PECAO Check-in meeting

PECAO Check-in meeting to evaluate project progress and plan ahead!

Almost one year has passed since ERGO Network and its partners have started the implementation of the PECAO project that addresses antigypsyist online hate speech. It has been quite a journey for our project partners within PECAO, as the project itself is being implemented during a global pandemic.

Nevertheless, our partners are extremely dedicated to encouraging positive values within Roma and non-Roma communities, as well as addressing the persisting issue of hate speech and antigypsyism. They have proven themselves motivated and reliable with the responsibilities handed to them. Our network is truly supported by grassroots efforts and we are immensely proud of this.

On 25 and 26 February 2021, the PECAO partners came together to evaluate a year of building our experience and expertise in tackling hate speech online, but also to look into the on-going implementation of the project, to check progress and plan the next steps ahead. We focused on the road so far, looking into what has been smooth and well done; where we were encountering bumps and the moments that we felt lost and were challenged by the given circumstances.

The check-in meeting was important and integral, as we still have a year ahead of us to make a change through our work and project in the online space.

The partners highlighted that the monitoring and peer education are going well, but it was challenging in the beginning to find the correct way to do it, especially face to face meetings, hence most of the activities shifted to be organized online and needed to take everyone’s safety into account.

During the meeting, we also received insights into the work packages led by our partners Integro, Nevo Parudimos and FAGiC. We listened to their reflections on the implementation so far and received heads up for the next period, as we are looking into following up on the conclusions of the stakeholder roundtables organized in their countries as well as continue to work on the monitoring exercise of collecting and reporting antigypsyist online hate speech.

On the meeting, our project officer from DG JUST Helene Lesay was also present and praised the commitment of our team despite the challenges faced.

The meeting concluded with looking into the next steps and milestones, one of them being the EU stakeholder roundtable organized for the 26 April 2021 by ERGO Network called “Online Antigypsyism: A new challenge for Roma inclusion?” where relevant stakeholders such as the European Commission,, European civil society organisations and other Brussels-level stakeholders, as well as EU policy-makers from across the institutional spectrum are invited to discuss.

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of Bulgaria

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of the Republic of Bulgaria

Integro Association held a special seminar to discuss the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) with a wide range of representatives of Roma communities, Community Action Groups, municipal officials and local authorities who participate in the ROMACT Program of the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

The seminar made the following recommendations for the draft RRP of Bulgaria:

  1. The Plan needs to be developed in a more detailed way, setting specific goals and activities to achieve concrete results. It is also necessary to develop a more detailed justification of the defined objectives and measures and a system of clear and measurable indicators that would allow accurate reporting of the results achieved and the impacts of the measures taken. The Plan must, in particular, identify potential beneficiaries and users of resources under the various programmes and projects.
  2. The scope of individuals and families in disadvantaged situations must include vulnerable ethnic groups, which are very much affected by the Covid-19 crisis, while at the same time being excluded from measures taken to mitigate the effects of the crisis. It is necessary to plan specific measures to address the problems of these groups especially in small settlements, as so far they are neither included in the developed Operational Programs nor in the current Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP).
  3. When planning energy efficiency measures, it is necessary to focus primarily on the state of buildings of energy-poor families; only for them public funding should be 100% of the grant. At the same time, activities and resources should be provided for these families to switch to more environmentally friendly heating sources.
  4. Expand the scope and the allocated resources for social economy by planning a separate financial line aimed at starting and developing social enterprises to create sustainable employment for long-term unemployed Roma community members, for Roma women and youth. They should be involved especially in environmental and nature protection spheres, as this type of activities will contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal. This will not only create sustainable employment for these groups, but will also improve their social inclusion and participation in the economic life of the country. The plan should envisage eligibility of municipalities and non-governmental organizations representing the most vulnerable Roma communities for the establishment of social economy enterprises.
  5. The Plan should provide a special line for financing the construction of a water supply system in neighborhoods where families with children and elderly people have been living for decades without access to clean drinking water. This should not be subject to the requirement for the number of population units, because access to drinking water is a basic human rights and constitutes one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The full text of the position can be found here.

