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

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.

A new united Europe for people

A new united Europe for people

ERGO Network is one of 177 European and national civil society organizations and trade unions to sign a common statement calling for a new direction for the European Union.

The statement is directed to the 27 EU leaders who are going to meet for an informal Summit in Bratislava on the 16th of September, where the leaders are supposed to address the growing gap between the citizens and the EU in the wake of the UK referendum.

The common statement has been adopted to show a common position demanding leaders to fight back against populism, social inequalities, climate changes etc.

For more information read the full statement and see a full list of signatories.

Member States need to step-up their efforts


On June 27 2016 the European Commission published their Communication on  the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies in 2015 and reviews, for the first time, Roma integration measures put in place under the Council Recommendation 2013. The report is based on information submitted by Member States about their efforts made to integrate Roma, supplemented by input from civil society. ERGO Network concludes that the report clearly indicates a lack of action in crucial areas – also in those Member States with a significant number of Roma. Therefore, ERGO Network supports the urgent call of the European Commission on Member States to address the key priorities and step up their efforts.

In this note we present a brief examination of the European Commission’s (EC) assessment and indicate how it can be used by Roma Civil Society in their national advocacy.

The 2016 report consists of two parts: a summary ‘Communication’ – which presents a brief overview of the measures reported by the Member States, in thematic order- and a ‘staff working document’ that presents country-by-country assessments and highlights examples of practices in the various thematic areas.

In the country fiches the European Commission presents the information provided by the Member States along with its own assessment. In many cases, the assessment is critical and points to a lack of action or indicates that Member States still face considerable challenges to realize the potential of the measures they reported. Therefore, although in the first part of the report (the ‘communication’) the overview tables appear praise the Member States for taking certain measures, a closer look at the individual assessment of each country’s performance, shows a much more critical perspective. This critical perspective is also clearly reflected in the Conclusions (pp. 16 – 18) that call on the Member States to urgently address a number of key priorities.

In this note, ERGO Network points to a number of conspicuous gaps in Member States’ performance. Also, we present some critical remarks on the reporting process and framework. It aims to invite ERGO Network members and other civil society actors to highlight the Commission’s assessment and recommendations before national governments, and to attentively read the country-fiches (pp. 37 – 98) to verify the information reported by Member States and, where necessary, supplement the Commission’s assessment with additional critical notes.

Find the full report here: Member states need to step up their efforts