Romani Week 2024 Announcement

Romani Week 2024: Shaping the Future for Roma, Sinti, and Travellers in Europe

As Europe grapples with a complex socio-political landscape characterised by both anti-racism movements and the resurgence of far-right ideologies, the need for inclusive discussions about marginalized communities becomes increasingly vital. In this context, the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers face numerous challenges related to equality, inclusion, and participation. The rise of xenophobic and nationalist sentiments at both national and EU levels poses a threat to their well-being and integration into society.

The Challenge

Despite efforts on paper, the struggle for effective inclusion of Roma, Sinti, and Travellers persists due to a disconnect between policies on Roma inclusion and mainstream initiatives. The political will to combat antigypsyism and social exclusion often falls short, with National Roma Strategic Frameworks remaining under implementation. As the political climate in Europe evolves, the urgency to address these challenges becomes even more apparent.

What is Romani Week?

Romani Week, an annual event held in Brussels serves as a platform to raise awareness about the realities faced by Roma, Sinti, and Travellers in Europe. It brings together civil society organizations, European institutions, and international entities during the Roma International Day. This year, the event is more pertinent than ever, coinciding with the upcoming European elections.

Objectives of Romani Week 2024

Romani Week 2024 aims to dissect the position of the Roma agenda within the broader European political discourse and priorities. The focus is to foster dialogue about the pressing issues affecting the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers communities and ensure their prominence in mainstream political discussions and EU policy priorities.

The primary objectives include:

  1. Platform for Discourse: Provide a platform for representatives and stakeholders of Roma, Sinti, and Travellers to engage in conversations about the contemporary political, economic, and human rights landscape in Europe.
  2. Political Accountability: Encourage stronger accountability and political will from governments, both within the EU and Enlargement countries, to deliver on the promises of equality, inclusion, and participation for Roma, Sinti, and Travellers.
  3. Concrete Topics: Address specific issues such as increased antigypsyism, structural discrimination, the implementation and monitoring of National Roma Strategic Frameworks, and discussions about Roma history, truth, and reconciliation processes.

Overview of the events

Please note that you have to register for each event separately using the special form. If you would like to see the draft agenda, check the regularly updated website of the Romani Week 2024 here.

Future of Roma, Sinti and Travellers in Europe

The event will discuss the ongoing political, economic and human rights changes Europe faces today and ways to ensure that Roma, Sinti and Travellers become a more prominent priority within the mainstream political discourse and policy priorities at the EU level to ensure a stronger accountability and political will by governments, both in the EU and Enlargement countries, to deliver on the equality, inclusion and participation of Roma, Sinti and Travellers.

The event will also discuss the future of Roma, Sinti and Travellers after the European elections, the change in EU leadership and the possible increase of far rights groups in the EU’s political spectrum.

Registration HERE

Most Roma Friendy Mayor Award

The ceremony will award positive examples of Roma integration by local authorities In the Western Balkans and Turkey.

Registration HERE

80 Years of the Roma Holocaust. Lessons to prevent future acts of genocide

More information on this event is coming soon

Registration HERE

Transitional justice to tackle antigypsyism, reclaim our past and rebuild our future

The Jekhipe project launch event focuses on establishing transitional justice processes, including expert commissions, at the EU and national levels to address antigypsyism. The project aims to provide policy recommendations, raise awareness about institutional antigypsyism, promote Roma identity and culture in education, and empower Roma communities and NGOs in the fight against antigypsyism.

Registration HERE

The Roma Civil Monitoring: the role of CSOs in the future of Roma equality, inclusion and participation

The event will discuss the effective participation of Roma civil society in national policy-making.

Registration HERE

Intersectional Perspectives of Romani Children’s Rights

The event addresses the pervasive systemic discrimination faced by Roma children from early childhood, spanning issues like inadequate healthcare, limited access to education, and discrimination in sports. It aims to discuss employing an effective intersectoral approach to challenge and change these practices. 

Registration HERE

Romani Week 2024 promises to be a crucible of ideas and actions, fostering a united front against discrimination and exclusion. By bringing together key stakeholders and decision-makers, the event strives to propel the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers into the forefront of political discourse and policy priorities. As we face the European elections, Romani Week 2024 marks a crucial milestone in pursuing a more inclusive and equitable future for all. Join us in this dialogue to shape a better tomorrow for the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers in Europe.

