability and transparency’.

In the second panel of the day participants heard from Vitor Teixeira, Transparency International Europe, about the importance of not just being transparent as civil society, but more so holding institutions to account. Gabriella Civico from Civil Society Europe discussed the shrinking space for civil society in Europe and repeated the call for better funding for civil society’s watchdog role.

The debate was closed by Bodil Valero MEP and Natacha Katatchkine, Head of the EU internal policy team for the Open Society European Policy Institute. Bodil Valero and Natacha Katatchkine added that the lack of transparency has been used by those who want to silence things. She closed by pointing out that NGOs are ready to take the lead and are able to bring tools like those of ERGO Network.

The project was implemented with financial support from the European Commission and the International Visegrad Fund.

Download the Transparency and Accountability Criteria

Call for expert on CLLD

Call for expert

ERGO Network is contracting an expert on Community-Led Local Development and Roma inclusion to coordinate part of our work programme on CLLD in 2018

Role of the expert

We are searching for an expert to coordinate ERGO Network’s capacity-building and advocacy work on Roma inclusion in the CLLD in 2018, which is part of our Annual Work Programme ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’ funded by DG Employment.

2018 is a crucial year for CLLD in Europe, as important steps are taken on EU and Member State level for the new programming period 2020-2027 and the Urban CLLD is expanded. The expert is expected to support ERGO and its member organisations in Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in their capacity-building and advocacy work and to build on the experiences and achievements of the network in the area of CLLD from the past years.

Specifically, the expert is expected to:

  • Develop stage 3 and 4 of ERGO Network’s CLLD Quality Audit on Roma participation and implementation, coach members in using it, collect results and preparing the synthesis report
  • Develop stage 1 and 2 of a CLLD Quality Audit for the Urban CLLD
  • Develop a capacity-building trajectory for Roma NGOs and LAGs on Roma inclusion in the Urban CLLD
  • Support ERGO Network in setting up an EU advocacy strategy to ensure the next programming period includes Roma experiences in the CLLD.

Profile:

  • Excellent knowledge of Community-led Local Development in rural and urban settings and in the contexts of Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia
  • Expertise on Roma issues and policies on European Union and member state level
  • Experience working with civil society organisations in the fields of advocacy and capacity-building
  • Good contacts with relevant stakeholders, such as Federations of LAGs, Rural Development Network, DG Regio
  • Good writing and analytical skills and ability to concisely summarise results for different audiences
  • Ability to work independently and at the same time coordinate regularly with the ERGO team and the member organisations

Conditions

Contract and budget: The expert will be subcontracted to fulfil part of the work programme in the Framework Partnership Agreement between ERGO Network and DG Employment. The expert has no rights vis-à-vis the European Commission.

The expert shall be paid for the execution of the activities and services a fee of maximum 5,800 EUR, all taxes and VAT included.

Application procedure

Interested and qualified candidates should submit the following documents:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter
  • Proposed methodology and timeline

We will select the expert according to the principle “Value for money”. Please send your application to info@ergonetwork.org, indicating in the subject of the email “Application CLLD Expert” by 10 July 2018, 23:59 CET.

A detailed project summary can be provided upon request.

For further questions, please contact Gabriela Hrabanova (g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org)

Download the Call for expert

Evictions of Roma Travelers in Brussels

Evictions of Roma Travelers in Brussels: Is Antigypsyism the last accepted form of racism?

On 28 June 2018, evictions of Roma Travelers are to take place in Anderlecht, Brussels. The group of Roma who are going to be evicted are Belgian Roma for centuries. They were born here, as well as their parents and their grandparents. Roma Travelers have always been living on the territory of the Municipality of Anderlecht – part of the European capital Brussels.

Nevertheless, Belgian Roma Travelers remain one of the most neglected communities in Europe. During the Second World War, a big part of the Belgian Roma Community who is traditionally travelling and living in caravans were deported to the Nazi concentration camps. Today, a generation later, Belgian Roma Travelers are being constantly evicted from site to site, unwanted and unwelcomed by the local authorities.

Only two weeks ago, the Anderlecht Municipality announced to the Belgian Roma living on Dante Street that they needed to leave the site. The motive: the land where the camp is located is polluted.

