ERGO Reaction to European Child Guarantee and EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

ERGO Network reacts to European Child Guarantee and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

On 24 March 2021, the European Commission released a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee, as well as the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 for the period 2021-2024. ERGO Network has engaged closely with the run-up of these two initiatives, also as part of the Investing in Children EU Alliance, to ensure that Roma children and their specific concerns were duly incorporated.

The European Child Guarantee aims at providing Member States with guidance and means to support children in need and break the cycle of poverty and social exclusion across generations, through ensuring effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing, as well as free early childhood education and care, free education and school-based activities, free healthcare, and at least one free healthy meal a day. We assessed these proposals based on our Input to the European Commission consultation on the Roadmap for a Council Recommendation for a Child Guarantee (October 2020).

ERGO Network warmly welcomes that “children with a minority racial or ethnic background (particularly Roma)” are explicitly included as target group for the scope of the Child Guarantee. Equally positive is that the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation and Inclusion is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Proposal for a Recommendation, but unfortunately, this link is not reprised in the text of the Recommendation itself. While several references to stigmatisation, segregation and discrimination are included, a clear commitment to fight all forms of discrimination, segregation, bullying, and racism (including antigypsyism) is not mainstreamed throughout the approach, and no specific actions are associated with it. This is a glaring missed opportunity.

We also very much welcome that the approach is explicitly rooted in combatting child poverty and social exclusion, with a focus on children’s rights and wellbeing. We further appreciate that implementation is firmly anchored in the European Semester, with Member States having 6 months to present a National Action Plan and appoint a national Child Guarantee Coordinator to oversee the implementation. Furthermore, they must ensure participation of stakeholders, including children and civil society, and we hope that the necessary support and outreach measures will be put in place for Roma children, Roma communities, and Roma NGOs to be able to engage with these processes on equal footing.

  • Read our full assessment of the proposal for a Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee here.

The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 aims at addressing persisting and emerging challenges, as well as proposing concrete actions to protect, promote and fulfil children’s rights, so that every child enjoys the same rights and lives free from discrimination and intimidation. We had submitted a detailed Input to the European Commission consultation on the Strategy (November 2020), and we reviewed the Strategy in light of the concerns and demands expressed therein.

ERGO Network salutes the many mentions of Roma children throughout the Strategy, with explicit references to hunger, poverty, school segregation, early school leaving, early childhood education and care, and access to education. While the document points to the enabling conditions on Roma inclusion and poverty reduction that Member States need to fulfil for the next MFF programming period, unfortunately, no concrete link is made in the Strategy with the EU Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation, which is a great missed opportunity. We further welcome that discrimination is highlighted as an important factor affecting children’s wellbeing and their access to rights, while racial and ethnic origin, as well as ethnic minorities, are also named several times. Sadly, there is no priority as such to combat discrimination, and antigypsyism is not referred.

The anchoring of the Strategy in core EU values such as equality, inclusion, gender equality, anti-racism and pluralism is also very positive, as well as identifying the fight against poverty, inequalities and discrimination as prerequisites to enable the active participation of children. We welcome the proposed establishment of the EU Network for Children’s Rights, and express the hope that the specific concerns of Roma children will be included in a participatory manner in this structure, as well as in the proposed annual European Forum on the Rights of the Child, where the Commission will report on progress for implementation, and the future Children’s Participation Platform.

  • Read our full assessment of EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 here.

ERGO Network and its members will continue to monitor the adoption and implementation processes, at EU and national level, of these two important initiatives. We aim to ensure that Roma children’s voices are being heard, and that appropriate links will be made between children’s rights and wellbeing and the objectives of the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

For more information on our work on Roma child poverty and exclusion, please contact c.tanasie@ergonetwork.org.

Response to consultation on Social Economy Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the European Commission public consultation on the Social Economy Action Plan

The European Commission launched a public consultation seeking stakeholder feedback on the proposed Roadmap for an Action Plan for Social Economy, due to be released shortly. ERGO Network contributed its perspective, building on our comprehensive position paper The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion A close-up on the Covid-19 pandemic and the recovery strategies, and on our online conference Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19, co-organised in November 2020 with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Social Economy Intergroup.

ERGO Network welcomes the strong recognition given in the Roadmap to the key role of social economy in putting people first and achieving a positive impact in local communities, in tackling growing inequalities and the social impact of the pandemic, and in building inclusive growth. The Roadmap highlights the potential of the sector to positively contribute to job creation and service provision, including social services, through innovative bottom-up initiatives to reach the most vulnerable, as well as to promote participatory, democratic governance models in the workplace.

We further salute the commitment to provide the necessary legal framework and enabling eco-systems for social economy to reach its objectives, including through enhancing its visibility and recognition, improving access to tailored private and public funding, as well as business support, fostering social entrepreneurship (in particular for young people), and other measures. We appreciate the focus on strengthening social economy in non-EU countries, in particular enlargement and neighbourhood countries.