Inclusion or Exclusion? The Reality for Roma Refugees in Poland

Inclusion or Exclusion? The Reality for Roma Refugees in Poland

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has led to a massive humanitarian crisis, forcing millions of people to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Among these displaced individuals are the Roma, a discriminated-against ethnic group in both Ukraine and Poland. This article delves into the situation of Ukrainian Roma refugees in Poland, as outlined in the ERGO Network project’s report, “Supporting Ukrainian Roma impacted by war.” The report, prepared for ERGO Network by Elżbieta Mirga-Wójtowicz, Kamila Fiałkowska and Monika Szewczyk, sheds light on Roma refugees’ challenges and highlights the urgent need for comprehensive support and advocacy efforts.

The Scale of the Crisis and Legal Assistance

As of February 2023, nearly 1,563,000 people from Ukraine had sought refuge in Poland, with a significant part being Roma. Despite the staggering numbers, the plight of the Roma within the broader refugee crisis tends to be overlooked. The report suggests that tens of thousands of Roma have crossed the Polish border, and estimates by the European Commission put the figure at least 100,000 Roma fleeing Ukraine. The Roma face a complex set of challenges rooted in historical discrimination and exacerbated by the trauma of being refugees from a war-torn region.

The legal initiatives for Ukrainian refugees at both the European and Polish levels include the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive and the extension of legal stay for Ukrainian citizens in Poland until March 4, 2024, with various assistance measures. However, despite these efforts, the author notes a significant lack of adequate support for Ukrainian Roma refugees in Poland, highlighting systemic discrimination and challenges in accessing assistance due to antigypsyism.

Distinct Challenges of Ukrainian Roma Refugees

The discrimination faced by Ukrainian Roma refugees is profoundly ingrained and multifaceted. In both Ukraine and Poland, they encounter various forms of discrimination, both verbal and non-verbal. This discrimination extends beyond rhetoric, affecting crucial aspects of their lives, such as housing, employment, information access, transportation, and vital support services, including psychological, legal, and educational assistance.

Antigypsyism, or prejudice against Roma, compounds the challenges faced by this group. The report highlights that the Roma tend to form larger groups for security, yet this collective behaviour complicates voluntary efforts to assist them. The trauma of war, coupled with enduring discrimination, creates a paradoxical situation where Ukrainian Roma refugees experience both exclusion and inclusion simultaneously.

Role of Roma Activists and NGOs

In the absence of comprehensive government-led initiatives, the primary efforts to aid Ukrainian Roma refugees are spearheaded by Roma activists and organisations in Poland. While these organisations treat Roma as equals, their capacity is often stretched thin due to the unique challenges faced by the Roma refugees. The burden falls on activists and NGOs to independently provide support and assume responsibility for the well-being of the refugee community.

The report emphasises the necessity of establishing a precise mechanism for financial support for NGOs and activists working with Roma refugees. The support should extend to individual services, such as psychological and legal assistance for activists, recognising the additional pressures on them. At present, Roma activists and organisations, along with local authorities, share a similar attitude towards Roma refugees, creating a need for a more sustainable and collaborative approach.

Official Stance and Color-Blind Policies

While the report does not explicitly detail services being denied to Roma, it highlights an official stance of being ‘colour-blind.’ This approach, while seemingly neutral, inadvertently negates the existence of institutional antigypsyism and discrimination against Roma in Poland. By overlooking the specific challenges faced by Ukrainian Roma refugees, the colour-blind policy exacerbates the situation and impedes the development of targeted solutions.

Advocacy and Awareness

The report stresses the importance of advocacy to raise awareness of the social and economic challenges faced by Ukrainian Roma refugees. With Roma residing in reception centres, the dynamic situation calls for dialogue and cooperation between various stakeholders, including owners, coordinators, staff, volunteers, Roma NGOs, and local authorities. The involvement of the Ombudsman is suggested, and avenues such as meetings, trainings, workshops, and social campaigns are proposed to foster understanding and break down resentment against the Roma community.

Conclusion

The plight of Ukrainian Roma refugees in Poland underscores the need for a nuanced and targeted approach to address the unique challenges faced by this marginalised group. From systemic antigypsyism to the trauma of war, the Ukrainian Roma refugees navigate a complex web of discrimination and exclusion. The role of Roma activists and organisations is crucial, but sustainable solutions require broader collaboration, financial support, and a concerted effort to raise awareness and challenge colour-blind policies.

The recommendations outlined in the report aim to enhance human rights protection for Roma refugees from Ukraine in Poland. They include the development of a comprehensive migration policy, establishing intergovernmental collaborations, addressing discrimination issues at a national level, aligning governmental programs with the specific needs of Roma refugees, and providing support for NGOs and activists. Specific measures include creating monitoring systems, fostering integration through workshops, sensitising stakeholders, prioritising Roma issues within national structures, and initiating transnational advocacy efforts. 