Apparently, this is not the first attempt of the Mayor of Anderlecht Eric Tomas from the Socialist Party to get rid of the Belgian Roma Travelers site. Many times the police have come to the site and ordered them to move without any official order or notice.  In April 2018, the local police went to the Belgian Roma Travelers site on Dante Street and ordered them to move, again without any document. However, this time the Roma refused to follow orders without the needed legal attributes.

The owner of the land where the Roma camp is located is not the municipality of Anderlecht.  The land of the camp is the private property of the Boghossian Foundation – an Armenian philanthropist family. So far, the Boghossian Foundation refused to cooperate with local authorities and police and to support the eviction of the Roma from their private land. Despite this, the municipality have found an excuse to still conduct the evictions – the pretext is that the land is polluted. This is happening in the context of the coming local elections that will take place in October.

The questions are many. Is Antigypsyism acceptable in the very heart of the European Union and its values? Is the Socialist Party ready to take responsibility for such an act and do they propose any alternative for the Belgian Roma who actually are Belgian citizens? What is the moral right of an Armenian foundation to evict another minority that went through the very same persecution and genocide? Is Antigypsyism the last acceptable form of racism?

There has been the possibility for several years now to create a Travelers site with allocated land and facilities. There is even a special fund from the Brussels Region that can be used for this. However, no municipality so far showed an interest and took advantage of this funding (except Haren).

Three days before the evictions part of the camp was set on fire. Тhe perpetrators remain unknown. The evictions will still take place as planned on 28 June 2018. Where will the Belgian Roma go? Will their children attend school? Will they be provided an alternative? The answer is No. Until the next evictions.

Written by Atanas Stoyanov

Civil Society Statement against Antigypsyism in Italy

European Roma and pro-Roma civil society condemns antigypsyism in Italy and asks Italian government to uphold the rule of law

Only a few weeks in office, the new Italian government coalition of far-right Northern League and the eurosceptic Five Star Movement is shaping the racist narrative against Roma in Italy by promoting antigypsyist actions and continuing to engage in hate speech. As European Roma and pro-Roma civil society we strongly condemn the unconstitutional proposal of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to establish a census for Roma in Italy and ask the Italian government to uphold the rule of law and democratic values.

It is now time for the European institutions, civil society organisations and all citizens believing in democracy and human rights to speak up, recognize the nature and the cause of hate speech directed towards Roma and push for the enforcement of the existing legal mechanisms of the European Union.

Even though the proposal for a census of Roma and for expulsion all non-Italian Roma is clearly against the law and has already been retracted by his government, Salvini counts on the support of a large percentage of the population and successfully uses antigypsyism to increase his voter base. Sadly, hate speech by Italian politicians is on the rise and is not a new phenomenon, especially among members of the Northern League.

The mayor of Treviso in 2015 said that it is best “to dress Roma up as rabbits so the hunters will shoot at them”. In 2017, Mara Bizzotto declared on 8th of April, the International Roma Day, that “we should rather commemorate the victims of Roma’s felonies” [instead of Roma victims of genocide]. Just a few days ago, Italian League member MEP Danilo Oscar Lancini argued against future Roma related EU policies and funding in the European Parliament since “Roma do not want to be integrated”.

80 years ago Europe has experienced a similar narrative and we all know the consequences.  This is why we ask the European institutions and the broader public to act responsibly and not only stand by and watch. Everybody should condemn this racist act. The European institutions must make use of the available mechanisms and start penalizing hate-speech against all groups. The European Commission needs to launch an infringement procedure against this Italian government concerning Roma people’s housing situation, which we have been calling for several years. There is no justification for Salvini’s antigypsyist acts and statements.

It is a high time to join our forces and fight antigypsyism because the future of our society is at stake. Europe must start defending its core values and stand up for our right to live in a racism-free society.