Antigypsyism politically recognised in the Netherlands

Antigypsyism politically recognised in the Netherlands

Together with my colleague Andreia Nicolic, who is chair of the Roma Utrecht Foundation & the Roma Advocacy Network Netherlands, we have been working for almost for 20 years as volunteer activists from the Roma grassroots level. In October 2020 a motion by Selçuk Öztürk on antigypsyism and how to combat this injustice has been adopted by the majority of the Dutch National Parliament.

Mr Öztürk is a Member of Parliament of the political party DENK, a party that focuses strongly on combatting racism and injustice. More than 75 years after the Roma Genocide/Roma Holocaust of the Second World War, antigypsyism finally has been officially recognized, hence we can take further steps to tackling it. This political recognition thanks to Mr Öztürk’s motion obligates the Dutch government to improve the legal position of Roma. We know from our advocacy’s perspective  that we have to stay on top of this to make sure that improvements shall be put into practice. In addition, our community-led and advocacy role surely has been strengthened, so from now on we shall have more influence in decision-making processes. There is still a long way to go but this has been a first significant and crucial political step.

Also at local level in Utrecht a motion of DENK Utrecht (of the same political party) on antigypsyism and how to combat this has been adopted, thanks to Mahmut Sungur and Ismail El Abassi, who are the local representatives.

Grassroots activism is crucial to make change happen – together with our political friends we shall intensify our networks whilst continuing our strife against antigypsyism, statelessness and any other injustice, for now and for our future generations.

©Michelle Mila V. Burik Bihari, Advocacy Coordinator Roma Utrecht & Roma Advocacy Network Netherlands, March 2021

News from Slovo 21

News from Czech ERGO member Slovo 21

Invisible Power Coalition

Migrant and Roma women in the Czech Republic and other parts of Europe face economic and social inequalities and live in a position particularly vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Compared to most women in the Czech society, these women are often at higher risk of social exclusion, live under worse material conditions, and have a lower quality of life. The problems of these women are often overlooked, which is why the Invisible Power coalition, with the support of the German EVZ Foundation, was founded—to give these women space to be seen and heard. The coalition represents a collaborative effort of the Czech Women’s Lobby (CWL) and its member organizations Association for Integration and Migration (SIMI) and SLOVO 21, under which the Roma women’s group Manushe operates.

The Invisible Power focused on two levels of support for Roma and migrant women. The first was to involve these women in a network of women’s rights organizations and to strengthen mutual solidarity also between women from disadvantaged groups. Secondly, we wanted to raise public awareness of the situation these groups of women find themselves in. Another equally important goal was to strengthen the self-esteem of these women through self-expression, especially by means of storytelling during events organized for the general public, writing articles about their stories, and participating in public debates.

The project provided women without self-esteem with space for self-expression and made it possible for Roma and migrant women to be seen and heard at 4 public events, 5 thematic meetings, 3 networking meetings, and 1 conference, alongside other media outputs and networking meetings. A total of 34 migrant women and 148 Roma women took part in these activities.

The article is available here.



The umbrella organization RomanoNet, in cooperation with other organizations (including Slovo 21, z.s.), has prepared an online campaign to reach out to Roma to declare their Roma nationality at this year’s Census of Population, Housing and Dwellings or to use Romani as their mother tongue.

The campaign responds to the low awareness of Roma men and women in connection with the Census 2021 and also refutes the myths that are spreading among the Roma themselves about the census.

The campaign is based on videos in which Romani men and women explain why, in their opinion, it is essential to state Romani nationality in the census form and Romani as their mother tongue. The videos are then placed on the website and are shared on social networks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign takes place exclusively in the online space.

(Article in Czech is available here )


The Romani culture and arts are a part of the national, European and world cultural and artistic space, and it keeps growing and developing constantly. There is a new generation of young educated artists and performers active in the area of music, dance, new media, arts, alternative arts, theatre and literature. Unfortunately, there is a substantial lack of interest and knowledge of critics who would be able to approach critically to Romani culture and arts.

The AndroMedia (in English “In Media”) project contributes to dealing with this problem and supports to development of artistic critical reviewing through interdisciplinary activities including several workshops, seminars, discussions with audience and experts, in both direct and online communication.