However, we make a strong argument that vulnerable groups such as the Roma must be explicitly included in the Action Plan as key target beneficiaries of social economy interventions. Experience shows that, if Roma inclusion is not spelled out as an objective, mainstream approaches leave them behind. Furthermore, the Roma must be equally recognised as drivers of change, by being empowered to become social entrepreneurs themselves. The existence and potential of social enterprises need to be better promoted and supported in Roma communities.

Non-minority social economy actors must be mindful of deeply-rooted discrimination & antigypsyism, and make conscious efforts to combat any such tendencies. It is essential that non-Roma-led social enterprises work alongside Roma people and Roma organisations, to make full use of the pool of skills and talents already present in the communities. The Action Plan equally needs to acknowledge that marginalised communities face huge barriers in accessing funding from mainstream financial providers.

Last but not least, the Action Plan must be rooted in fruitful synergies with other EU policy and funding frameworks, including the EU Roma Strategic Framework. Social economy must be placed at the heart of Covid-19 intervention and recovery packages and funds, with an explicit targeting of vulnerable groups such as the Roma, who were hit hardest by the pandemic. The partnership principle needs to be embedded, involving key stakeholders, including Roma communities and their civil society representatives, enshrining a bottom-up approach, based on real community needs and grassroot input.

  • Read our full response to the consultation here!

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please contact Amana Ferro, Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.

ERGO report: Impact of Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19 on Roma communities in the European Union and the Western Balkans

Together with partners from seven EU Member States, five Western Balkan countries and Turkey, ERGO Network has prepared an in-depth study about the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had and continue to has on Roma and Travellers across Europe.

Access the study here. 

The data collected in this survey confirms that marginalized Roma and Travellers are amongst the most affected and impacted by Covid-19, mainly due to their devastating living conditions and exclusion, triggered by widespread antigypsyism. As this study suggests, during the pandemic many Roma and Travellers living in poverty found it very hard to protect themselves from getting the virus because of lack of access to water and sanitation. This was even harder for those living in segregated and informal settlements and/or improvised shelters.

Despite some positive responses regarding immediate measures taken by some governments and local authorities to assist vulnerable groups, including Roma and Travellers, increasing concerns from our members called for more consolidated data in order to better understand the situation of Roma and Travellers in the EU and Western Balkans and Turkey. The data is necessary to advocate for  better institutional and political coordination and a focus on minimising the impact of the pandemic in its second and/ or third wave on vulnerable communities including Roma and Travellers.

As a result, ERGO Network together with its members and partner organisations prepared national surveys in seven EU countries and six Western Balkan countries and Turkey. The results of this survey constitute the basis of this report. Besides data on key areas of access to education, employment, basic needs, health and housing, migration, discrimination and gender aspects, it also includes recommendations from the respondents themselves as well as from ERGO Network.

This survey was possible thanks the valuable contributions from ERGO members and partners. We would like to thank in particular Roma Active Albania in Albania, Otaharin in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expert Orhan Tahir in Belgium, Integro in Bulgaria, Slovo 21 and Life Together in Czechia, Amrita OBK association in Hungary, Pavee Point in Ireland, Voice of Roma Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo, RROMA in North Macedonia, Nevo Parudimos in Romania, Roma Forum in Serbia, Roma Advocacy and Research Centre in Slovakia and Zero Discrimination association in Turkey as well as Roma and Traveller communities in all the respective countries.

We especially thank the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) whose survey on the Covid impact (1) on Roma in Spain was used as inspiration for our ERGO survey.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache , Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.

 

ERGO Network carried out this work in the framework of the project “Roma Included in Social Europe”, funded by the EaSI Programme (all parts concerning EU Member States) and in the framework of the project “Romani Women Power of Change “ (all parts concerning Western Balkans and Turkey) carried out as a partner of Roma Active Albania and funded by the European Union.

This publication has received funding from the European Union. The information contained in this publication reflects only the authors’ view, and its contents not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This publication has received financial
support from the Foreign Office of the
Federal Republic of Germany.

 

(1) https://www.gitanos.org/actualidad/archivo/131067.html.en

50th International Roma Day

Today, on 8 April, we celebrate the 50th International Roma Day!

While the roots of Romani activism go back to the 19th century, the 8th April 1971 constitutes a turning point for Roma communities around the world, when activists moved their struggle to the international arena with the first World Romani Congress held near London. The day means for us a celebration of our culture, language and the endurance to keep our identity alive. The First Congress promoted the Roma symbols used as tools for unification and political mobilization, such as the umbrella term ‘Roma’, the Romani flag, the slogan Opre Roma! (Roma Arise!) our anthem (Djelem djelem) and national day (8 April).

