Roma rights organisations respond to EU inclusion plans

Brussels, 6 December 2018: Today, a coalition of more than fifteen Romani and anti-racism civil society organisations from across Europe called for the Council of the European Union, and governments of European countries, to make a clear commitment to the new proposals for post-2020 Roma inclusion plans made by the European Commission in its communication to the European Parliament and Council yesterday.

Director of ERGO Network Ms Gabriela Hrabanova welcomed the new Communication: “The Commission and Parliament have clearly positioned themselves for a continued investment in Roma Inclusion after 2020. Now is the time for national governments to do the same, to strengthen their fight against antigypsyism and to update and improve their strategies in line with community needs by working alongside Romani civil society.”

The new communication from the Commission highlighted key elements to improve the EU Roma Framework including: the need for inclusion of Roma in mainstream policies, fighting antigypsyism, improving Roma participation, addressing the diversity amongst Roma, and better data collection, target indicators and reporting in integration strategies.

“Until now, Roma Inclusion plans in EU member states and accession countries have failed to include measures to fight antigypsyism, and have largely failed to significantly improve the situation for Roma across Europe” said Ðorđe Jovanović, President of the European Roma Rights Centre. “The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies after 2020 must serve to counter the effects of the specific structural racism which affects Romani populations throughout Europe.”

The organisations explicitly call for measures in European countries to recognize present and historical antigypsyism as a form of racism; counter and sanction manifestations of antigypsyism in public discourses, public services and institutions; empower civil society, and ensure that the necessary legal and institutional mechanisms are in place and implemented to prosecute hate crimes and hate speech. It is time for European governments to give priority to “reinforcing and distinguishing the focus on antigypsyism as a root cause of Roma exclusion” as concluded by the EU High Level Group on Combatting Racism, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance in their guidance paper on antigypsyism.

European institutions have to make sure that the next EU budget cycle (Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027), which is currently under negotiation, is connected to policy priorities of the EU Roma Framework including the fight against antigypsyism. In addition, partnership agreements with Member States and operational programs must explicitly name Roma as an investment priority. The next cycle of funding must ensure that funds are also available for specific measures to fight antigypsyism, and to allow the efficient operation of civil society organisations to hold governments accountable and to ensure fundamental rights of Romani citizens across Europe.

For more information, or to arrange an interview contact:

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova
Executive Director
ERGO Network
info@ergonetwork.org
+32(0)2 893 10 49

The coalition of organisations includes:

Alliance against Antigypsyism
Central Council of German Sinti & Roma
European Network against Racism
European Public Health Alliance
European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network
European Roma Rights Centre
FAGiC Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña
Jaw Dikh Foundation
La Voix de Roms
Nakeramos
Nevo Parudimos
Roma Active Albania
Romanipe
Roma Education Fund
RROMA Regional Roma Educational Youth Association (Macedonia)

Notes for editors:

The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies was adopted by the European Commission in 2011. It requires member states make provision to address inequalities in their countries which Roma face in education, employment, healthcare, and housing.

Antigypsyism is the specific racism towards Roma, Sinti, Travellers and others who are stigmatized as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination. The term is often used in a narrow sense to indicate anti-Roma attitudes or the expression of negative stereotypes in the public sphere or hate speech. However, antigypsyism gives rise to a much wider spectrum of discriminatory expressions and practices, including many implicit or hidden manifestations. More information is available in the reference paper on antigypsyism.

Need for mapping of Local Roma Communities

Our Romanian member, Center of Resources for Social Inclusion CRIS in October organised two meetings in Ploiesti with the representatives of 10 Local Action Groups (LAG) from South-Muntenia and South-East Regions and of 2 newly established Urban Local Action Groups from Ploiesti and Campina, within the framework of the Annual Work Programme 2018 supported by the European Commission’s Program for Social Innovation and Employment.

The aim of the meetings was to strengthen the cooperation between Roma civil society from local level and LAGs in regards to accessing, implementing and monitoring of measures affecting Roma communities in the Local Development Strategies (LDS).

The handbook on Training for local stakeholders and Local Action Groups teams on CLLD and how to increase the access to funds available in the LEADER program for Roma developed by Nevo Parudimos, another member of ERGO from Romania, was presented to participants and it was considered to be useful for the implementation of the LDSs.

