Hate speech by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister

Picture credit: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Once again, antigypsyist hate speech comes from the highest political level in Bulgaria. This time, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Krasimir Karakachanov demonised Roma in strongest terms after two incidents of violence carried out by individuals of Roma origin.

While we condemn the violent acts against a police man and a service man, we need to make it clear that hate speech and collective punishment against a whole group of citizens is utterly wrong and unacceptable.

Hate speech against the Roma community has strongly increased in recent years and no state institution in the country raises the issue. Vice versa: all political parties use anti-Roma rhetoric – not only the far right nationalists, but also the big mainstream parties.  This comes together with purposeful propaganda of the political class against civil society organisations and corrupting of the democratic process among the Roma community. 

Liliya Makaveva, ERGO Network board member from Integro Association has translated the following article reporting on the hate speech of Krasimir Karakachanov in order to raise awareness of European civil society that there are no limits for the political class in Bulgaria to blame the Roma community in their chase of political power.

Original article in Bulgarian.

“Gypsies in Bulgaria have become extremely insolent and the tolerance of Bulgarian society has been exhausted”.

This was said by the Minister of Defense, Krassimir Karakachanov, in connection with the latest case of assault on a serviceman in the village of Voyvodinovo. The Minister visited the village, where he met the village mayor Dimitar Toskov, the Mayor of Maritza Municipality Dimitar Ivanov and the head of the Plovdiv Regional Police Directorate. The commander of the 68 Brigade Special Forces, Brigadier General Yavor Mateev, met Krassimir Karakachanov as well. The Minister revealed that before the meeting he visited the injured military at ‘St. Panteleimon’ Hospital. “He will be operated tomorrow. He has a scuffed cheek and a lot of bruising around his eyes. The attackers hit him mainly in the head. His condition is good, he has an average bodily injury and maybe he will be released from hospital in a few days. The Ministry of Defense will bear all the costs of the treatment”, said Karakachanov.

“A few days ago a policeman was beaten, and now a military officer and this cannot go on any longer. The truth is that a comprehensive program to solve the Gypsy question needs to be elaborated. People don’t have to tolerate part of the population that only has rights and does not want to understand that there are duties and must that they must comply with the law. The measures must be literally binding the social benefits with the education and labour. Bulgaria must stop taking into account Brussels officials and human rights defenders“, the military minister said, quoted by Radio Focus. “Illegal buildings are another problem. The ghettos are a Scots story. Kids beat in succession. That cannot go on any longer. The program has been prepared and it will be submitted for discussion to the Council of Ministers. There is no point in waiting and endure more”, Karakachanov continued.

How long will the state fund the promiscuous gypsy birth-rate? This population does not want to work, to study and, in practice, become a marginalized community that lives under its own laws. For a person who used to live for granted, the easiest job is to make children to receive benefits. They have no any stimulus to work, to improve”, said the Deputy Prime Minister.



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.

STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

STRENGTHENING ROMA NGOS AS TRANSPARENT AND INDEPENDENT  WATCHDOG ORGANISATIONS

ERGO Network’s new transparency and accountability criteria give recommendations on how grassroots civil society organisations should be governed and managed in order to be reliable and accountable.  Fulfilling the criteria will bring attention to an organisation’s quality work. The set of criteria focuses on governance, financial management and performance.

ERGO Network together with its member organisations – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (Slovakia), Roma Active Albania (Albania), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Autonomia Foundation (Hungary), OTAHARIN (Bosnia and Herzegovina), RROMA (Macedonia), Mladi Romi (Montenegro) and Zero Discrimination (Turkey) – developed a set of transparency and accountability criteria for grassroots organisations with the aim to strengthen civil society organisations. Using the criteria will give more legitimacy, better fundraising opportunities and more trust from both the grassroots level and institutions and ultimately reinforce the power of civil society organizations. Being transparent and accountable are important prerequisites for the effectiveness of civil society that is taken seriously by its institutional counterparts and other partners.

Furthermore, the members of ERGO Network agreed on joining their efforts and putting their thorough expertise together to empower Roma and pro-Roma civil society in their countries in implementing the transparency criteria. For this aim, ERGO Network has developed a board game that leads the players through different steps necessary to become more transparent and accountable. Anyone can download the game and play it by themselves, or invite an ERGO Network facilitator to support them through the process. Besides the offline game, there is also an online self-audit that you can go through to discover how far you are in applying the criteria in your organisation.

Fulfilling the transparency criteria means not only being able to show that Roma and pro-Roma civil society takes these very seriously, but also having the right to demand the same from other stakeholders.

