Digital High-Level Conference

Digital High-Level Conference on the new Strategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030

Instead of the traditional “EU Roma Platform”, the German EU Presidency and the European Commission will organize on the 12 October the “Digital High-Level Conference on the new Strategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030”, bringing together all relevant stakeholders from the EU member states and enlargement countries  to launch the new “EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation”.

The EU Coalition of Roma and pro-Roma organisations will participate at the event to bring the views of Roma civil society to the table, with ERGO Network being well represented with several speakers.

ERGO Network Director will represent civil society in the Opening Panel to ask questions to EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, who will launch the new Strategic Framework. The co-chair of ERGO Network’s board and former MEP Soraya Post will contribute to the panel on Roma participation, while ERGO Network vice-chair Adriatik Hasantari and Director of Roma Active Albania will talk about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Roma.

The conference, which will be opened by German Minister of the Interior, Building and Community Horst Seehofer, will provide a forum for discussion of priorities for the next 10 years, such as combatting antigypsyism, equality, inclusion and participation, through dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experiences, at all levels. It will also highlight Member States’ perspectives and give stakeholders an opportunity to make their voices heard.

ERGO Network together with its partners has inputted into the development of the new Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma all along the way with recommendations.

ERGO Network also invested in the coordination of the Roma and pro-Roma Civil society under the banner of the EU Roma post-2020 Coalition. The coalition brought together its expertise to formulate questions for Commissioner Dalli and to create common messages. The partners in the coalition are furthermore preparing a reflection to the EC Communication on theStrategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030 that will be published on the 6 October 2020.

ERGO Network will provide regular updates before and during the event on its social media channels.

Overdue action against racism by the European Union

PRESS STATEMENT

 Overdue action against racism by the European Union

Brussels 23 September 2020: The European Coalition of Roma and pro-Roma organisations welcomes the adoption of an Action Plan against Racism by the European Commission, providing a framework to address structural racism in the EU, including antigypsyism.  

The Action Plan recognizes the structural dimension of racism and the specific forms of racism affecting different racialised groups in Europe, including Roma. As such, it could become a key tool to support measures against antigypsyism as outlined in the upcoming Framework for Roma equality and inclusion, including in connection with National Action Plans against Racism to be implemented in all EU Member States. It also provides a more comprehensive approach to all forms of racism in Europe and could help to better address structural and intersectional forms of discrimination affecting Roma people. 

Michael Privot from the European Network against Racism: “The fact the action plan recognises the reality of structural racism and provides a comprehensive approach to racism is a major step forward. The plan is also an important tool to build solidarity across racialised groups in the fight against structural racism. We now expect national governments to develop national action plans against racism that are closely connected to Roma inclusion strategies.”

It is timely that Europe learns from its many failures in protecting the most vulnerable within our societies, including the Roma and Travellers, who remain amongst the most discriminated-against groups in Europe. They continue to suffer from unequal access to services in all areas of life, segregation in education and housing, forced evictions, criminalisation of nomadism, destruction of property and halting sites, police violence, hate speech and bias crimes due to structural and systemic antigypsyism”, stated Gabriela Hrabanova from the ERGO Network.

Isidro Rodríguez, Director of Fundación Secretariado Gitano, explains that: “This EU anti racism plan should be the keystone in mitigating the high rates of poverty and marginalisation of Roma triggered by rooted discrimination. For its implementation, it is essential to have Roma and civil society engaged in each Member State“.

We are highly concerned with the damaging impact Covid-19 has had on Roma and Travellers communities and the increasing antigypsyist political discourse and police violence in the member states. With this action plan, the EU should set up stricter funding conditionalities and indicators that guarantee fundamental rights protection”, the European Roma and Travellers Forum stated.

Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania underlined: “We expect that the Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries closely follow this action plan and develop national action plans to combat racism against Roma and protect fundamental rights more effectively.”

OSEPI welcomes this ambitious initiative from the Commission to combat structural racism across Europe. The action plan includes important steps to provide institutional support for the longstanding work of civil society organisations, along with forthcoming legislation, funding and political commitment to the fight for racial justice. Together with the upcoming EU Framework on Roma equality and inclusion, the action plan could lead the way forward to fight anti-Roma prejudice and all forms of racism, strengthen the equality bodies, and implement equal treatment in the EU member states.” Heather Grabbe, Director of Open Society European Policy Institute.

