Minimum Standards for Minorities in the EU

On Monday 3 September 2018, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) held a mini-hearing on minimum standards for minorities in the EU. The respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities is one of the EU’s founding principles and the effective protection of minorities across the EU needs to be strengthened.

ERGO Network Executive Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova was one of the experts invited to the hearing to give input to the Committee’s report on the topic.  She pointed out that Roma and other minorities enrich the diverse cultural heritage of the EU; the protection of their rights, however, is currently not ensured. EU Member States have different definitions for minorities and apply different standards for their protection. There is a need for a common understanding and definitions, but also for ensuring the protection of minorities especially against discrimination and any forms of racism.

The Roma Civil Monitor, a project issuing civil society shadow reports on National Roma Integration Strategies in 27 EU member states, shows that even where Roma are recognised as minority, respect of their rights is still lacking or the minority status is only granted for ‘autochthonous’ Roma and not those of migratory background.

ERGO Network believes that the lives of minorities in every country are fragile; the policy frameworks on minorities are depending on political will and societal climate.  For Roma the situation is even more difficult, as there is no home country standing behind them to support the growth of their cultural heritage and language or to ensure the full recognition and protection of their rights. The European Union is the safeguard that brings hope to many.

Minimum standards for minorities should ensure rights to both ethnic and national minorities. They should also pay attention to intersectionality, especially when it comes to discrimination of LGBTI and people with disabilities.

During the hearing, Gabriela Hrabanova furthermore expressed the importance of addressing antigypsyism as core problem for the exclusion of Roma. “Antigypsyism is not explicitly recognized in the relevant policy and legislative documents and antigypsyist crimes are often not seen as such by the responsible institutions”, says Hrabanova. As stated in the European Parliament Resolution on fighting Anti-Gypsyism from 2015 and in the LIBE Committee Report on Anti-gypsyism from 2017 the situation of Roma is worsening and there is a need for urgent action to ensure the remedy of the centuries’ long discrimination and marginalization.

Member states should take both proactive and reactive measures to safeguard equal access of members of minority groups to services, goods, information, etc. and to provide mandatory trainings to duty-bearers.

But importantly, there will be no achievement without real and systemic consultations of minority groups at local, regional and national level to prepare, run, monitor and evaluate both minority specific and mainstream programmes in order to ensure their inclusiveness and non-discrimination.

2017 ERGO Network Annual Report

2017 ERGO Network Annual Report

ERGO Network’s annual report for 2017 is now available. Read the  2017 ERGO Annual Report and learn how ERGO Network and  its members introduced and pursued numerous initiatives to fight antigypsyism and to empower Roma in 2017. In addition the annual report 2017 presents the initiatives undertaken by ERGO to ensure networking between, and capacity building of member organisations. The report contains relevant information and graphs on the achievements and progress made to strengthen the Roma community. ERGO Network will definitely keep the wheel rolling to support the implementation of more and better measures for Roma.

Read the  2017 ERGO Annual Report

How realistic is the new EU programming period when it comes to Roma?

How realistic is the new EU   programming period when it comes to Roma?

 

Last month the European Commission has launched their proposals for the next European Union Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 called “A Modern Budget for a Union that Protects, Empowers and Defends”.   The MFF is meant to increase solidarity, social cohesion and social protection and will be supported by a series of proposals and financial instruments such as ESF+ ERDF, InvestEU, Eramsus+  etc. These proposals are under discussions and until the final approval in 2019.

ERGO Network fed into the process of the European Commission in drafting and proposing new priorities for its programmes and frameworks targeting Roma  through a  set of specific recommendations in which we address a number of shortcomings that must be tackled in the next cycle.

The proposed MFF did mentions  some general points that are in line with our suggestions, such as the fact that there should be an open and transparent monitoring process, that the EU funds shall not support actions that promote segregation and that there should be more focus on capacity building for civil society organisations.

Roma are mentioned in the proposal of the MFF: “promoting socio-economic integration of third country nationals and of marginalised communities such as the Roma”. However, this narrative implies that they are still not seen as European citizens; furthermore there are no specific indicators that would reflect a stronger focus on Roma inclusion in the current proposal.  The annexes of the proposal  only briefly mention that there should be “inclusion of the thematic enabling conditions such as National Roma Integration Strategy”.

ERGO Network also calls upon the European Council and the European Parliament to ensure in their negotiations that the EU Framework for Roma Integration will continue.  The ERGO secretariat together with the Alliance against Antigypsyism  sent recommendations to Members of the European Parliament  ahead of the European Parliament plenary debate on 13th of June on the Implementation of and follow-up to the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Our position was clearly strengthened by most of the European Parliament Members. They argued in favour of a renewed post-2020 EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, which should address antigypsyism as a central priority.

