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!

ERGO responds to the EPSR Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights

On 4 March 2021, the European Commission proposed an Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), aiming to turn its 20 policy principles into concrete policy actions. The European Commission has pledged to make the Social Pillar “the compass of Europe’s recovery and our best tool to ensuring no one is left behind”.

The Action Plan draws on a wide-scale public consultation, which received over 1000 responses, including ERGO Network’s comprehensive position paper How to ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation?, where each of the 20 principles is explained in terms of its implications for Roma rights, including relevant thematic statistics and concrete policy recommendations.

=> Access ERGO Network’s full response to the Action Plan

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the inclusion of the EU Strategic Framework and Council Recommendation on Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation as an integrant policy action of the Social Pillar Action Plan, which firmly anchors the delivery on the EU Roma Framework under the umbrella of the Social Pillar and throughout the European Semester.  Unfortunately, the European Roma are only mentioned once in the rest of the document, exclusively in relation to employment. It is a missed opportunity not to have a specific focus on the Roma also in other areas, such as skills, equality, and poverty.

More encouragingly, ethnic minorities or ethnic background are referred to several times. While wording could have been stronger, the mentions are very welcome, as they uphold and mainstream Principle 3, Equal Opportunities. The plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups is highlighted a few times throughout the text, and the Action Plan includes several welcome references to combatting discrimination. While this is positive, unfortunately the document falls short of mainstreaming a true anti-discrimination approach in all its areas.

ERGO Network further welcomes the fact that the Action Plan includes concrete, quantifiable targets, on employment, education, and poverty reduction. These mirror objectives also included in the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation, and Inclusion – though the links are, sadly, not made explicit in the Action Plan. While equality is combined with the target on skills, there is no corresponding measurable objective. Moreover, the Equality section of the Action Plan focusses exclusively on gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities. It is unfortunate that other groups did not receive the same attention, particularly as their thematic EU strategies are clearly mentioned as falling under the scope of the Social Pillar.

We further appreciate that the implementation of the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights will be explicitly monitored through the European Semester and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. While the targets set minimum standards, it is hoped that Member States will raise the level of ambition in defining their own national targets. In this context, we very much welcome the European Commission’s encouragement to Member States to collect data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin, in line with the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan.

ERGO Network very much welcomes that the revised Social Scoreboard will also apply in enlargement countries, as part of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) process, while the Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) III will pro­vide increased funding for a flagship initiative to implement Youth Guarantee schemes, as part of the dialogue with Western Balkans.

Member States are encouraged to make use of the full range of EU funds available to implement the Action Plan, but no specific earmarking of funds is connected to the targets of the Pillar, and there is no minimum social expenditure foreseen for the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The European Commission must issue clear guidelines to Governments and Managing Authorities for allocations to be made for the vulnerable and Roma especially – including through a corresponding enabling condition and Roma-specific indicator.

It is very positive that civil society is mentioned explicitly and repeatedly as a partner for the implementation of the Action Plan, and Member States are encouraged to ensure engagement of all relevant stakeholders. The Action Plan will only be effective if it achieves wide ownership by beneficiaries, and if it is rooted in direct evidence from the ground. Roma communities and their NGO representatives must be involved at all stages of policy design, delivery, and monitoring.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

Member States step up commitment towards equality for Roma

Press statement

Member States step up commitment towards equality for Roma: The European Coalition of Roma and pro-Roma organisations welcomes the adoption of a Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation

Brussels 17 March 2021: A new Council Recommendation calls on EU Member States to consolidate efforts to adopt and implement measures to promote equality and effectively prevent and combat multiple and structural discrimination and antigypsyism as well as social and economic exclusion of Roma.

“We are happy to see such a strong EU Council Recommendation on Roma. It is now up to Member States to demonstrate a real commitment to tackling antigypsyism – as specific form of racism against Roma people – with a focus on non-discrimination, civil society participation and fighting poverty and social exclusion of Roma. This is a timely  political moment for governments to be bold and far-reaching in their policy and funding proposals on Roma”, said Gabriela Hrabanova,  Director of ERGO Network.

