The Europe We Want – Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

The Europe We Want – Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we have a momentous opportunity to take stock of how far Europe has come – and how far we still have to go in order to offer a sustainable and prosperous future to everyone in Europe.  We call on European decision-makers to show leadership, vision and courage to set Europe on the path to a sustainable future which realises the rights of all people and respects planetary boundaries.

Together with 230 civil society organisations and trade unions from all over Europe – from small grassroots organisations on local level to large international NGOs – we signed a common appeal to European Heads of State and Government, urging them to focus on the core European values and not just on economic ones, and ensure social, economic and environmental wellbeing for all.

Read   here our common appeal.

Evaluating with your target group

Evaluating with your target group

Despite the large and sustained focus of policy efforts to Roma inclusion, results remain limited. Thorough evaluation of programmes and projects is crucial to identify reasons for weak performance and should ideally lead to stronger project design. The current practice however usually leaves out the perspective of the final beneficiaries, their opinions remain invisible. The experience of ERGO Network is that programme and project evaluations, if they are available at all, often lack depth, fail to address shortcomings and in many cases present an image that does not correspond to the reality of those the project or programme aimed to support. This represents a missed opportunity for achieving structural improvements in policy approaches to Roma inclusion.

In 2016, ERGO Network and its members in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Czech Republic together with Fundacion Secretariado Gitanos (FSG) conducted a small-scale investigation based on beneficiary interviews and desk research to explore how better use could be made of the involvement of final beneficiaries in evaluation. The research presents a number of exploratory conclusions about the value of systematic inclusion of the perspective of final beneficiaries to better evaluate the quality of projects, strengthen project design and review and encourage project implementers to adopt a stronger focus towards achieving results for their target groups.

The conclusions are valid for all beneficiary groups of programmes and projects, but are of particular importance for Roma, who are often put into measures that are not thought through, do not fit to their particular needs and are characterised more by opportunism of project providers than by usefulness for beneficiaries. The research shows how external inclusive evaluation can contribute to combatting corruption, increasing the quality of programmes and highlighting the positive but intangible effects of programmes, for instance in benefitting community life or boosting self-confidence.

Read  here the synthesis report of ERGO Network’s research project.

The fact-finding work received financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSi” (2014-2020).

ERGO Network asks for increased efforts to reach out to Roma in the European Pillar of Social Rights

ERGO Network asks for increased efforts to reach out to Roma in the European Pillar of Social Rights

On 28th February, Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility met with civil society representatives to discuss the European Pillar of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goal to end poverty. With the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Commission aims to tackle the aftermath of the financial crisis and strives for an upward convergence of welfare systems and fair labour markets across Europe. European Commission President Juncker aims to achieve a “social triple-A rating” for the European Union, giving more weight to social priorities alongside economic and financial issues.  In the consultation meeting, Commissioner Thyssen pointed out: “In the current political and economic context, delivering real benefits for people and strengthening their confidence should be our first goal: no one must be left behind. Indeed, in the European Union, with all its diversity, we share a belief that increased competitiveness should go hand-in-hand with social progress”.

As a network of grassroots (pro) Roma organisations working on a daily basis with the poorest minority in Europe, we welcome the efforts of the European Commission to renew and improve the European social agenda to achieve positive social change and to create better living conditions throughout the EU, and appreciate the dialogue with civil society.

ERGO Network asks the European Commission to increase the focus of the Social Pillar on Roma as the most marginalised European minority, disempowered through poverty and discrimination[1]. According to the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II), 80% of Roma are at risk of poverty compared with an EU average of 17% and only 30% are in paid work, compared with the average EU employment rate for 2015 of 70%.The European Pillar of Social Rights is a key opportunity to dedicate specific measures and indicators to decreasing this extreme inequality and combatting social exclusion of Roma. Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, deputy director of ERGO network states: “Only when the most discriminated minority in Europe can claim their social rights and benefit equally from social protection systems, the European Union can obtain the so-called social triple-A rating. We would like to see a clear commitment to Roma inclusion in the final proposal of the European Commission”.

ERGO Network 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

Message from the event “Countering Shrinking Space for Roma Civil Society’ to the European Roma Platform

Message from the event “Countering Shrinking Space for Roma Civil Society’ to the European Roma Platform

On November 29, ERGO Network organised a public event to discuss the ‘Shrinking space of Roma civil society’, which was co-hosted by MEPs Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA) and Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP).  Over 80 people participated in the meeting. One of the conclusions is that there is a squeeze on available funding for work that is not strictly oriented to the provision of social services: advocacy, watchdog work, civil monitoring, community empowerment and activism.  Shrinking space of civil society is a trend in Europe, but hits hard on Roma organisations, as they are scarcely equipped and often struggling for survival.

