Raising awareness about antigypsyism

Raising awareness about antigypsyism among mainstream organisations 

In ERGO Network we believe that positive change for Roma is possible when antigypsyism is recognized and tackled as the root cause for inequality, and when Roma can take part in civic life as equal stakeholders.

In the past couple of weeks, ERGO was invited to speak in workshops and events addressing antigypsyism among mainstream organisations and stakeholders.

For example, our Director Gabriela Hrabranova and our policy and project coordinator Mustafa Jakupov, together with Roma historian Michal Mižigár from the Czech Republic kicked-off a series of online workshops called “Addressing racism in the EU region” dedicated for staff learning and development of the British Council. The first session called “The social and historical context of the Roma minority in Europe and understanding antigypsyism” managed to attract 124 participants and received a lot of positive feedback and comments. One of the participants of the workshop shared:

“I actually pulled my headphones out and turned up the volume so my boyfriend could listen in as well in the background. It’s worth saying that he is not always completely ‘of the British Council school’ of respecting diversity and inclusion, particularly when it comes to Roma people. His father was a police officer in a small Romanian town for many years, and he grew up surrounded by a lot of prejudices about Roma people. We have had A LOT of arguments on this topic. Anyway, I can honestly say that he found it absolutely fascinating – he genuinely said it opened his eyes to perspectives he had never considered before. So thank you again. I’m very much looking forward to the second session.”

Our policy and project coordinator Mustafa Jakupov took also part in a session organized by Vodafone for the International Day of Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as part of Vodafone’s global webinars on the important topic of inclusion, allyship and anti-racism. He was joined by the Baroness Floella Benjamin, who shared her life struggles and successes and Ezdihar Abdulmula, who spoke about Islamophobia. Mustafa shared about antigypsyism and why sometimes we feel uncomfortable to recognize or address it, as it challenges our privileged position and makes us admit to ourselves that we believe in the myth of the society run by merits, not privilege.

When it comes to standing up to racism, we must take the words of Baroness Benjamin that one way to oppose racism is to keep our 4 C’s close to heart and mind: consideration, contentment, confidence and courage!

Roma are the embodiment of the 4 C’s in Europe for over 700 years! And nowadays, we are the ones reminding Europe about its own values, which in the eyes of a pandemic are easily getting forgotten!

PECAO Check-in meeting

PECAO Check-in meeting to evaluate project progress and plan ahead!

Almost one year has passed since ERGO Network and its partners have started the implementation of the PECAO project that addresses antigypsyist online hate speech. It has been quite a journey for our project partners within PECAO, as the project itself is being implemented during a global pandemic.

Nevertheless, our partners are extremely dedicated to encouraging positive values within Roma and non-Roma communities, as well as addressing the persisting issue of hate speech and antigypsyism. They have proven themselves motivated and reliable with the responsibilities handed to them. Our network is truly supported by grassroots efforts and we are immensely proud of this.

On 25 and 26 February 2021, the PECAO partners came together to evaluate a year of building our experience and expertise in tackling hate speech online, but also to look into the on-going implementation of the project, to check progress and plan the next steps ahead. We focused on the road so far, looking into what has been smooth and well done; where we were encountering bumps and the moments that we felt lost and were challenged by the given circumstances.

The check-in meeting was important and integral, as we still have a year ahead of us to make a change through our work and project in the online space.

The partners highlighted that the monitoring and peer education are going well, but it was challenging in the beginning to find the correct way to do it, especially face to face meetings, hence most of the activities shifted to be organized online and needed to take everyone’s safety into account.

During the meeting, we also received insights into the work packages led by our partners Integro, Nevo Parudimos and FAGiC. We listened to their reflections on the implementation so far and received heads up for the next period, as we are looking into following up on the conclusions of the stakeholder roundtables organized in their countries as well as continue to work on the monitoring exercise of collecting and reporting antigypsyist online hate speech.

On the meeting, our project officer from DG JUST Helene Lesay was also present and praised the commitment of our team despite the challenges faced.

The meeting concluded with looking into the next steps and milestones, one of them being the EU stakeholder roundtable organized for the 26 April 2021 by ERGO Network called “Online Antigypsyism: A new challenge for Roma inclusion?” where relevant stakeholders such as the European Commission, Google.org, European civil society organisations and other Brussels-level stakeholders, as well as EU policy-makers from across the institutional spectrum are invited to discuss.

ERGO responds to the EPSR Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights

On 4 March 2021, the European Commission proposed an Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), aiming to turn its 20 policy principles into concrete policy actions. The European Commission has pledged to make the Social Pillar “the compass of Europe’s recovery and our best tool to ensuring no one is left behind”.

The Action Plan draws on a wide-scale public consultation, which received over 1000 responses, including ERGO Network’s comprehensive position paper How to ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation?, where each of the 20 principles is explained in terms of its implications for Roma rights, including relevant thematic statistics and concrete policy recommendations.

=> Access ERGO Network’s full response to the Action Plan

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the inclusion of the EU Strategic Framework and Council Recommendation on Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation as an integrant policy action of the Social Pillar Action Plan, which firmly anchors the delivery on the EU Roma Framework under the umbrella of the Social Pillar and throughout the European Semester.  Unfortunately, the European Roma are only mentioned once in the rest of the document, exclusively in relation to employment. It is a missed opportunity not to have a specific focus on the Roma also in other areas, such as skills, equality, and poverty.

More encouragingly, ethnic minorities or ethnic background are referred to several times. While wording could have been stronger, the mentions are very welcome, as they uphold and mainstream Principle 3, Equal Opportunities. The plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups is highlighted a few times throughout the text, and the Action Plan includes several welcome references to combatting discrimination. While this is positive, unfortunately the document falls short of mainstreaming a true anti-discrimination approach in all its areas.

