Antigypsyism on the agenda at EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

Alliance against Antigypsyism:

Antigypsyism on the agenda at EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

The EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, bringing together representatives of EU Member States and civil society representatives, put special emphasis on discussing antigypsyism at their 4th High-Level Meeting taking place on 5 December 2017.

Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, expressed deep concerns regarding the widespread social acceptance of antigypsyism. As an example she brought the case of hate speech and death threats against Czech Roma singer Gypsy.cz, which was fined with only 4 Euros by a domestic court. Judicial cases such as this send a wrong message when it comes to combating antigypsyist hate speech.

MEP Soraya Post (S&D Group) emphasized the urgent need to remedy antigypsyism as the root cause of discrimination and hatred against Roma and called upon all governments and duty-bearers to take responsibility for their citizens. She warned: “Europe is at a crossroads again. Extremist parties are getting into the governments, xenophobic voices are getting more and more common and tolerated even by members of governments”.

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO Network, presented the Reference Paper on Antigypsyism in her contribution and pointed out the importance to focus on mainstream society when combating antigypsyism: “It is essential to see that antigypsyism is not a ‘minority issue’. It is a phenomenon of our societies, which has its origin in how the social majority view and treat those whom they consider ‘gypsies’. To combat antigypsyism, our attention needs to shift to mainstream societies, while raising the voices of those who are dramatically affected by antigypsyism, but also usually silenced by it”.

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency presented findings of the second survey on discrimination and hatred targeting minorities throughout the EU. The survey shows that Roma and people of African descent face above-average levels of discrimination and hatred across Europe, which affects them in all areas of life and is greatest when looking for a job. Roma are more likely to be victims of hate motivated harassment and violence as well as ethnic discrimination than any other group, but three quarter of the respondents do not know any organisation offering support to victims and are unaware of relevant legislation protecting them. Due to a lack of trust, knowledge and resources, non-reporting of incidents of discrimination and hatred still remains a challenge. Reporting of hate-motivated harassment and discrimination to relevant services did not increase since 2008.

The survey results show the severity of discrimination and hatred against Roma in Europe. We urge the European Commission to assign the Fundamental Rights Agency to publish a study on antigypsyism in the EU and candidate countries and to provide a deeper analysis of the EU MIDIS II survey by looking at structural and institutional discriminatory practices and policies.

ERGO Network together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the European Network against Racism urge EU Member States to take targeted measures against antigypsyism. These should be included in the National Roma Integration Strategies and the National Action Plans against Racism. Disaggregated data on hate crimes against Roma and their property needs to be collected and antigypsyism must be recognised to allow national authorities to analyse trends of hate crimes affecting Roma and to develop effective responses to ensure recording, prosecution and adequate support to victims of racist violence and hate speech.

Find here the policy recommendations of the Alliance against Antigypsyism.

Download the recommendations as pdf.


     

Making the wheel roll

Making the wheel roll

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion,  convened by the European Commission, brings together national governments, the European institutions, international organisations and Roma civil society representatives. By creating a professional hub and meeting place for all, the goal is to strengthen co-operation and exchanges of relevant experience among all stakeholders on efficient Roma inclusion and integration policies and practices.

The European Roma Platform is a significant forum for reflection and apprehensive actions of the multi-stakeholder circle on social and economic integration the Roma population.

The 11th European Roma Platform took place on 27/28 November in Brussels and focused on the transition from education to employment. Szabolcs Schmidt, head of unit of non-discrimination and Roma coordination, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of the European Commission. The first panel provided evidence on the choice of this event`s topic. The latest numbers and percentages of the European Minorities and Discrimination Survey of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency show that despite growing national employment levels, the changes in Roma employment levels are small, or negative. The rate of those Roma who are not in education has also risen in almost all Member States of the EU where a considerable Roma population lives.

Participants from all over Europe shared their concepts and findings from the national level through thematic workshops in the afternoon.

ERGO Network was actively involved in the preparation and running of the event. Not only did several member organisations participate in the platform, ERGO director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova also facilitated the thematic workshop on employment.  ERGO furthermore launched a campaign to mobilize support for investing in employment opportunities for young Roma during the platform: `Investing in our future: What work(s) for young Roma?’ We brought the messages of young Roma themselves to the event, explored and developed at the ERGO Summer Academy by members of our network. 11 powerful testimonies of young Roma were furthermore portrayed on figurines exhibited around the venue of the event in order to raise awareness of the education and employment challenges of Roma in Europe.

The conclusions of the Platform might not be new to most, but they show the will of the EU institutions and civil society to make the wheel roll for Roma youth employment.  It was clearly highlighted that particularly mechanisms challenging school segregation are in high need and that challenging antigypsyism needs to be the basis for combating poverty and social exclusion.

ERGO Network will definitely keep the wheel rolling to support the implementation of more and better education and employment measures for young Roma.

European Semester 2018: Will EU Members States include Roma in their National Reform Programmes?