Supportive organisations

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña (FACIG), Catalunya, European Roma Rights Centre, Roma Education Fund, European Public Health Alliance

Roma Active Albania – IRCA, Albania – Roma Women Rights Centre, Albania – Roma Versitas, Albania – T’REJA Centre, Albania – Integro Association, Bulgaria – Equal opportunities Initiatives Association, Bulgaria – RSC, Bulgaria – “Slantse za vseki” association, Peshtera, Bulgaria – Ethnic minorities health problem foundation, Bulgaria – Roma solidarity – Petrich, Bulgaria – National Health Mediators Network, Bulgaria – LIDER Association, Blagoevgrad – Bulgaria- RAKO association, Sliven, Bulgaria – Roma-Lom Foundation, Bulgaria – Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña, Catalunya – Slovo 21, Czech Republic – Vzájemné soužiti/ Life Together, Czech Republic – Awen amenca, Czech Republic – La Voix des Rroms, France – Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma, Germany – Amaro Drom, Germany – Amaro Foro, Germany – RomaVersitas Foundation, Hungary – Equality, Serbia – Advancing Together, Kosovo – Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians NGO, Kosovo – Roma Community Centre, Lithuania – Romano Avazi, Macedonia – RRoma, Macedonia – Romaversitas, Macedonia – Asociatia CRIS, Romania – Human Catalyst, Romania – Nevo Parudimos, Romania – Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, Romania – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre, Slovakia – Kale Amenge, Spain – Associació Joves Gitanos de Gràcia, Spain – Zero Discrimination, Turkey – Kaskosan, UK – 

Individuals: Ognyan Isaev, Roma journalist , Bulgaria – Alexandra Raykova, expert of ROMACT programme, Bulgaria – Yordan Tankovski, expert of ROMACT programme – Bulgaria

Download the civil society statement against antigypsyism in Italy

Local Dialogue Meeting in Bijeljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Local Dialogue Meeting organised by ERGO Member OTAHARIN

Through ERGO Network’s project Strengthening Roma NGOs as transparent and independent watchdog organisations in the framework of the  Joint initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey our member OTAHARIN organised a Local Dialogue Meeting with the city administration in Bijeljina on 31 May 2018.  The city was represented by Milan Lazić (Social affairs) and Ljubiša Stanišić (Office for National minorities). From the civil society side, the organisations Otaharin, WA Romkinja and the youth organisation “Senat mladih OMOTE” were present with their representatives Draga Joković, Sabira Hašimović, Fatima Džanić and Mladen Đurić.

Different topics to discuss

A wide range of topics was covered during the intensive meeting between the civil society and local authorities’ representatives:

  • Organization of working group meeting for drafting a Local Action Plan
  • Proposal for renovation of streets in Roma settlements (asphalting and lighting installation)
  • Initiatives of young Roma through support of CARE International (renovation of objects of social vulnerable families)
  • Environmental problems near residential buildings for Roma near the canal Dašnica
  • Problems with documentation of Roma families to solve housing issues
  • Problems with families abusing the facilities they received in terms of renting an apartment for other family
  • Problems with families who received objects for living, but still force children to beg
  • Suggestions for the organisation of a youth camp within the project implemented by Otaharin
The meeting resulted in the following recommendations:
  • Organise a meeting of the working group for reviewing the Local Action Plan with the presence of the Mayor
  • Collect necessary information about the target group and their community in order to establish a plan for solving problems of asphalting and lighting (Streets: Bogdana Zimonjića, Baje Pivljanina, Ilije Garašanina, Vojvode Petra Pojovića i Ratka Perića)
  • In order to solve environmental problems near residential buildings for Roma, it is necessary to find out what the company received on the tender for maintenance
  • Make a call for citizens to donate used furniture, clothes and similar things in order to support social vulnerable families  (joint initiative of Otaharin and city administration)
  • Define relationships in terms of how much and what can be done in case of unregulated housing documents of Roma
  • Define mechanisms for controlling life in buildings built for Roma due to housing problems (non-living and rent to other families) and non-payment of maintenance money – work on changing contracts and rules for obtaining an apartment – include a centre for social work
  • Organise a meeting of the working group for the protection of children to resolve problem of begging.
  • Proposal of cooperation with the armed forces for maintenance of a youth camp in Bijeljina

The meeting was organised with financial support of the International Visegrad Fund and the IPA Civil Society Programme of the European Commisison.

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