Despite a number of positive legislative and policy developments in the past decade, many gaps and challenges remain in improving the application of the EU antidiscrimination law and adoption of relevant and useful policies regarding Roma and Travellers throughout EU Member States and Enlargement countries, such as the deeply rooted structural and institutionalised discrimination, the lack of adequate disaggregated data, underreporting of discrimination, lack of trust in authorities, low awareness of rights, a lack of means to access justice and a general lack of political will at national level. At EU level, mechanisms such as infringement proceedings to sanction governments against pervasive discrimination and segregation of Roma children in education have failed to correct the situation.

As Roma and pro-Roma NGOs, we look forward to the adoption of National Action Plans against racism by all EU Member States, Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries in order to effectively address racism against all racialised groups, including by legally recognising various forms of targeted racism, such as antigypsyism, antisemitism, islamophobia and afrophobia.

We also expect that direct links of the Commission Action Plan with all major EU policy developments in the area of equality, non-discrimination and social inclusion of Roma and Travellers are made. Notably, it should be linked to the upcoming Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation, and the recently adopted European Parliament resolution on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies, demanding a legislative act for Roma. It is equally important that the situation of Roma in the Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries is not overlooked in the implementation of the Action Plan.

As we witness that changes in the laws and policies are not sufficient to improve the situation on the ground concretely and effectively, we call on the Commission to use a further reaching and more extensive approach and tools to address deep-rooted stereotypes, negative prejudices and antigypsyism against Roma and Travellers in order to enable a more adequate response from state actors, institutions and citizens at large. This would also require a more inclusive and non paternalistic approach by the Commission and its public servants towards civil society in its daily workings and consultation approaches.

Finally, we welcome the promise by the Commission to review its hiring and staffing policies to increase diversity within. We hope that this will lead to a fairer and more adequate representation of ethnic minorities, including Roma, in EU institutions.

Members signatories:

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO Network)

European Network against Racism (ENAR)

European Roma Information Office (ERIO)

European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF)

Roma Active Albania (RAA)

Phiren Amenca International Network

Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG)

Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI)

Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI)

For further information, contact:

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network: g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org, Tel: +32(0)489 97 47 53

ERGO meets EC desk officers

ERGO members meet European Commission desk officers

On 10 September 2020, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network facilitated an online exchange meeting between its national members in 5 key countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia) and their counterparts in the country desks of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) and DG Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO).

The meeting served as a space to update each other on the preparation of National Roma Integration Strategies in the specific countries, as well as on Roma participation in the process of designing measures to target Roma under the European Funds. The participants also discussed the possibility to introduce Roma indicators in the funds, connecting them better with the Roma strategies. Finally, in view of the upcoming European Semester Country Reports 2021, the European Commission urged ERGO Network members to feed Roma realities and proposals, in particular with a view to the pandemic and recovery.

ERGO Network director Gabriela Hrabanova pointed out that the exchange was very timely, as we are now living a crucial moment where dots need to be connected to ensure that Roma rights and inclusion are delivered on. She stressed the importance of having a Roma-specific indicator, to ensure that the impact of measures and funds on Roma communities can be measured, and lessons learned. Investment is also needed in civil society, to build capacity and strong coalitions in order to effectively put forward the voice of the Roma. She reminded that ERGO Network is also actively monitoring the European Semester and wishes to see better alignment between these processes and the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

ERGO Network members expressed their concerns regarding the situation in their countries. For Bulgaria, Liliya Makaveeva and Kadrin Hasanov from Integro Association, stressed that civil society organisations were not involved in the consultation processes for the elaboration of the post-2020 National Roma Integration Strategy. The situation was better when it came to the working groups for most Operational Programmes, where civil society is present and can put forward proposals – even if those are not always taken into account. It is equally important to ensure that the Roma feature prominently in the upcoming Country Reports 2021.

