Closer to Communities – Roma Coordinators for better use of EU Funds

ERGO member Autonomia Foundation from Hungary recently published a set of recommendations based on the outcomes of their project “Closer to Communities – Roma Coordinators for better use of EU Funds”, supported by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union.

The general purpose of the “Closer to Communities” programme was to increase the efficiency of projects benefitting from EU structural funds. The programme was implemented in 15 disadvantaged communities where a large number of Roma live – these communities were assisted by local Roma coordinators in their local development.   The Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ) participated in the implementation and supported the national dissemination of lessons learnt. ERGO Network contributed to the presentation and dissemination of results at international level.

As a result of the programme, 11 applications for Roma integration projects were submitted to EU Calls for Proposals, which will provide close to 1 Million Euro worth of local development funds if supported. Hundreds of local governments were directly informed of the project at the county forums and in workshops organized jointly with TÖOSZ. In addition, dozens of mayors were involved in discussions on Roma integration challenges and possible solutions. The experiences and suggestions of the project were presented at a working group meeting in Brussels with different experts and civil servants of the European Commission in May 2017.

The main recommendations focus on better dissemination of good practices, stronger conditionality of European funding, more transparent funding rules as well as more core funding for Roma and pro-Roma NGOs in order to act as independent watchdog organisations.

Read more about the project results and recommendations here.

As one outcome of the project, local communities took part in common art projects, focusing on community video making. Have a look at the film ‘Closer to Communities’ .

Evaluation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020

In 2011 the European Commission adopted an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies focussing on four key areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing. The Framework invited all Member States to present the European Commission with their strategy for Roma inclusion or for specific policy measures for the Roma within their wider social inclusion policies. The main responsibility as well as the competences to improve the situation of all marginalised people, including the Roma, rest with the Member States.

In their midterm review of the EU Framework published in September 2017, the European Commission asks particularly for improvements in the transition from education to employment and confirms ERGO Network’s assessment that in order to achieve more social inclusion, discrimination has to be better tackled: “The growing proportion of young Roma who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) is an alarming signal that translating results in education into employment and other areas requires a more effective fight against discrimination (p.2)”.

Public consultation

At the same time, the European Commission collects stakeholders’ views on the achievements and challenges faced during the years of implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020. A public consultation aims to gather views on European and national policy, legal and funding instruments that have been mobilised to fight discrimination and to promote the inclusion of Roma.

We urge all our members and partners to take part in this consultation, which is still open until 25 October 2017. You can find the link here:

https://ec.europa.eu/info/consultations/public-consultation-evaluation-eu-framework-national-roma-integration-strategies-2020_en

Roma civil society working group meeting in Brussels

From 20-22 September, ERGO’s members involved in our Annual Work Programme under DG Employment, met in Brussels for their third Roma Civil Society Working Group Meeting. Important issues were on the agenda: The group gave input into ERGO’s work programme on employment and social inclusion for the next four years, evaluated the cooperation of the past years together with an external evaluator and built relations with desk officers of the European Commission Directorate Generals for Employment and Social Affairs and Regional and Urban Policy.

ERGO’s members from Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia are cooperating with the ERGO Network secretariat in Brussels since 2014 in the framework of the project ‘Roma Included: Roma recognised as equal stakeholders in the policies targeting them’. In 2017, the organisations continue to coordinate national Roma coalitions in their countries, build the capacity of grassroots NGOs and Local Action Groups to benefit from the community-led local development process and take part in a common research project on Roma youth employment. The results of this year’s work will be disseminated by the end of the year.

Calling the European Parliament to sanction hate speech

ERGO Network sent an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, to express our unease about racist speeches against Roma people, equal citizens of the EU, which were delivered by MEPs Mara Bizzotto and Angelo Ciocca during the plenary debate on International Roma Day, April 6, 2017.

These speeches happened even though the European Parliament clearly prohibits the use of defamatory, racist and xenophobic language in parliamentary speeches in January and increased the sanctions against MEPs using hate speech. Mr Korwin-Mikke’s discriminatory remarks towards women in March, for example, led to his 10 day suspension from parliamentary activities and 30 days loss of daily allowance. However, these rules were not applied in the case of the MEPs Mara Bizzotto and Angelo Ciocca, neither in the case of the British MEP, Tim Aker who stated that Roma immigrants from Eastern Europe would come to the UK as labour migrants and “alienate” the country.

These antigypsyist statements coming from MEPs elected to represent the interests of their constituencies – including Roma – at the EU level are in contradiction with the respect to human rights and fundamental freedom, democracy and rule of law has and have a direct impact on integrity of Roma people.

Such statements must not be without consequences. This defamatory racist language in the European Parliament has to be strictly ostracized in all cases. We are deeply concerned that if such actions are not handled according to the Rules of Procedure provided by Article 11 (3), this trend might see a further increase in the run up towards the upcoming European elections in 2019 and also increase the use of antigypsyist rhetoric at national level. Therefore, it is vital that the Parliament upholds its rules of procedure and also sends a clear message to national parliaments that the use of racist language and hate speech against minorities is not tolerated in a society where all people are equal under the values of the European Union.

ERGO also supports the proposal to set up a permanent monitoring system in the Parliament to report the use of discriminatory language and behaviour and to support the consistent application of the Parliament’s rules and relevant sanctions. Such a system could provide support for the Bureau in future incidents, which are unfortunately likely to reoccur.

You can find the letter to Antonio Tajani here.

RARC is a member of the Slovak Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism

Zuzana Havirova as a representative of ERGO member Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (RARC) recently became a member of the Slovak Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, Antisemitism and other forms of Intolerance. The Committee belongs to the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic.

The Committee is the only advisory body of the Government of the Slovak Republic that specifically addresses the prevention and elimination of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance in society.

The Committee’s main ambition is to be a platform for coordinating activities, defining priorities and guidelines for the development of public policies aimed at the prevention and elimination of racism, xenophobia and extremism. At the same time, the Committee is an appropriate tool for the exchange of information between representatives of the public administration, the self-government and civil society, which will help to solve the issues within the Committee’s material scope.