European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations demand justice for Stanislav Tomáš

29 June 2021

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, together with other Roma and pro-Roma and antiracism civil society organisations, would like to express our sincere condolences to Stanislav Tomáš’s family and loved ones, and hope that justice will be swiftly served.

We therefore call for an independent, thorough and objective investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani man from Teplice, Czech Republic, who died soon after two police officers kneeled on him to immobilise him.

We are greatly disturbed by the footage showing Stanislav’s last moments of life during a police attempt to detain him by employing excessive force.

The amount of constant pressure applied to Stanislav’s upper body, neck and nape are totally inadequate and disproportionate to the act of immobilizing and handcuffing a person. Moreover, the immobilising and pressure continued long after he was handcuffed, until after he stopped screaming and moving. While the video ended before knowing for certain if he was still alive before the ambulance arrived, we can see that he was silent and inert. However, in the preliminary statements by the police, they deny that the officer’s tactics could have caused or contributed to Stanislav’s death, claiming that he died in the ambulance. Moreover, they declared that, according to the preliminary autopsy report, they had reason to conclude that he was under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart. Regardless of these circumstances, the actions of the police officers were thoroughly unjustifiable and disproportionate, and an abuse of power.

It is concerning that high-ranking Czech government officials, particularly the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister, have backed the police officers when their role is to remain impartial and await the results of the official investigation into the case, allowing the justice system and those directly involved in the investigative process to do their job. Moreover, the Prime Minister rushed to conclude that Stanislav did not die as a result of the police intervention, based only on preliminary autopsy results, without waiting for the final results of the investigation process. Both officials also characterized Stanislav in derogatory ways to justify the police action and methods.

Establishing moral hierarchies about who should be protected before the law or about the level of a police response based on moral judgments and characterizations is very dangerous, especially coming from the highest level of the Czech political leadership and would constitute a violation of the police code of conduct and responsibilities. Police, especially in democratic societies and in the European Union, are there to serve and protect, regardless of the circumstances of a situation or the persons involved. In this particular case, there is no evidence proving that the person posed any immediate threat to himself and / or others, and therefore the use of excessive force and constant pressure on his windpipe was neither legitimate, nor proportionate.

  • We urge the EU institutions to call for an an independent, effective and unbiased investigation into the situation, so that the police officers are thoroughly and duly investigated and sanctioned proportionately per the level of offense and harm perpetrated.
  • We are also calling attention to the need to protect the privacy and safety of eyewitnesses, including shielding them against potential threats from non-state actors and police, if they are willing to be a party in the investigation and / or court hearings.
  • It is crucial that the investigation into the police intervention also takes into account racial motivation, in line with European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence.
  • We call on the EU leadership, the Czech Government, the media and non-governmental actors to take a clear stance against antigypsyism and police violence, including in their public statements. Moreover, we call on state officials and the Czech media to refrain from blaming the victim and stigmatizing his family and loved ones. The focus should remain on the adequacy of the police response or lack thereof leading to the passing of Stanislav, and nothing else.
  • We call on the Czech Parliament, the Public Defender of Rights, and other responsible institutions to start an investigation into the biased, derogatory, public statements and possible related actions by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister vis-a-vis this case.
  • We call on the EU institutions to launch a European-wide review of nationally-recommended police techniques and methods, including whether the authorized methods for immobilizing and detaining someone include using the method of kneeling on the neck and to work with Member States to ban dangerous methods that can cause irreversible harm or death.

As human rights defenders, we take a strong stance against police violence and inadequate police response, particularly when interacting with people from racialised minorities.

Roma Lives Matter!

Background 

Amateur video footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday, 19 June featuring troubling images of the arrest of a man by three police officers in front of a group of bystanders who were visibly worried for the man’s safety, as he was kept immobilized by the application of continuous pressure to his neck and nape area for several minutes.

According to the spokesperson for the emergency rescue services in the Ústecký Region, Prokop Voleník, a scuffle had been reported between two people who were under the influence of narcotics at the time. “When the police patrol arrived at the scene, one of the men fled while the other was subdued by the officers and handcuffed,” police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová told the tabloid news server Blesk.cz. Police declared that the officers called an ambulance because the arrested man was under the influence of drugs.

Police spokesperson Daniel Vítek stated that “According to the preliminary autopsy report, there was reason to suspect the man had been under the influence of a foreign substance of an amphetamine nature, and the autopsy discovered pathological changes to the coronary arteries of the heart.” According to police, Stanislav Tomáš collapsed and subsequently died in the ambulance called to the scene.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who also chairs the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, declared that “The court autopsy has clearly demonstrated that he did not die due to the intervention by police. This is sad, but a normal, respectable person would have a hard time getting into such a situation.” He backed the police officers in Teplice and thanked them for their intervention against Stanislav Tomáš. “If somebody destroys a car, is aggressive, and even bites a police officer, he cannot expect to be handled with kid gloves,” the PM commented.

