Statement regarding Bulgarian EU conference on Roma Inclusion

Brussels, 29th May 2018

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO) and its Bulgarian member Integro Association together with the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and a number of Bulgarian Roma activists and organizations support the position of prominent advocates for Roma rights in Bulgaria concerning today’s event entitled “Roma inclusion – where we stand and where we are heading to”.

We would have appreciated the effort to prioritize Roma inclusion as a topic if the event had stood up for values such as meaningful Roma participation, not just tokenism, and the fight against antigypsyism. As this is not the case, we join the 51 Bulgarian organisations, coalitions and individuals participating in the Roma Standing Conference, who decided not to take part in the event in a letter supporting a society free from antigypsyism.

Today’s conference is organized by the Bulgarian National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, an institution that fails to implement the priorities of the National Roma Integration Strategy. The institution is chaired by Valeri Simeonov, who in 2017 was convicted by the regional court of Burgas and the Commission for the Protection Against Discrimination for his antigypsyist statements.

For these reasons, we characterise this event as yet another illegitimate attempt to represent ‘Roma issues’. We call upon the authorities to include the Roma community and Roma CSOs as equal stakeholders rather than token participants for public relations.

Download the statement here.

     The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)     Bulgaria_Integro 

 

Signatures:

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network; Ðorđe Jovanoviç, ERRC; Liliya Makaveeva – Integro Association; Lyubomir Dimitrov, Roma-Lom; Nikolay Kirilov, member of the RSC; Asen Yordanov IG-Boychinovtsi; Miglena Mihaylova “Leader” NGO, Blagoevgrad; Asen Karagyozov ICRC, Plovdiv; Zapryan Hristev, IG, Rakovski; Yanko Krivonozov Future Rakitovo; Krassimir Kirilov IG, Sliven; Ophelia Krumova IG, Vidin; Peter Tsvetanov – National Network of Health Mediators, Branch Montana; Veselin Lakov –  IG Montana; Assen Hristov- Association of Roma pastors – over 100 Roma churches; Alexander Strahilov – IG Razlog; Svetlin Raikov – Development Initiative for the Northwest; Anton Karagyozov – Roma-Plovdiv; Nikolay Nikolov, Center for strategies for minorities – Varna; Metin Shefket – Roma – Vazovo; Daniela Mihaylova – Equal opportunities Association , Sofia;  Roumyan Sechkov, S. E. G. A. Foundation; Emil Metodiev, RSC; Demir Yanev, Roma Solidarity, Petrich; Yuksel Yasharov, Peshtera, Roma Active Albania, Romano Centro Austria, La Voix des Rroms, France, Advancing Together, Kosovo, Amaro Drom, Amaro Foro, Germany, Asociatia CRIS, Romania

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The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network’s mission is to fight against antigypsyism and advocate for better policies for Roma in Europe. We create strong networks and empower Roma activists all over Europe. More information on our website: http://ergonetwork.org/.

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Director:  g.hrabanova@ergontwork.org

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a Roma-led international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights violations. For more information see at:  http://www.errc.org/.

Ðorđe Jovanoviç,  ERRC President:  dorde.jovanovic@errc.org

Association Integro Bulgaria is a not-for-profit non-government music organisation. It was incorporated in 2002. Its main goal is to support Roma in the rural areas of Bulgaria and supply musical equipment, such as drum samples and drum sounds. The name of the Association is an abbreviation of “Roma INTEGRation”. More information on our website:  http://www.integro-bg.org/

Liliya Makaveeva, Director Integro: L.makaveeva@gmail.com

 

 

 

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.

EU Roma Week: an opportunity to focus on tackling antigypsyism in Europe

EU Roma Week took place last week for the third time in the European Parliament, to mark International Roma Day on 8 April. It was an important opportunity to put the fight against antigypsyism – the specific form of racism faced by Roma, Sinti and Travellers – at the forefront of the European Union agenda, and to highlight the need to uphold the fundamental rights of Roma in Europe.

Roma are part of European societies and have been for centuries. But many barriers prevent them from being equal citizens. Tens of thousands of Roma are qualified professionals, but they remain invisible because of the “Gypsy” stigma. An overwhelming proportion of Roma – 80 % on average in the nine EU Member States – still live at risk of poverty, according to a recent report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. One in three Roma are victims of harassment. Roma also regularly experience discriminatory stop and search by police, police raids on Roma settlements and other forms of harassment by police forces.