Find out more about the transparency and accountability criteria and download them in several languages: http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/

Do the online audit and know how well your organisation fulfils the transparency and accountability criteria http://ergonetwork.org/transparency/transparency-audit/

Fighting antigypsyism in the spotlight of the 2018 Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna

Fighting antigypsyism in the spotlight of the 2018 Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna

At this year’s Fundamental Rights Forum of the Fundamental Rights Agency on 26 September in Vienna, ERGO Network together with its partners in the Alliance against Antigypsyism and the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) held a session “Addressing antigypsyism: new strategies to ensure fundamental rights of Roma in Europe”.

The session explored new strategies to address persistent antigypsyism in our societies and raised awareness of the need to change the discourse on Roma inclusion and ensure fundamental rights for Roma in Europe. Through inputs of Mirjam Karoly (Romano Centro) and presentations of Adriatik Hasantari (Roma Active Albania), Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova (ERGO Network), Michael Privot (European Network against Racism), Jonathan Mack (Central Council of German Sinti and Roma), Rita Fober (assistant MEP Soraya Post) and many others, three key messages were communicated with the participants:

  1. Antigypsyism is the main cause of Roma exclusion. It is a specific form of racism towards Roma, Sinti and other groups that the majority society perceive as ‘gypsies’ and there is a high level of acceptance of this phenomenon.
  2. Recognition of antigypsyism is partial, even though it manifests itself frequently and takes many shapes: hate-speech in public, media and political narratives, hate-crime, discrimination in schools, by employers and employment services, health institutions, housing authorities, etc.
  3. Antigypsyism is also present in the EU enlargement region, where it is neither recognized nor properly addressed. Roma integration strategies in this region tend to remain ‘paper oriented’ and are not systematically implemented.

One of the conclusions of the session was that for the fundamental rights of Roma to be achieved, it is important to 1) change the public and political discourse on Roma: from Roma inclusion to combatting antigypsyism; 2) strengthen alliances and 3) have concrete targeted measures in place as well as committed institutions, political will and funding to mainstream the fight against antigypsyism into relevant policies, such as National Action Plans against Racism.

Moreover, recognition of antigypsyism by relevant stakeholders as well as the public is urgent and it should be reflected in functional responsible institutions as well as in creating new structures, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions for combatting antigypsyism at both EU and Member States level. Institutions need to monitor, record and report acts on antigypsyism; make sure that budgets are not discriminatory; that Roma are employed, including Roma youth; that Roma participate in public and political life; enjoy access to justice; that there is no segregation, etc.

Finally, fighting antigypsyism should go beyond the EU. Work has to be done in the enlargement region as well, focusing on recognizing, preventing, monitoring, reporting, and responding properly to acts of antigypsyism by implementing relevant policies and legislation.

The Director of ENAR, Michael Privot sent a strong message to participants that “we have to be specific in our fight” and to call the problem by its name so it can be properly tackled and explained that Roma participation is an important element of an organization’s strategy.

The Alliance against Antigypsyism has been confirmed as a strong group of advocates coming from different backgrounds. In addition, this year’s Fundamental Rights Forum invited Roma youth representatives from Austria, Hungary, France, Romania, Spain and Slovakia, who attended different sessions of the Forum and enriched the knowledge of a wide range of participants regarding the topics such as housing, education and pop culture narratives.

‘Dikh he na bister’ presentation at Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre

 

‘Dikh he na bister’ presentation at Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre

On the 5th of September, over 30 invited guests gathered at Pavee Point to hear the experiences of 10 young Irish Travellers and Roma who participated in the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative.

This is the first time an Irish delegation had attended the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative, which involved a visit to Auschwitz and meeting Holocaust survivors. The trip also gave the participants the opportunity to meet other young Travellers and Roma, and work together in sessions on history, racism, and remembrance.

The participants described their visit to Auschwitz as difficult, and emotional. Bianca Paun, a participant from Kildare said: “When you’re walking there, where people took their last steps and try to feel what they feel – it’s very hard”.

During their time in Poland the participants also heard from two Roma survivors, including Raymond Gureme, who hadn’t spoken about his experience in Auschwitz for 70 years. On August 2nd, the Irish group attended a special Roma Genocide memorial, lighting candles and presenting roses to remember the victims.

The presentation in Pavee Point also involved a question and answer session, and audience members were eager to share their thoughts on the topic, and to ask participants about Auschwitz. Jason Sherlock, a participant from Galway, said that he found the rooms of shoes and glasses at the Auschwitz museum to be the most powerful exhibits. By sharing photos and stories, the group succeeded in raising awareness of the Roma Genocide in Ireland, and inspired the audience to stand up for the human rights of minority groups.