However, the 25% earmarking for social inclusion under the ESF+ , the main fund supporting Roma inclusion, is still not enough. So far most of the EU member states have easily reached this amount in the current ESF framework and still there has been little or no progress in tackling poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.

Without a clear Framework, thematic objectives and specific budget lines, Roma, as the biggest minority in the EU, will again be lost in the new programming period mixed under the marginalized groups and competing with “third country nationals”

ERGO will continue to monitor the discussions and negotiations in Brussels and ask a strengthened EU Roma Framework with clear objective and indicators and sufficient resources to address inclusion and Antigypsyism.

Nothing about us without us – housing in Usty nad Labem

ERGO Network today wrote a letter to the Social and Health Commission of the Municipality of Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, concerning the housing situation of more than 200 inhabitants of two residential hotels, among them at least 80 children and most of them of Romani origin.

The news agency Romea writes:  “The inhabitants of two residential hotels in the Czech city of Ústí nad Labem that will close at the end of June still do not know where they will be moving. During their housing search they are encountering the need to pay deposits they cannot afford, as well as discrimination from landlords.  The Střekov Municipal Department wants to buy out the residential hotel on its territory, according to local mayor Eva Outlá (PRO!Ústí), who informed the Czech News Agency (ČTK) and Czech Radio of her plans. The tenants of both facilities allegedly learned last week from media reports that their current landlord will be closing up shop.”

The local Roma organisation Konexe describes the situation as follows:

“We have been using the community work and empowerment methods in the residential hotels intensively since Friday, 25 May. During that time, several meetings of tenants were held at both residential hotels, during which the people facing eviction have formulated their demands. These families are actually facing the pressure of a horrible situation. On the regular housing market they have almost no chance of finding apartments, there is an atmosphere of depression and hopelessness dominating the facilities. That is being passed on to the children there”.

ERGO Network is asking the municipality that a solution is found in dialogue with the target group. It is very important not to favor solutions that are not designed together with the people whose lives will be influenced by the decisions.  Local organizations, naturally, should play an important role in facilitating such contact and organizing a series of meetings. At those meetings solutions could be found that will satisfy all sides.

We are aware of the situation in the Czech Republic. Romani people face antigypsysm daily and their chances at being included in the fair housing market are almost zero. Nevertheless, the fact that Romani people do not have that opportunity and that they pay much higher rents to be accommodated in shocking conditions is something that must be underlined in this case. Who else besides City Hall and nonprofit organizations is able to give a helping hand with aiding the inclusion of these people onto the housing market?

Read the letter here in English or in Czech.

Read the full article of Romea about the situation in Usty nad Labem:

ERGO’s recommendations for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework

ERGO Network and its partners urge the European Commission to prioritise the position of Roma in Europe in the next Multi- Annual Financial Framework

ERGO Network together with the Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI) and 70 national and local Roma civil society organisations is asking EU decision-makers to dedicate funding for the social inclusion and empowerment of Europe’s largest minority in the next EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

ERGO Network presented key recommendations to the post 2020 Multi-Annual Financial Framework in the European Parliament at the event “Roma and the post 2020 policy: Challenges and opportunities”. The event was opened by Member of the European Parliament Ms Soraya Post. It was organized in cooperation with Open Society European Policy Institute, Roma Standing Conference Bulgaria, the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), European Network Against Racism (ENAR), European Public Health Alliance and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Even though social cohesion in the EU stands and falls with the effective inclusion of Europe’s most marginalised community – Roma – as well as other minorities, they are not direct beneficiaries of cohesion policy funds, a troubling sign regarding future funding. Besides this lack of direct access to funding for Roma communities, ERGO with its partners identified a number of shortcomings that must be addressed in the next funding cycle of the European Union, namely compliance with the rule of law as a condition for Member States to receive EU funds as well as effective monitoring mechanisms on the use of EU funds for Roma inclusion.
Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO Network, pointed out that “integration of Roma failed, because so far Roma people and civil society are not full partners in all stages of processes such as Partnership Agreements”. She also stressed out that “there is a need of active involvement of beneficiary communities to be part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programs in the next programming period”.

Marc Horstadt from the European Court of Auditors stressed “mainstreaming vs. dedicated funding for Roma to follow the explicit but not exclusive principle for better results and this to be highlighted in the next programming period”. He also mentioned “the need of having indicators and target values which are relevant for fighting antigypsyism. These indicators should also be taken into account in the design of measures promoting the inclusion of marginalised Roma communities within the ESIF framework, in line with the requirements of the racial equality directive”.

We now urge the European Commission to follow the recommendations provided and ensure that future political priorities of the European Union will prioritise Roma as a target group in all relevant areas of funding,
policies and programming in order to truly foster social cohesion within the European Union and to leave no one behind.

You can read the recommendations here.