Antigypsyism 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. Antigypsyism is not only about what is being said about Roma and to Roma, it is also about what is or is not being done to combat structural discrimination and dehumanisation. As such, it is also a root cause of Roma exclusion in Europe.

Eight years ago, the EU adopted measures for Roma inclusion, but European Roma continue to live in a deplorable situation. Discrimination, hate crime and speech, police brutality and segregation persist across EU countries and fuel exclusion of Roma from society. This highlights the urgency of stepping up efforts to tackle structural and institutional racism so that Roma can finally become equal citizens in their societies.

This will require that structures that monitor racism, discrimination, hate crime, hate speech, policy implementation are revised and strengthened to effectively document and combat antigypsyism in all its complexity. Civil servants, educators, care workers, police, judiciary and other relevant official bodies need to receive training in how to recognise and combat antigypsyism. The EU and national governments must allocate specific and adequate funding to programmes aiming to fighting antigypsyism. Roma civil society must also be empowered to advocate for better policies and make their concerns heard at the local, national and EU level. They have a crucial watchdog role to make public institutions accountable.

EU decision makers must realise that social inclusion programmes will have no impact if racist narratives and discriminatory practices are left unaddressed. A growing sense of impunity for toxic discourses and violent acts will undermine implementation of these programmes on the ground. By fighting antigypsyism, including within institutions, we can secure a better place for Roma in Europe.

Alliance Against Antigypsyism Drafts Recommendations for Post 2020 European Programming Period

Alliance against Antigypsyism and its partners work intensively to create recommendations for the Post 2020 European programming period

On the 14th of March 2018, ERGO Network together with European Network against Racism (ENAR) and Central Council of German Sinti and Roma organized a meeting of the Alliance against Antigypsyism.

The aim of the meeting was twofold. The participants explored two topics. One of them is Roma inclusion in EU social and employment policies and another one specifically about the antigypsyism framework at the EU level and beyond. The ultimate aim was to discuss the draft papers authored by some members of the Alliance themselves and contribute into the content by discussing specific relevant policy processes and by formulating recommendations. New steps were jointly set in creating the two documents with recommendations with purpose to help the institutions with clear guidelines that will be used as an advocacy tool by stakeholders in their work on Roma and the post 2020 programming period.

Other participation organizations such as Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Roma Active Albania, OTAHARIN, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Romano  Centro, Slovo 21, Romea, European Roma Right Center, Sozialfabrik, Society for the Research on Antigypsyism, were consulted in order to help make the recommendations feasible and relevant ranging from the international to the national and local level perspectives.

Secondly, a joint advocacy work occurred in light of preparation for the upcoming European Commission consultation meeting organized by DG JUST a day after, on 15th of March. The key objective of the consultation was to collect views on the implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies launched in 2011 and running until 2020. Our discussion was yet another coordinated action among various civil society stakeholders aiming at reaching a common agreement on priorities and possible action plan that will lead our work in 2018 and further so we achieve strong Roma inclusive policies after 2020.

 

ERGO’S work and its partners continues in the NEW FRAMEWORK PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT with EASI DG EMPL: 1st working meeting

ERGO’S work and its partners continues in the NEW FRAMEWORK PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT with EASI DG EMPL: 1st working meeting

ERGO Network brought together its co-workers from Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria to Brussels on March 5-7, for the 1st working meeting under the Annual Working Program (AWP) 2018- 2021. The meeting marked a continuation of the last four years work ERGO and its partners conducted under the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation funded by Director General: Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion support (DG EMPL).

The aim of the meeting was to discuss all the priorities under the four years framework. The meeting aim was to plan and discus the AWP 2018 and find ways to raise the effectiveness and productiveness and continuation of the previous activities conducted. A special focus was put on the methodology and guidance on how our members should carry out the implementation of the AWP in the next months.

Our members were very active in commonly agree on the next steps in our work at the grassroots level. In addition, the ERGO members were updated with the ongoing work of ERGO at European level and together we planned further steps for the events which are in the next days (Roma week etc.)

ERGO will continue in the next period together with its partners to equip multipliers with the competencies to train local Roma civil society organizations and public authorities in engaging more effectively with national and EU decision-making processes.