While improvements have been done since last year’s meetings with the LAGs, by having Roma communities from local level and especially the urban marginalized communities from Ploiesti and Campina included in the LDSs through specific measures, more needs to be done according to the representatives of LAGs.

For example, the Urban LAGs mentione had to refer to the official number of Roma in the two cities according to the late census in 2016 when they developed the strategy. As this number is obviously lower than the reality, the measures targeting Roma in the strategy could have been more than only one or maximum two as it is now.

Therefore one of the main conclusions of the meetings was the need for mapping of the local Roma communities to be recognized, assumed by each ministry, and to be taken into account in the future financial allocations, with Roma among the target groups.

The Alliance against Antigypsyism demands clear commitment of European Parliament President Tajani against antigypsyism  

                                

 

PRESS RELEASE

Brussels, 29 October 2018

The Alliance against Antigypsyism demands clear commitment of European Parliament President Tajani against antigypsyism

 

Brussels, 29 October 2018 – European Parliament President Antonio Tajani criticised the Italian government’s plan for a citizenship income in an interview on Italian public broadcaster RAI earlier this week, and said that “the citizenship income will end up in the pockets of Roma, of foreign citizens — from the EU and non-EU — and certainly not in those of many Italian citizens.”

The Alliance against Antigypsyism criticizes that such statements fuel antigypsyism in the public discourse, and demands a clear commitment of European Parliament President Tajani against antigypsyism.

Romani Rose, Chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, said: “The statement of Parliament’s President Tajani confirms how deep-rooted antigypsyist stereotypes are in European societies and institutions. Even unconscious linguistic images often lead to the exclusion of minorities and consolidate antigypsyism in society. In 2015, the European Parliament recognized the Holocaust against the 500,000 Sinti and Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe and adopted a clear strategy to combat antigypsyism in its October 2017 resolution. Political leaders and representatives have an important responsibility for the cohesion of our society. Therefore, it would be a sign of political responsibility that President Tajani proclaims unequivocally the fight against antigypsyism as a constitutional and democratic task.”

Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, underlined: “Mr Tajani’s narrative is a reflection of antigypsyism as the norm in the political discourse. This is especially dangerous ahead of the EP elections and elections at the national and local level. It is a contradiction that the EP asks Member States to implement the Framework Decision, transpose and enforce the Racial Equality Directive, and most recently calls on Member States to ban neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups, while it keeps othering Roma who have been European citizens for centuries. These kinds of statements also undermine ongoing work at EU level on fighting antigypsyism.”

Michaël Privot, Director of the European Network Against Racism, said: “Mr. Tajani’s racist comment just shows how mainstream politicians can legitimise racist and xenophobic discourses put forward by far-right and neo-fascist groups instead of rejecting them. It is high-time that the European Parliament’s President tackles racist speech both within and outside his own house. This means both taking disciplinary measures against Members of the European Parliament who use hate speech against Roma and other minorities and initiating public condemnation of hate speech in Member States.”

Although some members of the European Parliament denounced the comments and demanded a public apology, the leadership of the European People’s Party, of which Mr Tajani is a member, did not condemn the statement and Mr Tajani has to date not publicly apologised.

 For further information, contact:

 

ERGO Network: Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, Executive Director, g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org

Tel: +32(0)2 893 10 49

Central Council of German Sinti and Roma: Jonathan Mack, Policy Officer, jonathan.mack@sintiundroma.de

Tel: +49 (0) 6221 981101

European Network Against Racism (ENAR): Georgina Siklossy, Senior Communication and Press Officer, georgina@enar-eu.org

Tel: +32 (0)2 229 35 70 – Mobile: +32 (0)473 490 531

 

 Notes to the editor:

 

  1. The ‘Alliance against Antigypsyism’ is a coalition of organisations that promote equality of rights for Roma and combat antigypsyism on institutional and societal level. The aim of the Alliance is to advance understanding of antigypsyism as a specific form of racism, and to strengthen the political will and institutional mechanisms in order to tackle antigypsyism in Europe. The Alliance is coordinated by the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, the European Network against Racism (ENAR) and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.
  2. European Parliament resolution of 25 October 2018 on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP)),http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2018-0428+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