Project activities will help develop participants’ capacities in culture as they improve competencies of future critics – students of journalism and ethnomusicology, and Romani writers. The project also implements Audience Development Strategies and launches the Online Discussion Forum which will contribute to social dialogue.

Project is supported by EHP Fonds 2014 – 2021, Culture program. Project duration: 1.12.2020 – 30.4.2022.



Everyone should have the knowledge to influence and improve their lives in society. Only a society in which everyone has a voice, including minorities, can be considered democratic.

Based on the experience gained so far, we are coming up with a new project “Strengthening the capacities of Roma and pro-Roma actors in the field of advocacy”, which will focus on strengthening the competencies of employees of the organization Slovo 21, z.s. in the field of advocacy, so that the Roma are able to participate well in the integration process in 4 selected cities (Náchod, Budišov nad Budišovkou, Rokycany, Prague).

The employee expects 8 half-day theoretical trainings and 16 half-day practical workshops (2 trainings and 4 workshops in each locality) in the field of advocacy activities. The participants will then be permanently supported by experts in the form of tailor-made consultations.

We will establish cooperation with members of the local Roma community, who in cooperation with us will participate in solving the integration of Roma into the local level and other local Roma and pro-Roma non-profit organizations.

In memory of Marcel Courthiade

In memory of Marcel Courthiade

Written by Saimir Mile, La Voix des Rroms

Marcel Courthiade passed away unexpectedly on March 4, 2021 in Tirana at 67. With him, the Roma lose an exceptional resource. His work remains a treasure that several generations will be able to use for the benefit of the emancipation of the Roma.

Born on August 2, 1953, on the 9th anniversary of the liquidation of the Zigeunerfamilienlager in Birkenau, it is as if he were destined to live for the renaissance of this people who had suffered so much. This probably explains why, after an exemplary school career, he abandoned his medical studies in the fifth year to devote himself to the study of languages. He managed to master countless numbers of them, but he especially chose to place Romani at the center of his interest. He dedicated his life to its defense and development, and through it to the defense of the identity and rights of the Roma.

His work always demonstrated a very high level of scientific expertise, exceptional humility and accessibility, and an especially unfailing devotion to the Roma cause. He was the architect of the development of a real linguistic policy with the principles of the unification of the Romani language adopted in 1990 in Warsaw by the 4th Congress of the International Romani Union, then chaired by Rajko Đurić, another recently deceased great personality of the international Roma movement of the time. It is on the basis of these principles that Romani is taught at the universities of Paris and Bucharest. It is also on this basis that he coordinated the drafting of the first European dictionary of the Romani language, aptly titled “From our elders, to our daughters and to our sons.”

Marcel, like other intellectuals and activists of his generation, was too far in advance to be fully understood. On February 28, 2021, on Albanian public television, he answered a journalist’s question regarding whether the Romani language was “made official”:

“It has been formalized by the Romani authorities, by the Romani institutions, but not by the States. But that’s normal […] the Romani authorities, that is to say the International Romani Union, the Commissioner for Language and Linguistic Rights etc., have formalized the Romani language very well. But the others do not recognize this formalization because it is about Romani instances. In fact, logically we must say that it is normal for a language to be formalized when it is formalized by its own institutions, not by others. But this is where there is a manipulation […], the others do not accept the existence of the Romani language. Maybe there will come a day, I don’t know; but for now, in the name of “diversity”, they say that there are several Romani languages, several dialects etc., which is not true. Italian or German for example have more dialects than Romani, but nobody says that Italian or German don’t exist. This is where the discrimination is located: the denial of the history of the Roma, the denial of their language, their literature, the alphabet, the “Kris” … It is really discrimination, which leads to the denial of the Roma nation, and when a nation does not exist, what rights can it claim? It is a very deep running and very cunning mechanism. “

These words sound like a testament today. It is up to current and future generations to grasp their full meaning in order to continue the fight for the dignity of the Roma, and therefore for their rights. We owe it to Marcel, and to all those who preceded us, and more or less trained us.