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.

ERGO Summer Academy showcases campaign ideas for Roma youth employment

In ERGO’s Summer Academy, taking place from 26 August to 2 September in Barcelona, a group of outstanding participants from across Europe joined forces to work together on a thematic campaign to raise awareness on Roma youth unemployment. The one-week long ERGO Summer Academy hosted 19 young professionals alongside the team of ERGO Network and guest trainers from Greece and Bulgaria.

The academy invited participants to join as experts from ERGO member organisations, other Roma NGOs and local or national administrations to discuss emerging issues of social exclusion, education and employment, and what a multi-stakeholder agenda for quality education and better employment can achieve regarding Roma youth.

Raising awareness on the plight of Roma youth employment has never been more important: 58% of Roma aged 16 to 24 are not in employment, education or training. At the same time, in countries such as Romania or Bulgaria up to 20% of new labour market entrants are Roma.  The new financial cycle of the European Commission will start in 2021, thus reminding decision-makers on what is at stake is of great importance.

The participants used the Academy to create an awareness raising campaign that will be launched at this year’s EU Roma Platform in Brussels.  The work started with differentiating the terminology and discussing the issues relevant to the context of employment. After hearing experiences and personal stories of participants, the group gained first-hand knowledge on the employment context in Barcelona through the initiatives of `FAGIC`, a Catalonian Roma network. To conclude the learning part of the week, Leonor Rebassa from Amnesty International introduced the group to all to the very details and best practices of thorough campaign planning.

In the second half of the week, innovative ideas for an ERGO youth employment campaign were brought to the table from working groups. In the last two days, it started to be clear what the campaign will look like, and finally, 4 initiatives made it to realization. They will be launched at this year’s European Roma Platform, which will be held in Brussels on 27/28 November on the topic of ‘Transition from Education to Employment’. ERGO’s campaign will focus on antigypsyism and discrimination on the labour market and addresses decision-makers and employers from the perspective of young Roma themselves.

Besides all their hard work, the participants of the event soon acclimatized to the fantastically located venue of Mare de Deu del Coll, and enjoyed mid-summer heat from the very early mornings till late nights that left enough time for networking between ERGO’s members and making new friends. Not only the sea at Barceloneta, but the whole week has been a refreshing experience to all participants.

Advocacy Training in Romania

Between 14 -16 August, the association Center of Resources for Social Inclusion CRIS, ERGO member, organized a training course on ‘Advocacy for combating antigypsyism and discrimination towards Roma’. The training was organized in Sinaia, Romania for ten Roma students and higher education graduates from Prahova County. Today, the ten participants are good friends and well-trained in undertaking advocacy for combating negative attitudes towards Roma in Romania and not only, as they said after the training. All because they understood that if they do not train and do not get involved, tomorrow they can be the next victims.

The training is part of CRIS’ Annual Work Plan 2017 in cooperation with ERGO Network. It has received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020).

Youth Camp ‘Turn on Activism’

In order to bring young people closer to the activist spirit, the Association of Citizens for the Promotion of Roma Education, “Otaharin”, currently implements a project named “Youth power rising”. Through this project we organize three youth camps in three years with support of the Schüler Helfen Leben Foundation.

Young people represent an extremely important category of the population and are future bearers of change in society; therefore it is necessary to pay adequate attention to their needs, attitudes and desires, as well as support the development of youth activism.

The youth camp “Turn on activism” is a five-day program in which young people have the opportunity to participate in the development of a strategic plan to solve problems identified in their community and then to solve the problem through the project. The aim of this activity is to promote positive change of everyday life through the active involvement of all young people in creating better social opportunities. The young people from the City of Bijeljina can participate in the camp.

As a result of three years working with this particular group of people (participants of past camps and project activities), we realized their need to create and form a youth organization on local level that will give them the chance to make bigger steps to positive change in community. In this camp, they will work on the strategic plan of this organization, and they will work on increasing their skills in working with a group, positive communication and leadership.