ERGO Network further welcomes the fact that the Action Plan includes concrete, quantifiable targets, on employment, education, and poverty reduction. These mirror objectives also included in the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation, and Inclusion – though the links are, sadly, not made explicit in the Action Plan. While equality is combined with the target on skills, there is no corresponding measurable objective. Moreover, the Equality section of the Action Plan focusses exclusively on gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities. It is unfortunate that other groups did not receive the same attention, particularly as their thematic EU strategies are clearly mentioned as falling under the scope of the Social Pillar.

We further appreciate that the implementation of the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights will be explicitly monitored through the European Semester and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. While the targets set minimum standards, it is hoped that Member States will raise the level of ambition in defining their own national targets. In this context, we very much welcome the European Commission’s encouragement to Member States to collect data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin, in line with the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan.

ERGO Network very much welcomes that the revised Social Scoreboard will also apply in enlargement countries, as part of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) process, while the Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) III will pro­vide increased funding for a flagship initiative to implement Youth Guarantee schemes, as part of the dialogue with Western Balkans.

Member States are encouraged to make use of the full range of EU funds available to implement the Action Plan, but no specific earmarking of funds is connected to the targets of the Pillar, and there is no minimum social expenditure foreseen for the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The European Commission must issue clear guidelines to Governments and Managing Authorities for allocations to be made for the vulnerable and Roma especially – including through a corresponding enabling condition and Roma-specific indicator.

It is very positive that civil society is mentioned explicitly and repeatedly as a partner for the implementation of the Action Plan, and Member States are encouraged to ensure engagement of all relevant stakeholders. The Action Plan will only be effective if it achieves wide ownership by beneficiaries, and if it is rooted in direct evidence from the ground. Roma communities and their NGO representatives must be involved at all stages of policy design, delivery, and monitoring.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

Conference on fighting antigypsyism in the Western Balkans

Conference on fighting antigypsyism in the Western Balkans

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, ERGO Network, Roma Active Albania and the Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union organised on 25 March 2021 the virtual conference “Role of the European Union and of individual Member States to fight antigypsyism in the Western Balkans and to ensure inclusion of Roma”.

The goal of the conference was to discuss with representatives of the European Commission and of individual EU Member States the need to fight antigypsyism in the Western Balkans and the need to include the position and situation of Roma in all relevant policies of the European Union with regard to the countries in the accession process.

The new “EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation” is equally relevant for the countries in the Western Balkans, which requires them to include the fight against antigypsyism in the strategies and action plans that are in the process of development.

Also in October 2020, the European Commission adopted the “Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans” as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package, which emphasises that “the integration of Roma people into society by supporting their full participation in education and in the labour market is of particular importance and will be a key priority of the EU integration process”.

Against this background, the conference focused on providing representatives of the Roma with the opportunity to present their position and their proposals for policies and measures and to discuss them with representatives of the European Commission and Member States of the European Union.

The conference was opened with encouraging remarks of Ambassador Thomas Ossowski from the Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union and Colin Wolfe from the European Commission, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), Head of Western Balkans Cooperation. Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma also welcomed the participants and talked about the experiences of the civil rights movement of the German Sinti and Roma to fight antigypsyism, which can serve as and example for other countries both in the EU and the Western Balkan.

Following the keynote speech by Gabriela Hrabanova, Executive Director of ERGO Network on “the need to fight antigypsyism and to include the position and situation of Roma in all relevant policy fields”, a panel with a wide range of participants combined the position and activities of the European Union with experiences and requests from representatives of the civil society and other representatives of the Roma.

The panel addressed from several perspectives not only how the fight against antigypsyism could be strengthened in the Western Balkans, but also how a new policy approach with Roma in the Western Balkans could be achieved.

The representative of DG NEAR, Liselotte Isaksson, talked about the role of civil society in the Western Balkans in promoting inclusion of Roma and fighting antigypsyism” and Hristina Petkova from DG JUST informed about the focus on antigypsyism in the new EU Strategic Framework for Roma and the approach within the European Union.

Orhan Usein from the Roma Integration Team 2020 of the Regional Cooperation Council informed about the state of affairs and the involvement of the governments with regard to addressing antigypsyism in the new national Roma inclusion strategies.

Several Romani representatives presented their activities. Isabela Michalache (ERGO Network) informed about a new project on “Romani women – Power of change in the Western Balkans and Turkey” while Petrica Dulgheru, Executive Director Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI) talked about their activities in the Western Balkans and about Romani entrepreneurs as a driving force.

Isak Skenderi, Executive Director, Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo, informed about their activities in Kosovo, in particular focusing on the successful cooperation of Romani civil society with international actors and the government in combatting antigypsyism. Petar Antic talked about the project “Inclusion of Roma and other marginalized groups” that GIZ Germany implements in Serbia. The project includes a strong anti-discrimination focus and could serve as a promising practice for the region.

Finally Marija Sulejmanova of Romalitico in North Macedonia informed about the situation of Roma during the COVID 19 pandemic and their activities regarding the inclusion of Roma in assistance programmes to fight the pandemic.

The virtual conference was a first step in advocating for more activities in the Western Balkans to fight antigypsyism and to include the situation and position of Roma in all relevant policy fields. In this context, the active participation of the Roma is crucial and key to success and sustainability.

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, ERGO Network and Roma Active Albania will continue their respective activities and encourage not only the European Commission, but also individual Member States to step up their activities with Roma in the Western Balkans.