“With this Council Recommendation we expect Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries to follow the example and adopt national Roma strategic frameworks and targeted policies prioritising the fight against antigypsyism and improving the situation of Roma women and children, who are often the most vulnerable to discrimination and social marginalisation”, said Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania.

“The renewed Council Recommendation on Roma addresses Roma youth under the objectives of equality, inclusion, participation and employment. It is high time that national governments and National Roma Contact Points follow these recommendations and prove their commitment to the inclusion of young Roma in the decision-making, implementation and monitoring of Roma-related policies up to 2030”, states Marietta Herfort, Executive Director of Phiren Amenca International Network.

“We very much welcome the renewal of the political will to Roma equality and inclusion. There is a clear message that inequality, racism and discrimination cannot continue to exist in Europe. We now have the best-ever policy instrument, but it needs to operate in the best-ever conditions by fully aligning it with mainstream policy frameworks and by taking the opportunities offered by the current financial instruments. We urge Member States and the European Commission not to miss another decade”, says Isidro Rodríguez, Director of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano.

“The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma welcomes the EU Council Recommendation on Roma. It sends a strong signal for the recognition of antigypsyism as the root cause for inequality, exclusion and discrimination of Sinti and Roma in Europe. Member States must now include Sinti and Roma in the development and implementation of effective national strategies. They should also improve  their legal anti-discrimination frameworks and institutional settings, including monitoring, to effectively fight antigypsyism”, explains Guillermo Ruiz, Policy Advisor of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.

“The European Public Health Alliance embraces the Recommendation of the Council of the European Union aiming to promote Roma equality, inclusion and participation. The organisation welcomes in particular the recommendations addressing healthcare and prevention, including vaccination services. Ensuring equal access to health and prevention services in line with the needs of different socio-economic groups among Roma is an indispensable step for achieving health equity and promoting equal participation in social and economic lives. Therefore, the European Public Health Alliance reiterates its calls for a stronger commitment at national and local levels, including the implementation of holistic and integrated policy measures to tackle systemic health inequalities affecting entire Roma communities and generations”. Radost Zaharieva, Policy coordinator for Health Inequalities and Roma Health

“In times when racism is on the rise, it is crucial that EU Member States recognize antigypsyism and take immediate actions to tackle it.  In order to improve the situation of Roma, ERIO encourages  all responsible national and local authorities to effectively implement the renewed  Council Recommendation as a necessary step to eradicate the dramatic levels of antigypsyism that Europe’s Roma are facing.  It is not enough to agree to the principle of equality for Roma. Adopting the Recommendation  will not make any difference to how Roma experience equality in their daily lives, unless followed up with concrete action that will translate commitment into policies, programmes, laws and budget lines.” said Ivan Ivanov, director of the European Roma Information Office.

“The European Roma and Travellers Forum welcomes the new Council Recommendation but is disappointed that it does not reflect the situation of nomadic and semi-nomadic Travellers and Romanies in Western European countries. We urge  Member States to address in their national Roma strategies the antigypsyism faced by nomadic and semi-nomadic Travellers and Romanies, particularly the lack of adapted schools systems, discriminatory administrative rules, neutral laws, domiciliation criteria, lack of legal status for mobile accommodations, anti-nomadic and repressive legislation and policies, criminalization of the nomadic way of life, forced sedentarisation and the lack of a comprehensive approach giving equal status and rights to the nomadic way of life. Anti-nomadism should be named as a specific form of antigypsyism, adequately condemned and prosecuted”, said Miranda Vuolasranta, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum.

“This Council Recommendation is an important step towards recognising racial inequalities as a policy priority and ensuring meaningful measures to address these at national level. This way, the European Union strengthens its framework for racial equality and supports its new EU anti-racism action plan. However, implementation, participation and addressing structural forms of racism remain a challenge. We call on the EU institutions and Member States to implement intersectional and structural approach to racism which could ensure strong measures against antigypsyism,” said Julie Pascoet, Senior advocacy officer, European Network against Racism.

