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.

Communities Discriminated based on Work and Descent

Solidarity and Cooperation with Communities Discriminated based on Work and Descent

As part of the Stakeholder Group of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent, ERGO Network attended the preparatory meeting of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) on 3 March regarding the high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF) review process in 2021.

The meeting of the HLPF in 2021 will be held from Tuesday, 6 July, to Thursday, 15 July 2021, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. This includes the three-day ministerial meeting of the forum from Tuesday, 13 July, to Thursday, 15 July 2021 as part of the high-level segment of the Council.

The HLPF in 2021 will discuss Sustainable Development Goals 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships in depth. The Forum will also consider the integrated, indivisible and interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF) is the core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. More information about the HLPF can be found at: High-Level Political Forum 2021 (HLPF 2021) .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (

World Social Forum 2021

On 26 January, ERGO Network was part of the seminar ‘Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD) and the Pandemic, its impact and Mitigation Measures’ under the banner of the World Social Forum 2021.

This year, before the background of an unparalleled pandemic crisis, the seminar centered on the impact of Covid 19 on communities discriminated based on work and descent.

The main concerns of this era on CDWD are the gender dimension and access to justice, escalating with Covid 19 exclusion and lack of access to education. Further, the CDWD are blamed wrongfully for spreading of COVID19,  facing atrocities and violence from other communities. 6 regional and national leaders of CDWD from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America shared their communities’ experiences during this crisis and together determined the impact of livelihood, access to services, and developmental justice during the COVID 19 mitigation measures.

The seminar came up with clear recommendations for social movements, addressed to state authorities across the regions. As these communities( CDWD) are one of the most excluded and segregated groups globally, it is crucial that they are included in the recovery plans of the pandemic.

Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO presented the impact of Covid 19 on Roma and Traveller’s communities, mentioning that antigypsyism spread considerably during the pandemic. She spoke about the organization’s focus on advocacy towards EU institutions to fight antigypsyism and to create equality for Roma communities.

She stated:

“We want to set a better example for governments by upholding the rule of law and human rights, to fight antigypsyism and to cover Roma in mainstream causes and recovery plans by EU  institutions”.

The World Social Forum is a visible manifestation of global civil society, that seeks international solidarity. It consists of members of the global movement for social and economic justice, meeting annually to endeavor alternative future through promoting counter-hegemonic globalization.

ERGO’s Annual Members Meeting 2020

ERGO’s online Annual Members Meeting 2020

This year ERGO Network’s Annual Members Neeting took place under unique circumstances, forcing us to move online and to create as much exchange and networking on an online platform.

From 2-4 December 2020, ERGO Network met on Zoom with its members to analyze the work that has been done, reflect on this year’s special situation and how it impacted our work with Roma communities, and to deliberate about ERGO Network engagement in the upcoming years.

One afternoon was dedicated to building membership capacity, focusing this year on making the best use of online working environments and wellbeing of staff during the pandemic.

The meeting also provided the basis for a new 10-year strategic plan, while also introducing final steps for legally moving ERGO Network to Belgium.

The first day started with a welcome from Director Gabriela Hrabanova,  board co-chair Daniel Stanislav and vice-chair Adriatik Hasantari. The board praised the flexibility, collectiveness and connectedness of the members during such an uncertain and though year.

During this day, participants attended breakout rooms designed to provide with updates and project presentations. Each of the four rooms, moderated by staff and members of ERGO Network, tackled ERGO’s core working areas of 2020, such as  Roma in post-2020 European Frameworks, a Covid-19 study, our work on employment and the new projects “New Solutions to Old Problems” (NSOP) and “Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech online” (PECAO).

The second day invited participants to two working groups on employment and data collection. Amana Ferro and Carmen Tănasie from the ERGO Network Secretariat in Brussels provided participants with updates regarding the state of play of current and upcoming employment work, covering the main EU policy frameworks and the specific actions under the Youth Guarantee and ERGO Network’s Employment Campaign.