Prior to the statement made by the Prime Minister, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček also backed the police officers. “The intervening police officers have my full support. Anybody under the influence of addictive substances who breaks the law has to count on the police intervening. It is mainly thanks to the work of policemen and policewomen that we are among the top 10 safest countries in the world,” Hamáček commented in response to a police tweet insisting the Teplice incident is not an example of a “Czech George Floyd”.

Looking at the amateur footage, we can observe at second 0.6 the three police officers trying to immobilise a man who was already prone on the ground and who was resisting the way he was being handled, under the close scrutiny of a bystander. In about 10 seconds, two police officers manage to immobilise the man by sitting on him and using a lot of physical pressure: one police officer was positioned at the man’s head, pushing his left knee first onto his head against the pavement, and his right leg laterally and partially on his back, while bringing his hands together behind his back to place them in handcuffs with the help of the third officer, who also kneeled on the man’s back horizontally. The second officer, at first, just sat on the man’s leg, placing his whole-body weight onto his leg and then briefly changed into a kneeling position, using his left knee to press against both of the man’s knees while keeping his ankles still. In less than 1 minute, the third officer managed to place the handcuffs around the man’s wrists, but the two police officers continued to kneel on him, applying strong bodily pressure, despite the fact that he was already handcuffed. The police officer kneeling on the man’s legs then used his police phone (probably calling the ambulance) while continuing to press with both knees on the man’s legs; simultaneously the first police officer continued to apply pressure to the upper part of the man’s body and his right shoulder using his left arm, as well as on his coccyx using his right arm, while pushing his left knee onto his nape and neck, with his right knee probably pressed into the man’s back as well. At this point, people from the adjacent buildings started to scream and signal to the police officers, visibly concerned at the whole scene as it unravelled. Three minutes into this constantly-applied pressure, the second officer stood up while the first officer continued to apply the same pressure to the upper part of the man’s body, including his windpipe. Two passers-by came very close to the scene, one kneeling and trying to get a closer look at the man’s face and to talk to him, it seems. Around 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, the third police officer approached and again kneeled on the man’s right leg from the side, while applying pressure with his hands on his left leg. Five minutes into the intervention, the immobilised man stopped screaming or fighting visibly in the footage. After another 30 seconds, the first police officer finally removed himself from the man’s upper body, kneeling next to him instead and seemingly checking his breathing. The footage ended before we could understand if the man was still breathing and alive before the ambulance arrived.

Czech attorney Miroslav Krutina stated on the CNN Prima News channel’s 360° program that “Kneeling is quite a dangerous instrument”, adding that “if it were to be demonstrated that the kneeling was directly on the nape of the neck or on the neck itself, then it would not be proportionate.” He affirmed that he has consulted the Police Academy that trains officers in such methods. “Kneeling that would aim for the neck decidedly does not belong among the range of safe procedures. The reason is that it’s difficult to control the force of the pressure exerted,” he said, adding that in tense moments the technique can cause serious injury or strangulation.

According to Ondřej Moravčík, spokesperson for the Police Presidium, officers must pay attention to the principles of legality and proportionality when intervening. “The officer must assess the situation and decide which means of force will make it possible to achieve a purpose that is lawful and essential to overcome the resistance or the escape of the person being intervened against,” Moravčík previously explained to news server Aktuálně.cz.

At the close of the video that was published on social media, it can be seen that the man stops making any movements or sound. “If the person is quiet, stops shouting, stops moving, then it would be time to start testing his vital signs,” news server Romea.cz reported that a police trainer said while watching the closing phase of the video of the police intervention, when Stanislav Tomáš has stopped moving and shouting.

Reporter Richard Samko, who watched the footage together with the police instructor, asked him whether the officers actually proceeded correctly if the video shows that the man had not been moving for about 30 seconds while the officer’s knee remained on his neck; the instructor said: “The patrol is beginning to examine what’s going on with him. He isn’t communicating anymore, but we can’t assess what happened there, what kinds of pressures were exerted.”

Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd, an African-American man subjected to a similar police approach in the USA, has not yet led to a ban of the police technique of using the knee on someone’s neck across all European countries, despite European wide outrage and follow-up European Parliament resolution. However, after the death of George Floyd, police officers in France stopped using the manoeuvre and have also stopped teaching it at their police academies. “During arrests it will be forbidden to apply pressure to the neck or nape of the neck,” the then-Interior Minister of France, Christophe Castaner, announced at the time.

Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, has announced in an interview for ROMEA TV that she will be investigating Saturday’s intervention by the police patrol in Teplice after which 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš, a Romani community member, died. “After watching the video of the intervention in Teplice and reading all of the available information, I’ve decided to use my competencies and the scope of activity made possible by the law on the Public Defender of Rights with respect to the Police of the Czech Republic to begin an investigation on my own initiative,” she told ROMEA TV. “This investigation will focus on the proportionality of the methods of force used during the intervention in Teplice,” Šimůnková said. According to her, the investigation will be launched in the next few days and the results will depend on how quickly the Czech Police provide her office with the relevant materials. “I don’t dare predict the timeframe, it could be weeks, it could be months. I am bound by my duty to maintain confidentiality until the case is closed and the entire matter has been investigated, but I will try to conduct this investigation as quickly as possible,” she said.

The Council of Europe (CoE) also published a statement on 23 June, “calling for an urgent, thorough, and independent investigation into the recent death of a Romani man in the Czech Republic after he had been apprehended by the police. Footage taken on 19 June from Teplice, Czech Republic, showing police intervention against a Romani man who later died in an ambulance is alarming and raises numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident,” the statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General reads.

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Brussels

European Roma Rights Centre, Brussels

European Network against Racism, Brussels

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice, Brussels

ILGA-Europe, Brussels

AGE Platform Europe, Brussels

Romanonet network, Czech Republic

ROMEA association, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Slovo 21 association, Czech Republic

 

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache,  Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team

Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

Citizens Equality, Rights and Values – ERGO participation in CERV dialogue week

“Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” (CERV) is the new European programme offering funding for citizens’ engagement, equality for all and the protection and promotion of rights and EU values. Civil society organisations active at local, regional, national and transnational level, as well as other stakeholders, can apply to receive CERV funding for the 2021-2027 period.

CERV stands for “Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” and will be the biggest-ever EU fund for promoting and protecting fundamental rights inside the EU. It will provide 1,55 billion euro for the next 7-years period to projects protecting and promot the rights and values as enshrined in the Treaties, the Charter and in the applicable international human rights conventions. This will be achieved by supporting civil society organisations and other stakeholders active at local, regional, national and transnational level. The programme will replace the previous Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme and the Europe for Citizens programme.

The CERV programme will be based on 4 strands:

  1. Equality, Rights and Gender Equality – promote rights, non-discrimination, equality, including gender equality, and advance gender and non-discrimination mainstreaming;
  2. Citizens’ engagement and participation – promote citizens engagement and participation in the democratic life of the Union and exchanges between citizens of different Member States and to raise awareness of the common European history;
  3. Daphne – fight violence, including gender-based violence;
  4. Union values – protect and promote Union values. The Union values strand is one of the big innovations of the programme. It puts at its centre values which are common to all Member States and on which the European Union is founded:  respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. At a time where European societies are confronted with extremism, radicalism and divisions and a shrinking space for independent civil society, this strand will place civil society organisations at the heart of its priorities by funding projects which promote and raise awareness on EU values and EU fundamental rights and by providing financial support to local, regional and transnational civil society organisations.

During the CERV Civil Dialogue Week 2021 from 25-28 May 2021, potential partners and beneficiaries had the opportunity to get to know the new programme and to engage in an open dialogue on policy developments, opportunities and challenges.

The session on Equality and Rights was moderated by Irena Moozova, Director “Equality and Union citizenship” in the European Commission and engaged Sirpa Pietikäinen – Member of the European Parliament, FEMM Committee and  co-rapporteur CERV programme, Evelyne Paradis – Executive Director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe, Tamás Kádár – Deputy Director and Head of Legal and Policy of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET), Elizabeth Gosme – Director of COFACE Families Europe and Isabela Mihalache, our Senior Advocacy Officer.

At the invitation of the Moderator, our senior advocacy officer addressed the main challenges that that EU funds should address under the Equality and Rights strand of the CERV programme. We underlined the growing extremist and far right and populist movements, which challenge the idea of inclusive and democratic societies where people of different backgrounds can enjoy equal rights. Another challenge is addressing structural and institutional racism in the context of growing inequalities and discrimination and violence on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The fragmented nature and limited resources of EU funding programmes dedicated to various strands limit the EU’s capacity to respond to existing and new challenges, AI, climate change, covid-19; aspects regarding the distribution of funds across the groups of beneficiaries, the involvement of equality bodies, gender mainstreaming, mainstreaming of rights of the child and rights of people with disabilities, difficulties with the application process, implementation and reporting duties and mechanisms, ‘lack of support to first-time applicants’.