For further information, please contact ERGO Network’s Senior Policy Officer Isabela Mihalache.

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 (un.org)

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.

Is the internet available and safe for Roma?

Is the internet available and safe for Roma?

Throughout the last years, Safer Internet Day on 9 February has become an important event, addressing the issues of online safety and digital dignity. From cyberbullying to social networking to digital identity, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns. This year, ERGO Network is highlighting the issues of online safety and digital dignity for Roma.

Online safety for Roma

From an era in which individuals communicated their ideas mostly orally and only to small numbers of other people, we have moved on to an era in which people can make free use of a variety of channels for instant communication to a large audience. More and more people make use of online platforms not only to interact with each other, but also to share news. The detachment created by being enabled to write, without any obligation to reveal oneself directly, means that this new medium of virtual communication allows people to feel greater freedom in the way they express themselves1. Unfortunately, though, there is also a dark side to this system. Social media has become a fertile ground for antigypsyism, which frequently results in the use of insulting and offensive language towards Roma.

Antigypsyist hate speech has always been present in our societies. With the use of social media, however, the phenomenon has achieved a status of normalized online behavior, where Roma are targeted and become victims of cyberhate, which further develops into practices of hate crimes. Hate speech should not be perceived from the prism of an online insult; hate speech is connected to hate crimes, as it directly influences affecting citizens outside of the internet space. It results into violation of the rights of Roma as citizens, causing direct discrimination and threats, and in some cases result in offline violence or hate crimes.

As an example we can pinpoint the recent events in Bitola, North Macedonia towards the Roma community in September and October 2020. In this period hate speech against the Roma community on social networks was drastically intensified, which resulted in the occurrence of several cases of police brutality.2

Being aware of the issue of online antigypsyism3, ERGO Network through the PECAO project aims to counter antigypsyist hate speech online by working with young people, using a combination of peer education and monitoring in order to obtain two-fold results: Peer education to achieve a direct change in attitudes and actions of a high number of young people, and monitoring to contribute to better understanding and a more systemic change of policies through advocacy based on the results.

Digital dignity for Roma

Much has changed with the pandemic and many of us thought that living in the 21st century and with the available technologies adapting would be easy. However, the pandemic made the digital divide and social exclusion of vulnerable communities such as Roma even more visible.

According to the FRA study from 20164, over 40 % of Roma in the EU Member State Bulgaria cannot afford a private computer, smartphone or internet access. With the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these long-standing issues around discrimination, educational exclusion and limited access to new technologies have been brought forward.

Beside all the direct health risks, Covid-19 deepened the existing inequalities and made the questions of poverty and lack of access to proper educational services for Roma children more visible than ever. It made clear that care, respect and human dignity in the digital age for Roma have been forgotten or pushed aside. Digital literacy and access to utilities or technologies cause Roma to be left behind; as Roma with no access to electricity or the internet cannot connect, benefit from online education or online services.

The way forward

When it comes to creating a safer internet space for Roma and ensure digital dignity, ERGO Network believes that we need to work on:

    • Higher awareness of journalists’ ethic commissions on the prevalence and impact of antigypsyist hate speech online, leading to improved self-regulation guidelines.
    • Higher awareness of national equality bodies and other relevant state institutions on the prevalence and impact of antigypsyist hate speech online, leading to better programmes targeting antigypsyism.
    • Stronger adherence by IT companies to the Code of Conduct on countering online hate speech.
    • Better data collection on hate crime and hate speech disaggregated by ethnicity and gender to allow analysis of trends by member states.
    • Stronger condemnation of antigypsyist hate speech in the public discourse.
    • More positive narratives promoted by young people online to counter antigypsyist hate speech.
    • Reducing the digital divide by investing in access to utilities and technologies, thus preventing the exclusion of Roma from the internet space, as well as by creating digital support and literacy programs.

1 Thirty years of research into hate speech: topics of interest and their evolution: Alice Tontodimamma, Eugenia Nissi, Annalina Sarra & Lara Fontanella

2 Hate speech in social media and the impact on the Roma community: Romalitico, Marija Sulejmanova