This report was made through the ERGO Network project “Supporting Ukrainian Roma impacted by war”, financed by the European Program for Integration and Migration (EPIM) and the European Commission’s CERV programme.

Guidelines on Countering Antigypsyism

New ERGO Network Manual: Guidelines on Countering Antigypsyism

We are happy to present our latest ERGO Network Manual, also part of our Decade Against Antigypsyism Campaign – “Guidelines on Countering Antigypsyism”.

“Guidelines on Countering Antigypsyism” were written by Ana Rozanova and Martina Horvathova for ERGO Network with the idea of equipping non-governmental civil society organisations with practical knowledge and strategies to address one of the most persistent forms of discrimination in our society.

The Guidelines provide insights and practical strategies for CSOs and individuals committed to fighting against the deeply rooted prejudice and discrimination faced by Roma communities. Throughout them, we explored various dimensions of antigypsyism, both online and offline, and emphasised the significance of addressing
this issue.

By understanding the complexities of antigypsyism, both online and offline, we can devise effective strategies to challenge stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and advocate for the rights of Roma communities. Our collective efforts are necessary to dismantle systemic barriers and promote social justice.

Let us remember that the fight against antigypsyism is not isolated to a single organisation or individual. It is a collective responsibility that requires ongoing commitment, resilience, and solidarity. By working together, we can challenge prejudices, dismantle stereotypes, and build a society that embraces diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities.

Let these guidelines for countering antigypsyism serve as a call to action for us to take measurable, practical steps in this work.

For more information about ERGO Network’s Decade against Antigypsyism Campaign, please contact Communication and Campaign Officer Ana Rozanova.

Roma and Environmental Racism: The Role of the EU Strategic Framework in Ensuring Environmental Rights and Dignity

Roma and Environmental Racism: The Role of the EU Strategic Framework in Ensuring Environmental Rights and Dignity

Under International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the ERGO Network and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) organised an online joint policy launching event on Environmental Justice in Roma Communities and the EU Roma Strategic Framework on 29 January 2024 from 14:00 to 16:30.

🗓️Date: 29.01.2024

🕒 Time: 14:00-16:30 CET

🌐 Location: Online

Last autumn, the EEB and the ERGO Network collaborated to host the inaugural Environmental Justice Conference for Roma communities in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The event arose as a natural response to the EU’s recognition of environmental justice in October 2020, signified by the adoption of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation – a pioneering policy document which notably highlights the imperative for environmental justice within the EU. 

This collaboration was now followed up on the framework of the Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th by a joint EEB/ERGO event on environmental justice in Roma communities and the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The event aimed to launch several policy products developed by the European Environmental Bureau and the ERGO Network, including the joint report on Environmental Justice in National Roma Strategic Frameworks, the EEB Case studies on Environmental Racism and the Basic Principles of Environmental Justice and Roma communities as a main outcome of our October Environmental Justice Conference in Cluj, Romania.

The event heightened awareness about the imperative to monitor the repercussions of environmental racism on Roma communities. This monitoring spans the National Roma Strategic Frameworks and wider EU Environmental policies and programs, emphasizing a commitment to a human rights baseline— a fundamental principle of environmental justice.

Lastly, the event endeavoured to actively involve stakeholders in this crucial dialogue to continue to work ahead in 2024.

We thank all the participants of the event. For those who were not able to attend, please note that you can still view the recorded event on the ERGO Facebook page:

Agenda of the event

13:30 – 14:00 Registration and online connection

Moderator: Stephanie Richani, Advocacy Lead, Equinox Racial Justice Initiative  -Equinox

14:00 – 14:15 Opening remarks and purpose of the meeting

  •  Gabriela Hrabanova, Director ERGO Network
  •  Patrizia Heidegger, Director EEB
  •  MEP Romeo Franz, Greens/EFA, Germany

14:15 – 15:10 ERGO & EEB report on Environmental Justice in NRSFs  

  • Isabela Mihalache, ERGO Network
  • Dan Doghi, European Commission, DG JUST
  • Magda Boulabiza, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, ENAR
  • Discussion

15:10 – 16:10 EEB case studies and Basic principles on Roma and Environmental justice

  • Diego Marin, Policy Officer for Raw Materials and Resource Justice, EEB
  • William Acker, National Association of Citizen Travellers (ANGVC) – Case
    study in France
  • Francesc Cots, Energy & Climate Manager, Eco-union, Spain – Case study in
    Spain
  • Discussion

16:10 – 16:30 Conclusions and follow-up

  • MEP Patricia Caro Maya, The Left group in the European Parliament
    GUE/NGL, Member LIBE Committee, Spain (video message)
  • Patrizia Heidegger, Director EEB

Background

The European Commission and EU Member States have set guidelines to combat antigypsyism through the EU Roma Strategic Framework, adopted in 2020, and the Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation. This strategic framework focuses on three pillars: equality with the broader society, social and economic inclusion, and active participation in various aspects of life.