ERGO highlighted that programmes such as CERV are important since legislation alone is not enough to effectively tackle discrimination and racism and achieve equality. Structural problems and challenges are hardly funded by national funding if not for EU funding. Such structural problems are also cross-countries and better addressed at regional level through exchanges of knowledge and good practices. EU funding should allow developing synergies to tackle the challenges that are common to the promotion of equality, anti-discrimination and anti-racism to reach a critical dimension to have concrete results in the field. At the same time, the funds should take into account the specific nature of the different EU policies, their different target groups and their particular needs through tailor-made approaches. The current CERV strand on equality and rights should lead to a better understanding of various forms of discrimination, including antigypsyism, antisemitism, islamophobia and afrophobia; promoting a culture to combat discrimination on a more intersectional basis, thus making responses more effective, increased actions to prevent and combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, anti-muslim hatred, antigypsyism and other forms of intolerance. In that context, particular attention should also be devoted to preventing and combating all forms of violence, hatred, segregation and stigmatisation, as well as combating bullying, harassment and intolerant treatment. The CERV Programme should be implemented in a mutually reinforcing manner with other Union activities that have the same objectives, such as the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation, EU Action plans against racism etc; it should support NGO coalition building and platform on antiracism and avoid fragmentation of different antiracism movements.

In the future, the CERV programme could help by looking at the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic and crisis can inflict on marginalised ad vulnerable groups, which are more prone to discrimination, through continuous evidence data collection, awareness raising activities and combating negative narrative and stereotypes in the media and beyond and by ensuring synergies with the Recovery and resilience facility.

ERGO Reaction to European Child Guarantee and EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

ERGO Network reacts to European Child Guarantee and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

On 24 March 2021, the European Commission released a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee, as well as the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 for the period 2021-2024. ERGO Network has engaged closely with the run-up of these two initiatives, also as part of the Investing in Children EU Alliance, to ensure that Roma children and their specific concerns were duly incorporated.

The European Child Guarantee aims at providing Member States with guidance and means to support children in need and break the cycle of poverty and social exclusion across generations, through ensuring effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing, as well as free early childhood education and care, free education and school-based activities, free healthcare, and at least one free healthy meal a day. We assessed these proposals based on our Input to the European Commission consultation on the Roadmap for a Council Recommendation for a Child Guarantee (October 2020).

ERGO Network warmly welcomes that “children with a minority racial or ethnic background (particularly Roma)” are explicitly included as target group for the scope of the Child Guarantee. Equally positive is that the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation and Inclusion is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Proposal for a Recommendation, but unfortunately, this link is not reprised in the text of the Recommendation itself. While several references to stigmatisation, segregation and discrimination are included, a clear commitment to fight all forms of discrimination, segregation, bullying, and racism (including antigypsyism) is not mainstreamed throughout the approach, and no specific actions are associated with it. This is a glaring missed opportunity.

We also very much welcome that the approach is explicitly rooted in combatting child poverty and social exclusion, with a focus on children’s rights and wellbeing. We further appreciate that implementation is firmly anchored in the European Semester, with Member States having 6 months to present a National Action Plan and appoint a national Child Guarantee Coordinator to oversee the implementation. Furthermore, they must ensure participation of stakeholders, including children and civil society, and we hope that the necessary support and outreach measures will be put in place for Roma children, Roma communities, and Roma NGOs to be able to engage with these processes on equal footing.

  • Read our full assessment of the proposal for a Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee here.

The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 aims at addressing persisting and emerging challenges, as well as proposing concrete actions to protect, promote and fulfil children’s rights, so that every child enjoys the same rights and lives free from discrimination and intimidation. We had submitted a detailed Input to the European Commission consultation on the Strategy (November 2020), and we reviewed the Strategy in light of the concerns and demands expressed therein.

ERGO Network salutes the many mentions of Roma children throughout the Strategy, with explicit references to hunger, poverty, school segregation, early school leaving, early childhood education and care, and access to education. While the document points to the enabling conditions on Roma inclusion and poverty reduction that Member States need to fulfil for the next MFF programming period, unfortunately, no concrete link is made in the Strategy with the EU Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation, which is a great missed opportunity. We further welcome that discrimination is highlighted as an important factor affecting children’s wellbeing and their access to rights, while racial and ethnic origin, as well as ethnic minorities, are also named several times. Sadly, there is no priority as such to combat discrimination, and antigypsyism is not referred.

The anchoring of the Strategy in core EU values such as equality, inclusion, gender equality, anti-racism and pluralism is also very positive, as well as identifying the fight against poverty, inequalities and discrimination as prerequisites to enable the active participation of children. We welcome the proposed establishment of the EU Network for Children’s Rights, and express the hope that the specific concerns of Roma children will be included in a participatory manner in this structure, as well as in the proposed annual European Forum on the Rights of the Child, where the Commission will report on progress for implementation, and the future Children’s Participation Platform.

  • Read our full assessment of EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2024 here.

ERGO Network and its members will continue to monitor the adoption and implementation processes, at EU and national level, of these two important initiatives. We aim to ensure that Roma children’s voices are being heard, and that appropriate links will be made between children’s rights and wellbeing and the objectives of the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

For more information on our work on Roma child poverty and exclusion, please contact c.tanasie@ergonetwork.org.

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.