The Congress was a catalyst of a new generation of Roma activists who worked together to fight against antigypsyism that we experience day in, day out.

From slavery to sponsored policies of extermination and eradication of our traditional culture, to forced settlement and resettlement, ethnic cleansing, assimilation, and sterilization of Romani women, all these persecutions led to the current situation of Roma across the world, where we continue to be perceived in a dehumanising way, less worthy and easy victims of hate speech, of racist violence and police abuse and day-to-day discrimination in all areas of our lives.

Today, when 80% of Roma and related groups live at the risk of poverty and hate speech and victimization of Roma have only increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, we must carry  the fight of our ancestors forward and stand firm against antigypsyism.

To eradicate antigypsyism, our network of civil society organisations, our friends and the entire Roma movement must all work together to empower Roma communities to stand up for their rights, to raise awareness of our situation among non-Roma, to demand that the justice system identifies and  persecutes crimes against us and to advocate for structural changes.

While we can be proud of our culture, history, personal achievements and political successes, such as the increased recognition of antigypsyism among institutions and some national governments and a stronger EU Roma Strategic Framework that puts the fight against antigypsyism at its core, there is still a very long way to go in order to achieve racial equality for Roma, Sinti, Travellers and other related groups.

On this important day, we are asking the European Institutions to

  • Further develop guidelines to recognise and address specific forms of racism, including
  • Create synergies between EU and national policy and legislative developments on specific forms of racism.
  • Speak out forcefully against any attempts to ethnically profile and scapegoat Roma and other minorities during the pandemic and ensure that states’ responses to Covid-19 do not make certain populations more vulnerable to racist violence and discrimination.
  • Ensure that the implementation of the Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights will be used so that Europe’s Roma are not left behind and that the Covid-19 EU recovery packages will reach Roma and other vulnerable groups.
  • Further invest in mapping and data collection regarding the access to rights and services and the capacity building of Roma civil society to take an active part in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national policies and programmes relevant to Roma.

We are asking national governments, under the new upcoming Roma strategic frameworks and policy actions to…

  • Shift narratives and measures on Roma in a positive and empowering way, reflective of democratic societies, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
  • Prioritise the recognition of and fight against antigypsyism and discrimination, segregation in education and housing and anti‑Roma prejudices and stereotypes.
  • Promote awareness of Roma history, culture, recognition and reconciliation and prioritize self-representation of Roma.
  • Ensure EU and national funds are used towards inclusive mainstream policy reform, targeted action and communication for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.
  • Ensure full and effective participation of Roma and (pro-) Roma civil society at all levels and all stages of the NSF design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Ensure an appropriate response and funding to the particular risks experienced by Roma and related communities due to the Covid-19 pandemic and mainstreaming and inclusion of Roma communities in the social and economic policies and programmes deployed to address the impact of the pandemic.

And we are asking from our non-Roma friends, neighbours, colleagues and others to:

  • Question your own biases and stereotypes against Roma.
  • Call out antigypsyism when you see it happening.
  • Educate yourselves and learn about Roma history.
  • Do not use racist slurs against us.
  • Do not speak on our behalf, but give us spaces to speak up and amplify our voices.
  • Celebrate with us our Roma culture, history and role models – on 8th April, and throughout the rest of the year.

Launch event of Chachipen project

50th International Roma Day: Towards justice and building trust

On the occasion of 50th International Roma Day, ERGO Network together with CEPS, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña (FAGIC) in Spain, the Asociatia Fast Forward and the ARESEL Network in Romania launched their joint EU funded project, Chachipen (“truth”) online on 29 March 2021.

The kick-off event brought together an important number of key stakeholders at European, regional and national level, including Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Dunja Mijatovic, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, Member of the Swedish Parliament and former Chair of the Swedish Antigypsyism Commission, Ismael Cortes, Member of Parliament in Spain, Florin Manole, former Member of Parliament in Romania and prominent Roma and pro-Roma human rights experts and NGOs, including the European Roma Rights Centre, European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, European Network against Racism, Phiren Amenca International Network and European and intergovernmental institutions such as the European Commission, Unit, Non-discrimination and Roma coordination, OSCE ODIHR Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues, Council of Europe’s Roma and Travellers Team, the UN Human Rights Office in Brussels and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Committee on the Genocide of the Roma.

The event reflected the objectives of the Chachipen project by taking stock of approaches to address antigypsyism and transitional justice also by learning from the experiences of Sweden and Germany with a view to pave the way for truth and reconciliation processes in Romania and Spain. The event also discussed the struggles of Roma and Sinti civil society in advocating for routh and reconciliation processes at national level and ways to ensure ownership, including by empowering and mobilising Roma and Sinti communities and civil society to engage in advocacy at national and EU level and building bridges with other racialised communities and groups.

 

This project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). The content of the project’s outputs represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.