A significant development within this framework is the inclusion of environmental justice guidelines for Member States. It calls for recognition and action against environmental discrimination affecting marginalized Roma communities in segregated areas, representing a groundbreaking acknowledgement of the connection between racial discrimination and environmental challenges faced by the Roma, such as the lack of access to essential services – including tap water, safe and clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, waste collection and management services, and other environmental services.

As of January 2023, the European Commission’s assessment of National Roma Strategic Frameworks reveals that several Member States address improving access to essential services, notably running water. However, there is a limited inclusion of both mainstream and targeted measures for social housing access. Some strategies focus on official procedures for urban development, residential upgrading, home ownership encouragement, and infrastructure investment in areas like electricity, gas, water, sewage, waste management, roads, and transport access. 

Furthermore, a report organised by the EEB as a follow-up to our 2020 “Pushed to the Wastelands” focusing on Eastern Europe provides detailed case studies of environmental racism in Western Europe. Both reports collectively assert that environmental racism is a pan-European issue, underscoring that countries are ill-prepared to address contemporary issues leading to environmental injustices, let alone that member states are inadequately responding to future ecological challenges for Roma communities.

The most recent report on the topic, produced jointly by ERGO Network and EEB will be presented at the event on 29 January, titled “Environmental Justice in National Strategic Frameworks.” It delves into the critical intersection of environmental justice and the inclusion of Roma communities in Europe. The comprehensive analysis begins by outlining the policy context, emphasising the significance of environmental justice concerning Roma inclusion. Recognising the historical oversight, the report highlights the adverse environmental conditions faced by Roma and Traveller communities, from living near pollution sources to discriminatory housing practices. The introduction stresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the vulnerability of marginalised communities due to limited access to essential environmental services.

The report then focuses on the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation, adopted in October 2020, marking a crucial milestone in addressing environmental justice within EU policy. The subsequent development of National Roma Strategic Frameworks by Member States is examined, focusing on social inclusion areas such as education, employment, healthcare, and housing. The analysis aims to provide a comprehensive overview of how environmental justice is addressed within these frameworks, considering direct environmental aspects and related proxies like access to housing and utilities.

Additionally, the report identifies good practices at the national level and offers recommendations to Member States for enhancing their strategies, emphasising the need for collaborative discussions among stakeholders to address the risks and impacts of environmental racism and discrimination faced by Roma and Traveller communities.

The Common Basic Principles for Environmental Justice for Roma emerged through deliberations with community representatives, civil society members, practitioners, and academics engaged in Roma rights issues during the first Environmental Justice for Roma Conference held in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, on October 11th, 2023. Rooted in equity, inclusivity, and justice, the principles address historical and ongoing environmental injustices Roma populations face.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on environmental justice, please contact Senior Advocacy Officer Isabela Mihalache.

20 years of the Action Plan: OSCE New Status report launch

20 years of the Action Plan: Looking ahead for the next five years for the OSCE Status Report launch

On 8 December 2023, ERGO Network Director Gabriela Hrabaňová addressed the OSCE ODIHR Launching event for the Fourth Status Report on the “Implementation of the Action Plan for Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area.” It has also been 20 years since the introduction of the Action Plan for Roma and Sinti.

“Since the countries of the OSCE committed to ensuring positive change for the Roma and Sinti across the region over 20 years ago, real progress has been made,” said ODIHR First Deputy Director Tea Jaliashvili. “But deep disparities between the lives of the Roma and the general population remain in a number of places, and anti-Roma racism and discrimination are still a fundamental challenge. We must continue working to improve their situation and increase Roma participation in public and political life.”

Gabriela Hrabaňová agreed, that the 2003 Action Plan is still a relevant policy blueprint, guiding participating States on countering racism and discrimination against Roma, ensuring equitable access and opportunities for Roma and Sinti individuals in health care, employment, housing and education, and outlining the need to promote increased participation of Roma in public life and to provide support during crisis and post-crisis scenarios.

