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.

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!

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.

CHACHIPEN – Project launch event

CHACHIPEN – Project Launch event

CEPS, together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, the Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña (FAGIC), the Asociatia Fast Forward and the ARESEL Network of Romania, will launch a new project called “CHACHIPEN” (meaning truth in Romani language). The launch is organised in the run up to the 50th International Roma Day, which takes place on 8 April.

CHACHIPEN’s key objectives are to advance the recognition and response to historically-rooted and systemic antigypsyism, to achieve justice, equality, non-discrimination and the full participation of Roma as equal citizens across Europe. The project employs an innovative approach, through the model of “Truth and Reconciliation Processes” to review the past rights violations and ongoing structural discrimination towards Roma, which hinder the implementation of the EU non-discrimination acquis.

The opening high-level panel with Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Dunja Mijatovic, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe among others, will situate the discussion on recognising historically rooted antigypsyism within the wider EU and national policy context, and will provide some individual live testimonies (see full agenda here).

We will then discuss how to increase recognition of antigypsyism, how can we rebuild trust between Roma and non-Roma, and what is role can mainstream institutions play. Our experts will also discuss the differences in approach, from the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to the Expert Commissions on antigypsyism, as well as the role for Roma civil rights activism in the new EU Roma Strategic Framework for equality, inclusion and participation, and in the new EU anti-racism plan.

Organisers are looking forward to your questions and active participation and will ensure the translation of the conference into the Romani language. This session will be run in Zoom, you must register in advance to gain access to the meeting and the details to join will be sent one-hour prior of the event.

Relevant links:

Event link: 50th International Roma Day: Towards justice and building trust – CEPS

Registration link: 50th International Roma Day: Towards justice and building trust | Centre for European Policy Studies (ceps.eu)

Agenda of the conference: CHACHIPEN_-kick-off-conference-programme_final-draft_updated.pdf (ceps.eu)

Project description: CHACHIPEN_-short-description_updated_with_milestones_EClogo.pdf (ceps.eu)


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.