In Czech Republic, Michal Miko from RomanoNet, Jelena Silajdžić from Slovo 21, and Nikola Taragoš from Romodrom agreed that they felt that their country was on the right path to have a good Strategy with positive measures, although there is always room for improvement. For the first time, Roma NGOs and the Roma Council are able to negotiate with different ministries to achieve good quality Operational Programmes, and hopefully deliver real inclusion for the Roma in the Czech Republic.

For Hungary, András Nun from Autonómia Foundation and Melinda Kassai from Butterfly Development informed that, unfortunately, civil society is not being involved in any process, and drafts have not been shared. The state of democracy in Hungary is dire, and civil society is systematically disempowered and kept out. There are no open calls, funding is allocated behind closed doors, without competition, participation, or transparency. A few well connected actors receive all the opportunities.

For Romania, Florin Botonogu from the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and Daniel Grebeldinger from Nevo Parudimos indicated that the next national Strategy looks like a good document on paper, and – very importantly – has budgetary allocations attached. Civil society has been very involved in the drafting process, this was the closest cooperation in the history of the national Strategy. Both organisations have closely followed both this process, as well as the consultations around EU funds, which was however a much poorer engagement process. It was very difficult to ensure the delivery of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) during the pandemic, as .community participation was not feasible in online meetings.

For Slovakia, Zuzana Havírová from the Roma Advocacy and Research Center shared that the country now had a new Head of the Plenipotentiary Officer for Roma Communities, which means that the process for the preparation of the Strategy was much more open to Roma people and the civil society organisations working with them than previously. This is a very encouraging step, however more can be done to improve participation, ownership, and transparency.  

Konstantinos Niafas, from the Romanian desk in DG REGIO, noted the process of regionalisation currently taking place in Romania, which means that some of the EU Funds will be channelled through regional Operational Programmes in the next programming period. While the negotiation processes for the planning of the period 2021-2027 are ongoing, there is a parallel open channel to discuss the recovery and resilience funds, a process which is still being designed. The Commission is hoping to receive the National Recovery Plans from Member States by October – this is a process coordinated by the Secretariat General of the European Commission, together with DG ECFIN. However, he stated, a lot of coordination was needed, with all these processes taking place at the same time, so such exchange meetings are welcome.

Ştefan Păduraru, working in the Romanian desk in DG EMPL, also noted that addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities, including Roma, was an important priority for the European Commission in the ongoing negotiations on the next programming period. As these negotiations are not finalised, however, it would be difficult to comment on specific future interventions. Grassroots organisations such as the ERGO Network members are encouraged to proactively contribute to this process through, for example, the consultation process undertaken by the Romanian authorities on the draft Operational Programmes.

Pavel Tychtl, working for the Czech Republic desk in DG EMPL, highlighted that sensitive, intelligent solutions needed to be found at both EU and national level to collect disaggregated information on Roma without infringing data privacy. This would enable having a concrete and specific indicator, which would allow all parties to evaluate the impact of the measures. It is important to keep in place the explicit, but not exclusive, principle when designing specific Roma targeted measures. Regarding civil society engagement in the Czech Republic, the overall feeling is that there is good cooperation, relevant actors work together. Even where voices are diverse, the message is strengthened. Information from the ground is incredibly appreciated and valuable, and national meetings are also open to civil society actors.

Andor Ürmös, from DG REGIO, stressed that the debate on a Roma-specific indicator was a very important one, as such as indicator would help improve Roma participation in the big Programmes. However, he expressed concern that such an indicator, if used improperly, might lead to segregation, and that social and economic inclusion of the Roma would be seen as a separate side-process.

After the opening plenary, participants split into breakout rooms according to countries, in order to be able to exchange bilaterally more in detail about specific national concerns. Some of these bilateral discussions during the meeting have led to the setting up of more such follow-up meetings, so that the two sides can keep each other involved.

Once participants reconvened once more in the main virtual room, Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová, ERGO Network Director, ended the meeting by reassuring desk officers that ERGO Network national members and staff stand committed, willing, and able to provide all necessary input and feedback from their work directly at grassroots level, to make sure that the voice of the Roma is being heard.

