Railway assistants in Slovakia

Railway assistants – antigypsyism in employment programme

In October 2019, Slovak Railway Company announced the implementation of a new project called ‘Train Assistant’. This project created a new position in the railway company for people from marginalized Roma communities. Together with other organizations and activists, the Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (RARC) appealed to the railway company as well as to the Implementation agency of the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family to stop this project because it carries signs of antigypsism. As our attempts were not heard, we sent a letter to the European Commission’s DG Employment with a notice on this project. In February 2020, we received a response from DG Employment, which you can see below. We consider it important that DG Employment has requested an external interim impact assessment of the project (which will start in January 2020 and will continue for 24 months) within the first 6 months of its implementation. The interim external assesment shall focus in particular on the aspects which we raised in our complaint: risks of maintaining or worsening any form of discrimination, stigmatization of Roma and antigypsism, impact on employment perspective of participants including their career progression towards non-assistant type of jobs (train conductors), synergies and possible overlaps with the local civil order services and field social work.

We believe that such projects should not be presented as the only employment opportunities for marginalized groups, as their inclusive character is highly questionable.

Press release: Meeting with EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli

ERGO Network meets European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day and discuss the future of Roma inclusion post 2020

Brussels, 30 January 2020

On 28 January 2020, a delegation of European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network members from EU member states and enlargement countries met with the new European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as to discuss about the challenges faced by Roma civil society organisations in fighting antigypsyism and advocating for Roma rights and inclusion, and meaningful and participatory post-2020 Roma Strategy.

Helena Dalli“Roma people have been living in Europe for more than 700 years and have massively contributed to the richness of the European heritage. Yet, for centuries, European societies have turned a blind eye to racism and widespread discrimination of Roma people. We have to change that”, Commissioner Dalli committed to the ERGO Network members during this first meeting with Roma civil society representatives of her mandate.

In light of commemorating 27 January 1945, when the Red Army liberated the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz, and in the context of rising right-wing extremism, fighting antigypsyism today in Europe is not an easy task. We need the European Commission to provide a strong and robust post-2020 Roma equality and inclusion strategy that goes beyond the EU, with antigypsyism at its core. It should include minimum standards, be backed by strong Roma and civil society engagement and by funding prioritising Roma rights and wellbeing, to ensure a true and meaningful change of paradigm“, ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová said.

ERGO Network members and Commissioner Dalli discussed future approaches to Roma rights and inclusion, structured around four key dimensions:

  • combating antigypsyism as horizontal and stand-alone priority, in all its forms and manifestations, including through strong legislative measures;
  • a comprehensive, binding, EU Strategy for Roma inclusion that includes enlargement countries on equal footing, with concrete minimum standards and ambitious targets, as well as common monitoring at the EU level;
  • capacity-building, support and channels for Roma civil society to keep their watchdog role, and to meaningfully engage in the design, implementation, and monitoring of public policies that affect them;
  • prioritising Roma inclusion in the next MFF programming period, ensuring that Roma communities are involved in the delivery of European funds at the national and local level.

The Poznan Declaration of Western Balkans Partners on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process , which was signed on highest level by the Prime Ministers of the Enlargement countries, can inspire EU Member States in this regard.

For more information, please contact Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová, ERGO Network Director, at g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org.

 

Strategies against antigypsyism

Strategies against antigypsyism

The international conference „Strategies against antigypyism“ took place in Tenerife on 12 and 13 December 2019. It was organized by the Karipen association in cooperation with the Ministry for Health, Consumers Affairs and Social Welfare of the Canary Island Government, Cabildo of Tenerife and Khetane Platform. At the invitation of FAGIC ERGO member, Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network director presented strategies against antigypsyism from grassroots to EU level and vice versa.

The conference brought together political and public representatives from European, national and local, Roma leaders and activists countering antigypsyism.  Among them Soraya Post, ERGO Network co-chair, Romeo Franz, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA group and Juan Fernardo Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the LIBE Committee in the European Parliament. It also gathered many local and national Roma politicians from Spain, including Ismael Cortes, a Member of the Spanish parliament.

The conference focused on three topics: 1) the concept of antigypsyism throughout history up to present; 2) institutional antigypsyism and ways to combat it through politics and 3) antigypsyism and gender issues.

The historical aspect was covered by Iulius Rostas, visiting professor at the Central European University and the Spanish academic of Romani origin, Helios Fernandez. The main message was that over the centuries, but also in recent years, institutions have been perpetuating a paternalistic approach under the pretence of making Roma better, by changing the names of programs and policies aiming at including Roma in societies, but very often achieving only their assimilation. The important next step is to introduce the policy of reconciliation, to narrow the centuries of hardship of Roma.

It was also discussed that often Roma might not know how to describe and what antigypsyism is, however many experiences it on the daily basis. For example, school segregation is a reality in Spain, while Roma surnames or home addresses can lead to discriminatory practices when accessing jobs or advancing in the career.

On a positive note, the regional and local government of Canary Islands and Tenerife have shown interest in working together with the local association Karipen, not only by hosting this event, but also by allocating a budget line for Roma inclusion.

Roma youth empowerment trough Rromani language

Roma youth empowerment trough Rromani language

Our partners from Roma Community Centre in Vilinus, Lithuania for the first time ever gather a group of young Roma for 2 days seminar from 2-4 Of December, 2019 with a programme in rromanes on topics such as: discrimination, equality, access to the labor market and empowerment.

The event took part under the frame of Roma platform and was organized by the department of National minorities together with the Public institution Roma Community Center.

ERGO’s policy officer Carmen Tanasie and its member from France La Voix des Rroms, Samir Mile delivered the workshop in rromani language engaging in deconstructing the consequences of social exclusion and came together with the participants to a set of recommendations such as:

  • Roma youth should be consulted by the National Minorities department when issuing calls or implementing activities that includes Roma youth
  • Provide high-level jobs in the public sector for Roma
  • Improve cooperation between young Roma and labor offices
  • Tackle the discrimination in schools and include the Roma history in the school curricula

The young Roma got empowered by the fact that could freely express in their maternal language and asked the organizers to follow organizing seminars and meeting not just for young people but involving   more Roma communities in Lithuania.

Alliance against Antigypsyism: new recommendations

Alliance against Antigypsyism offers recommendations and concrete measures to combat antigypsyism for the future EU and national policies

The Alliance against Antigypsyism has recently published two new policy papers.  The first offers recommendations to combat antigypsyism for future EU and national policies to ensure they are comprehensive and no dimension or manifestation of antigypsyism is omitted. The Alliance also went one step further and proposes concrete measures to combat antigypsyism In their paper “Developing measures to combat antigypsyism after 2020: Guidance for European and national stakeholders”.

Both papers aim to inspire European and national stakeholders to contribute to combating exclusion of Roma. They could be used as guide for EU Member States and Candidate Countries to update their current national strategies or create new strategies that can respond to antigypsyism. With the papers we also want to enter the narratives and practice of the new European Parliament and the European Commission. There has been a tremendous work done by civil society and EU institutions in the last years and it is now the time for Roma rights advocates to make sure that the new parliamentarians and the new Commission follow-up and continue to create policies and legislations that reflect realities of Roma people in Europe.

Roma and pro-Roma activists are invited to adapt these recommendations and measures to their context, use the ideas the Alliance put forward to advocate on national and local levels. These papers are a result of the work led by the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Central Council for German Sinti and Roma and European Network against Racism, with inputs of more than 25 other Roma and pro-Roma organisations and individual experts.