Study Session ‘Knowledge is Power – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism’

Study Session ‘Knowledge is Power – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism’

A study session “ Knowledge is Power  – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism” was organized by ERGO Network and TernYpe International Roma Youth Network in cooperation with the European Youth Center Budapest of the Council of Europe from 7  to 13 October 2018.  During this study session, 20 Romani and Non-Romani young people came together to gain a deeper understanding of what antigypsyism is through different means of portraying elements of antigypsyism. The aim of the study session was to contribute to the development of a youth-friendly version of the reference paper on antigypsyism that can be understood by all. The participants had the chance to be creative and work together to comprehend, interpret and shorten some parts of the aforementioned reference paper.  Afterwards they could present the outcomes and outputs of these working groups. What was really interesting and praiseworthy noticing was the eagerness of the group to participate in the production of this exciting publication, which will be available soon.

The study session started with getting to know each other in order to get comfortable with one another, since antigypsyism is a very sensitive theme and the youth group consisted of  a diverse group of young people such as the Roma youth, travelers and non – Roma participants. Some of these youngsters were students at universities and some were already working for an NGO or had just started to run their own NGO. One thing they had in common was their experience with discrimination and realizing that antigypsyism has several stages.

In the last two days, the working groups were divided according to different themes. There were four themes; case studies, counter strategies, visuals and non – formal education. The participants from the case studies group found cases related to antigypsyism from different countries (eg. sterilization of Romani women). The group on counter strategies prepared some strategies how to combat antigypsyism on the basis of what they have learnt throughout the week. The group on visuals prepared very interesting material on how the “youth-friendly” version on antigypsyism could look like. And the group for non – formal education prepared detailed workshops whereby youth could learn about this theme.

 

A great deal of work was done by all the participants of the study session. The inputs were of a great importance and will further be used for drafting the youth friendly version of the reference paper

Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Before the start of the EU Roma Platform 2018, ERGO Network and Roma Active Albania, together with the European Commission DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, organised the event “Reintegration” into the Western Balkans: Returnees’ perspective with special attention to Roma community, as part of the ‘Joint Initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey’. The event was hosted by the MEPs Cornelia Ernst (European United Left–Nordic Green Left), Soraya Post (Socialists & Democrats) and Eduard Kukan (European People’s Party).

Together the partners managed to move ‘the Roma in the Western Balkans’ perspective from the margins to the center of the EU Roma Platform’s narrative. The event strengthened stakeholders’ understanding of the situation, created a space for dialogue between Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, international organisations, national authorities, Roma Contact Points and Roma organisations from both the Western Balkans region and EU Member States. Participants of the conference discussed their view of the problems and possible measures to be taken to address them.

More specifically, there is a need for data collection, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, financing, policy frameworks and capacity-building. The event also raised awareness of the need for a stronger support for grassroots organizations to support returnees and to advocate for better policies and reflected the close cooperation between the European Commission Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

By presenting preliminarily results of a study commissioned by DG NEAR and conducted by the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, UNDP showed that the ongoing uncoordinated approach towards returnees has not been able to address the problems that Roma people experience in this context.

ERGO members and partners from OTAHARIN (Bosnia), RROMA (Macedonia) and Central Council of German Sinti and Roma presented the situation of returnees’ in their countries. Dragan Jokovic, Director of OTAHARIN argued that “Roma do not see the future in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia because they want the best for their children” and that “there are no conditions created for reintegration”. He added that Roma are the most discriminated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that even the Constitution is discriminatory. “Roma returnees only can turn to NGOs for support”, Mr Jokovic stated.

While closing the event, MEP Soraya Post sent an important message to the participants: “The EU has defined the Western Balkan countries as safe countries of origin. This does not mean that these countries are free from antigypsyism. We hope that step by step we can make positive and sustainable changes, but we have to be more responsible.”

Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania and Vice Chair of the ERGO Network board, highlighted the importance of joint efforts and coordination: “I can confirm that civil society is ready to make the reintegration of returnees a reality for the Western Balkans, but the most important is what we all take home from this successful event in terms of responsibilities that we need to fulfil”.

We are yet to see if the major actors will take more responsibility and increase their contribution to making sustainable change for the Roma in the Western Balkans.