Call for revised Council Recommendation on Roma

In the context of the adoption of the new EU Strategic Framework on Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation by the European Commission, ERGO Network has sent a letter to the European Council, the German EU Presidency and the European Commission to call for the adoption of a revised Council Recommendation on Roma under the German Presidency and to share ERGO Network’s recommendations for essential elements and thematic targets of a strong Post 2020 Framework.

 

Dear President of the European Council, Mr Charles Michel,

Dear Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany, Mr Horst Seehofer,

Dear Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr Hubertus Heil,

Dear Commissioner for Equality, Ms Helena Dalli,

26 August 2020

In the context of the adoption of the new EU Strategic Framework on Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation by the European Commission, ERGO Network would like to welcome the initiative of the European Commission to accelerate and revise the Council Recommendation on Roma and call on the German Presidency to adopt it without delay during the German Presidency chairmanship of the EPSCO Council.

While we have been supporting, as you know, a binding EU Strategic Framework for Roma equality, inclusion and participation, we are aware of the lack of political feasibility of such an initiative at this present times. We reiterate therefore the important role of the German Presidency, and the European Commission in ensuring that the future EU Roma Framework and national Roma strategies include common minimum standards and targets combating structural and systemic antigypsyism and discrimination and ensure equality of rights and access to goods and services, in line with EU law and policies and international human rights commitments endorsed by all EU Member States. We consider that in line with its priorities on overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for the long-term as well as economic and social recovery, should actively promote the boosting of the Roma inclusion process, across all the EU Member States, by initiating the discussions in the Council working groups, leading to the adoption of a Council Recommendation on Roma.

With view to the upcoming European Commission Communication on the EU Roma Framework and the Council Recommendation, we take the opportunity to share with you our contribution for the two policy processes.

We count on your commitment and tenacity to keep these items high on your agenda and your negotiations with Member States.

I remain at your disposal, should you have further inquiries.

Gabriela Hrabanova,

Director, ERGO Network

 

Download the letter.

Download the Annex: Essential elements and thematic targets 2020 EU Roma Framework

The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion

ERGO Network position paper: The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion in a Covid-19 context

Directly to the position paper.

Europe and the world are facing an unprecedented social and economic shock, brought about by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones. In this context, Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit, having to face, in addition to the above, a sharp rise in both popular and institutional antigypsyism, as well as police brutality and numerous breaches of their human rights. The road to healing and recovery will be long and difficult for all, but it will be particularly challenging for those already facing extreme hardship, poverty, and social exclusion, such as Europe’s Roma. However, social economy can support better Roma inclusion, wellbeing and participation, as well as trust-building with the majority community.

Traditional business models are based on a philosophy of maximising profit (or return on investment), which is then distributed to investors or owners (shareholders). Conversely, social economy is a model where the profit is entirely reinvested in the expansion of the enterprise, and/or used to finance social inclusion and community development projects. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to improved societal outcomes particularly for vulnerable groups, and because of its bottom-up, community-rooted approach based on ownership, social economy can play a key role in ensuring social and economic inclusion, equal rights, and wellbeing for Roma communities in the post Covid-19 recovery process.

The social economy sector has already proved its exceptional resilience during the previous economic crisis, and it is now, fittingly, back in focus in the European discourse. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has entrusted Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, with the development of an Action Plan on Social Economy. This is a key opportunity to ensure that social economy is used as a powerful and effective tool to deliver Roma inclusion on the ground, not least in a post-pandemic context.

This position paper is rooted in the direct experience of ERGO Network national members, Roma and pro-Roma civil society organisations working at grassroots level in European countries. It aims at exploring the positive interplay between the role of social economy in today’s development models and Roma rights and inclusion. It reviews what is needed at national level in order to build strong, sustainable social economy enterprises, which contribute in a positive way to the social and economic inclusion of Europeans of Romani origin across the continent, as a number of good practices from different national contexts, in the Annex.

The publication will be launched in the framework of ERGO Network’s annual public policy event, to be organised in November together with Social Economy Europe and the Social Economy Intergroup in the European Parliament – more details will follow soon.

Access the position paper here.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on social economy and about the upcoming public policy event, please contact Amana Ferro, Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.