Regarding the participation of Roma in policy processes, the Status Report points out the same concerns of the Roma civil monitoring and ERGO Network’s assessment related to consultation processes for the adoptions of the national Roma strategic frameworks in 2021-2022 – where there was insufficient consultation and very few participatory and inclusive mechanisms for civil society participation at national level.

Notably, the report says that the further empowerment of Roma and the creation of effective mechanisms for meaningful participation in all policies that impact them is the next step towards positive change.

Action is needed. Gabriela called for more investment in the Roma capacities and ensuring that the Roma are part of all the policies concerning our future – across all participating states, including those countries where the crises strike the most. For the future of Ukraine, it is of utmost importance that minorities, including Roma and Sinti, are part of rebuilding the country.

She has also reminded about promoting Gender and Youth Perspectives, specifically integrating gender and youth perspectives into policy discussions and design to address the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Roma women and youth.

In the area of combating racism and discrimination, ERGO Network notices an increase in antigypsyism and intolerance against Roma across the OSCE Participating States, fuelled by ongoing political and economic instability in the region and a sense of impunity promoted in the media. Even though the 2021 FRA survey on Roma shows a positive development in tackling hate-motivated harassment and violence, there are no real improvements when it comes to tackling discrimination. According to FRA, awareness of the existence of human rights institutions has also improved among Roma. However, the proportion of Roma victims reporting discrimination did not increase.

There is almost no progress in education, with over 70 % of young Roma still leaving school early. Educational enrolment and attainment have not changed, while segregation and discrimination in education have worsened since 2016.

On average, 80 % of Roma in the survey countries were at risk of poverty in 2021. Many Roma households improved their material and housing situation, although overcrowding remains high, with one in five not having access to tap water inside their house.

Employment prospects have improved in some countries, and over 60% of Roma are now in paid work. In others, employment rates remain low, especially for young people and women. Some countries could achieve the EU targets for employment by 2030, but more efforts are needed to tackle youth and Roma women’s employment.

The OSCE participating states have committed to improving the situation of Roma communities through various declarations, action plans, and agreements. The OSCE could strengthen its efforts by ensuring these commitments are effectively implemented at the national level.

We must address all aspects comprehensively so societies can create a more inclusive environment that allows Roma individuals to actively participate in public and political life, contributing to more diverse and representative decision-making processes.

The political representation of the Roma population varies across different European countries. Mainstream political parties in some countries may include Roma candidates on their party lists or actively seek Roma support. These candidates may represent mainstream parties’ policies and work towards improving the situation of the Roma community at the European level. Some were also put on the candidates lists already.

Recommendations:

But more needs to be done to improve the participation of Roma in public and political life.

Education and awareness: Ensuring access to quality education for Roma children and adults. Combat discrimination in educational settings and promote programs that empower Roma individuals to engage actively in public and political life.

Capacity Building: Provide training programs and workshops focused on leadership skills, advocacy, political participation, and civic engagement tailored specifically for Roma individuals. These programs should empower Roma to participate actively in public and political spheres.

Representation in Political Institutions: Encourage and support the presentation of Roma individuals in political parties, governmental bodies, and local councils. Promote inclusive policies, encouraging political parties to include Roma candidates on their electoral lists.

Support for Civil Society Organisations: Provide resources, funding, and technical support to Roma-led civil society organisations that work towards improving political participation and representation of Roma communities.

Fostering Inclusive Political Dialogue: Create platforms for open and inclusive dialogue between Roma communities and policymakers. Ensure Roma voices are heard and respected in political discussions and decision-making processes.

Addressing Discrimination and Stereotypes: Combat discrimination, prejudices, and stereotypes against Roma communities through awareness campaigns, education, and legal measures. Promote a more positive and accurate portrayal of Roma in society and the media.

Access to Information and Resources: Ensure Roma individuals access relevant information about their rights, electoral processes, and available resources to engage effectively in public and political life.

Promotion of Gender Equality: Address gender disparities within Roma communities by promoting the participation of Roma women in public and political life. Create opportunities and platforms to encourage and support Roma women’s involvement in decision-making processes.

Policy Reforms and Implementation: Advocate for reforms addressing Roma communities’ socio-economic challenges. Ensure the effective implementation of existing policies to promote their inclusion and participation in public and political life.

International Collaboration and Exchange: OSACE must foster collaboration among governments, international organisations, civil society, and academia to exchange best practices and strategies for enhancing Roma participation in public and political life.


You can see the Fourth Status Report: Implementation of the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area here.

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Combatting antigypsyism – ERGO Network

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