The 2nd EUMIDIS report issued by the Fundamental Rights Agency on 29 November confirms that Roma are still Europe’s most discriminated and disliked minority and their position in society has not improved in the past 5 years.  Obviously, EU policies and funding has not brought the much needed change in the lives of Roma.  Research shows that 80% of the Roma live below the poverty threshold. In fact, many are the poorest of the poor – living in 3rd world enclaves – and their position is worsening. Despite some positive examples, most EU funding does not reach out to Roma and often confirms the second-class citizen status. Exclusionary patterns first needs to be tackled in order to make (EU) policies work and to prevent that tax-payers money is wasted.

One of the main challenges of Roma inclusion policies is to ensure Roma and Roma organisations are actors in the policy process, not subjects. Weak policy delivery goes hand in hand with the lack of active and independent civil society. Change on the ground will only come about when Roma communities and organizations are capable of holding municipalities, school authorities and businesses accountable for their performance and when they are equipped to monitor policy processes targeting them.

ERGO Network’s message from its public event to the EU Roma Platform meeting is that (pro) Roma civil society has a huge role to play to hold (local) governments accountable and involve themselves in policy processes as respected actor. This requires dedicated and flexible support to equip them to take such role and there is urgent need for funding of independent watch-dog organisations. And, policy makers need to take a pro-active role to take the expertise of civil society into account in the policy dialogue and assessment.

Also, at grassroots level Roma need to be supported to participate in and benefit from social inclusion interventions. Guiding principle in policy delivery should be that Roma themselves should take an active role to accomplish equal citizenship on all levels, from local up to European. EU funding will only be absorbed in a right and just manner, if people targeted are empowered and equipped to access and direct this funding.  Roma civil society can monitor the outreach and impact of (EU funded) programmes by showing the perspective of the beneficiaries on the ground.

The mutual accountability can only work if civil society actors are equipped as watch-dog organizations. In order to ensure the independence and safety of civil society to keep governments accountable, an EU-led funding stream should be in place offering long-term, independent and flexible support. In the long term, this will make EU programmes more effective and fair, thus generating an interesting return on investment.

Moreover, in policy making, where possible, independent monitoring and evidence should be used. Including information from civil society in review processes can help provide objective evidence, increase transparency and bring important political points of view. It is enormously important to hold a mid-term evaluation to prepare the ground for the post-2020 Roma policy. Mutual accountability is, by its very nature, a political process rather than a technical exercise.  An independent group with a formalised advisory status should be in place, as such does not exist in the EU, as well as support for shadow reporting by civil society organisations (that has been initiated by DG Justice, but not yet conducted). As a result, no frame is provided for civil society to give an organised input into the yearly reporting exercise on the implementation of the EPSCO Council Recommendations of 2013.

To conclude, Roma civil society is facing shrinking space, which is a reality for civil society at large. Taking into account the precarious position of Roma in the society, more firm and dedicated measures are needed. The prevailing antigypsyism is a barrier for efficient policy implementation. This needs to be acknowledged and taking into account as precondition in the design of all future initiatives and policies. 

Which steps towards European policies against antigypsyism

Which steps towards European policies against antigypsyism

The aim of the seminar, organised by Open Society European Institute on 15 November 2016, was to explore how successful policy initiatives around education and reconciliation can be systematized and disseminated throughout Europe by fighting antigypsyism.

The event gathered representatives of governments, European institutions and Roma civil society to discuss in which direction policies designed for Roma are going and how they foresee to combat the negative rhetoric against Roma.

The Deputy Director of ERGO Network, Gabriela Hrabanova, highlighted the importance of the civil society’s role in monitoring hate speech and discrimination by having the tools to address and fight antigypsyism at the local level.  She stressed the importance of independent watchdogs organizations in Europe, which, when it comes to Roma discrimination, are missing. In support of those arguments, ERGO Network presented the reference paper against Antigypsyism of the Alliance Against Antigypsyism, written in cooperation with experts and endorsed by over 100 NGOs across Europe.

Find out more about the key aspects and dimension of antigypsism – a specific form of racism towards Roma at www.antigypsyim.eu.

The concluding remarks were done by Ethel Brooks – Associate Professor at Rutgers University, who stated “What do governments say about Anti-Gypsyism? What has been done? A lot has been said but now it is time for implementation”, “The time has come to deliver not just to talk”. Another remark made in the conclusions is that there is a need to strengthen the alliances among stakeholders and civil society and to start implementing the existing policies and legislation on human rights and hate speech and build a firm stand of political leaders against Anti-Gypsyism.