European Semester 2018: Will EU Members States include Roma in their National Reform Programmes?

On 22 November the European Commission launched the 2018 Autumn Package of the European Semester, the first step in the annual cycle of economic and social policy coordination between the EU Members States and the Commission.

Each year, the European Commission produces an analysis of each country’s situation in a number of policy areas, including social policies. These “country reports”, together with the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) drafted by national governments, lay the ground for the so-called Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs), which advise national governments on measures to take in their future policies. The country reports for 2018 will be released in February 2018.

Regularly the countries with large Roma populations (e.g. Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic) receive the recommendation to speed up the implementation of their national Roma integration strategies and ensure that Roma are not left behind. So far, however, these recommendations were hardly taken into account.

In the Annual Growth Survey the European Commission sets out general policies and social priorities for the year ahead.  After a few years of focusing on macroeconomic reforms, for 2018 the survey finally highlights again the importance of social issues and brings up the importance of an integrated approach for the inclusion of vulnerable groups. This reflects the recently adopted European Pillar of Social Rights and gives hope that it will be taken seriously by the European Commission and Member States.

According to the Annual Growth Survey the top priorities for 2017-2018 relevant for Roma are:

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
  • Promoting well-functioning labour markets and modern welfare systems
  • Job creation and fair working conditions
  • Social protection and inclusion to tackle inequality and poverty

ERGO Network hopes that the European Commission will continue to give priority to social issues in the next steps of the 2018 European Semester and will not overlook Roma in its country-specific recommendations as the most excluded minority in Europe. The implementation of the EU Roma Framework with its National Roma Integration Strategies should be supported by the European Semester.

ERGO Network urges the European Commission and the Members States that their response to social problems should not only be linked to employment, but also to the rise of antigypsyist attitudes that Roma are facing daily and that impediment their wellbeing in all spheres of their life.

More on the European Semester here.

Let actions follow words – Proclamation of European Pillar of Social Rights

Today, at the EU’s Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Social Pillar has been published on 26 April 2017 by the European Commission as a summary of existing EU social legislation. Its aim is to serve as a guide towards a more social Europe and ‘upward convergence’ of social policies in the EU Member States. The Pillar includes 20 principles under three chapters: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market; Fair working conditions; social protection and inclusion.

For Roma as the most marginalised ethnic minority in the EU, with 80% at risk of poverty, only 30% in paid work and only half attending pre-school education, the European Pillar of Social Rights could mean an important step forward – if EU Member States take their commitment for a more social Europe seriously.

ERGO Network strongly urges European leaders to make of the Social Pillar more than just a proclamation and prevent it from becoming an empty shell. After the important step today, it is now time to let actions follow words. The principles touch on issues such as protection against forced eviction, access to essential services, inclusive education and the right for children to protection from poverty – all issues that, if tackled properly, can mean a real advancement for the social inclusion of Roma in the EU.

Now is the time to put dedicated budgets in place to make a social Europe a reality – a Europe that pays particular attention to its most disadvantaged citizens and does everything it can to reduce inequalities.

ERGO Network asks for end to segregation of Romani children

ERGO Network asks for end to segregation of Romani children 10 years after landmark decision of European Court on Human Rights

Press release – Brussels – 15/11/2017

10 years ago 18 Romani children from Ostrava in Czech Republic received a positive verdict of the European Court on Human Rights, acknowledging that placing them in segregated substandard education for children with mental or intellectual impairments constitutes a violation of their human rights.

This decision on the D.H. case on 13 November 2007 constituted a turning point for Roma children and their families in Europe, as for the first time a court ruled that segregation in education is unlawful.

Still today, however, Roma children continue to be perceived as outsiders and intruders in European countries where they have lived for centuries and are often denied access to quality education.  In Central and Eastern Europe, segregation mechanisms channel on average30 percent of Roma students into ethnically segregated and lower quality schools and classes.

Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO Network, points out: “Putting our children into segregated schools is a direct manifestation of racism, deriving from the deeply embedded structural antigypsyism in the practice of authorities, institutions and society as a whole”.

Segregation in education does not only seriously harm the prospects of Roma students who don’t receive quality education, are at greater risk of poverty and are stigmatised for the rest of their lives; it denies all children the benefits of diversity in education and the chance to learn from one another. Parents need to be better informed and mobilised in order not to send their children to segregated schools.

ERGO Network calls on the European Union and its Member States to strictly follow-up on the infringement procedures for discrimination against Roma students launched against the governments of Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic and to step up their efforts to ensure equal citizenship of the 6 Million Roma in the EU.  This can include a local ex-ante conditionality for accessing EU funds that will put in place local desegregation plans, continued civil society monitoring on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies and the use of EU funds and stronger efforts to combat antigypsyism throughout the EU.

Download the press release here.

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO) brings together over 25 (pro) Roma grassroots organisations from across Europe to empower communities, fight antigypsyism and achieve equal citizenship.

Contact: Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova (g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org, +32 2 893 1049), www.ergonetwork.org