Isabela Mihalache, Senior Policy Officer, helped the participants to understand better the role of data collection in the delivery of our advocacy work.

The third day  started with sharing about the past and looking at the present in order to set the ground for planning our future. The statutes of a new legal organization was discussed and agreement was reached to move the organization officially to Belgium.

Members then had an open space to share where they see ERGO now and where they want to see it in the future, laying the ground for the start of a 10 year strategy.


Dream to Grow

Dream to grow: How to make Europe’s labor markets a place for all

Co-hosted by: European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO) and the Romani Early Years Network (REYN), an initiative of ISSA – the International Step by Step Association

October 7th, 14:00 – 16:00 CET

  • Find the agenda and catalogue of human books here.
  • Sign up here to receive access to the online event.

Although almost ten years have passed since the adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, Roma remain widely exposed to antigypsyism, poverty and social exclusion without opportunities to access proper education, employment, or training. They keep facing unequal treatment and inequalities in health, education, employment, and living conditions, a gap which has continued to widen following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

63% of Roma aged 16-24 are not employed, in education or training (55% of young Roma men and 72% of young Roma women) and 40% of Roma report feeling discriminated at work! Even if they manage to secure employment, they often continue to face lower wages, precarious and atypical contracts, a lack of career options, and direct discrimination and harassment of employers and colleagues.

Eliminating such inequalities and promoting positive models of inclusion and diversity starting from the very beginning of life must be a priority not only for EU and national policy makers, but also for every person in Europe. Diversity does not only benefit minorities, but also impacts greatly on the quality of services offered and on society.

Acknowledging that it is fundamental to rewrite the current narrative about Roma and restore their dignity and pride, this event aspires to share inspiring stories highlighting Roma professionals’ different pathways to become who they are today and showing the difference that enabling, inclusive and diverse educational and working environments can make for society.

Why should you join this event:

  • Get inspired by real-life stories of Roma professionals who have succeeded to break the wall of prejudices and stereotypes and realized their dreams by participating in the online Human Library.
  • Learn about the advocacy efforts civil society organizations are doing to ensure equity, inclusion and diversity in education and at work.
  • Reflect together about the multilayered challenges and unequal treatment young Roma are facing in Europe and the long-term consequences of political inaction.
  • Benefit from lessons learned in implementing inclusive policies and practices and discover how to become part of the solution.

This event receives funding from the European Union. The information contained reflects only the author’s view; and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This event is co-funded by the Open Society Foundations Early Childhood Program. The program has been providing continous support to the Romani Early Years Network initiative since its start.

Intersecting Realities

On 25 February 2020, ERGO Network together with Balkan LGBTQIA vzw organized an inspiring and mind-opening event in Mundo B, Brussels: the photo exhibition and conference ‘Intersecting Realities: Life stories of Balkan LGBTQIA+ Roma in Brussels’.

During the event, the book ‘My Story’ was launched, which features eight life stories about the experiences of LGBTQIA+ migrants from the Balkan countries, many of them Roma. The stories and portraits of the books were displayed in an exhibition, and some of the individuals portrayed in the book shared their powerful stories of racism, discrimination, but also love and support with the audience. The event was opened by ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova and Danny Jacqmot, Attaché of Equal.Brussels, which kindly funded the book project and the launch event.

The personal testimonies of Djenk Ejupi (North Macedonia) and Gerard Epure (Romania) were followed by a moderated debate on discrimination at the intersection of origin, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Lilly Dragoeva from the NGO Bilitis Bulgaria, Deszo Mate from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, Biser Alekov of Balkan LGBTQIA, Brussels, Isabela Mihalache of ERGO Network, Brussels and Szabolcs Schmidt of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Unit on Non-Discrimination and Roma Coordination explained the concept of intersectionality, gave examples from different EU Member States, and discussed the European Commission’s efforts to tackle intersectional discrimination.

The event was a unique opportunity to bring the focus on a target group that has always remained in the shadow of the majority, considering their voice has not been heard so far.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, please Biser Alekov at