Adoption of the National Roma Strategic Frameworks 2021-2030

Adoption of the National Roma Strategic Frameworks 2021-2030

By December 2021, 26 Member States and 7 Enlargement Countries were expected to submit their newly adopted national Roma strategic frameworks in line with the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation and linked Council recommendation.

In October 2021, the ERGO Network conducted a public survey in these countries on the engagement of Roma and pro-Roma civil society organisations in the drafting of the strategic frameworks by the national governments and Contact Points for Roma.

The survey answered by 85 respondents in 22 EU Member States and 7 Enlargement Countries revealed that in 29% of cases there were more than 4 consultations with civil society organised at national level on average, while in 8% of cases only 1 consultation and in 13% of cases no consultation. On average, 41% of respondents answered that they did not know how many consultations have taken place with civil society organisations.

The respondents themselves of their organisations attended 1 consultation in 13% cases, 2 consultations in 12% cases, 3 consultations in 3,5% cases, 4 in 1% cases and more than 4 in 36% of cases. By contrast, in mid-December, the European Commission announced that only 9 countries submitted their new Roma strategic frameworks (AT, BG, CR, CZ, HU, NL, PL, SK and ES), while three countries have ongoing Roma strategies (FI, PT, SE).

The rest of the EU countries, except for Malta, are expected to submit their new Roma policies at the beginning of 2022. In the case of the Enlargement countries, Montenegro was the first one to submit its newly drafted strategy, while the rest are expected to submit by the beginning of 2022, as well.

For more information about this, please don’t hesitate to contact our Senior Policy Officer Isabela Mihalache at i.mihalache@ergonetwork.org

14th European Platform for Roma Inclusion

14th European Platform for Roma Inclusion

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion 2021 was held online on 21-22 September by the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers. The meeting aimed to reaffirm the commitment to Roma equality, inclusion and participation of European institutions and Member States and focus on key thematic areas identified in close consultation with civil society organisation, such as Mainstreaming and Targeted Policies to Address Antigypsyism in National Roma Strategic Frameworks and Tackling unequal access to education to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma communities

The event was honoured with high level participation on the part of the European Commission, including through a video message – partly in Romanes – by President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Parliament and EU Member States. Roma and pro-Roma civil society were given center stage in the thematic workshops and had an equal floor during the political panels alongside political leaders. 

The thematic workshop ‘Assessing the National Roma Strategic Frameworks: Mainstreaming and Targeted Policies to Address Antigypsyism” discussed how measures on health, education, housing, and employment, access to justice, child protection and environment are addressed from the perspective of combating antigypsyism and what specific actions are being developed at the national and local level for addressing antigypsyism. Finally, the panel also addressed how structural funds in Member States and enlargement countries can better contribute to Roma equality, inclusion, and participation.

The thematic workshop “Mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma communities: tackling unequal access to education and spatial segregation” discussed how access to quality and inclusive education of Roma students, specifically from marginalised localities, can be improved in the persisting pandemic and how to ensure that implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans reaches marginalised Roma communities.

Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network Director, delivered important key messages to the attendees. She strongly expressed the need for national governments to demonstrate that the fight against antigyspsyism in their countries does not remain a “buzz” word. She asked Member States to start making amends with their historic past by investing in real recounts about the Roma Holocaust, slavery, forced sterilization and many other dehumanising events in Europe’s history. Member States have a responsibility to help us reconcile as nations, learn about who Roma really are, provide the tools for our children to love each other and live together in a sense of unity, not division. 

She highlighted that “we first need to reconcile parts of us that hurt most and that manifest still today in very aggressive and punitive ways, such as police violence or forced sterilisation, if we want to change the general negative perception and knowledge about Roma among European citizens”. She called on Member States to ensure that national strategic frameworks meet the expectations of combating segregation in education and housing, increased police violence against Roma, addressing hate speech and hate crime against Roma and to make sure that EU funds for social cohesion and recovery and resilience together with direct grants by the EU and national funding are used to address the major challenges identified in national Roma strategies. In the end of her speech, the ERGO Director called for a “Decade of fighting antigypsyism”.

The report with the final conclusions of the meeting will be published by the European Commission on their event website here

DG JUST widens dialogue with civil society

DG JUST widens dialogue with Roma civil society and anti-racism civil society organisations

In its intention to ensure a greater transparency and inclusion of wider Roma and pro-Roma civil society organisations at national level in implementing the EU Roma Roma Framework on  equality, inclusion and participation, the European Commission launched a call for expression of interest to NGOs in supporting the work at European Union level and their readiness to participate in consultation processes. All CSOs who expressed their interest will be informed regularly about important policy developments. Moreover, according to the experience and knowledge of the organisations, based on the information provided in the expression of interest, the Commission services will determine the list of CSOs and/or alliances of CSOs who will be invited to contribute to consultation processes, in particular on the monitoring of the implementation of the Roma policies at EU level. All expressions of interest by the 22 June 2021 will be carefully reviewed based on outreach capacity, work topics, expertise, size and type of CSO as well as the following criteria:

  •  independent status and legal registration in the EU, featuring a democratic decision-making mechanism as well as a mission and values aligned with those of the European Commission;
  •  proven expertise of at least 3 years in one or more of the following: policy, research, advocacy work concerning Roma equality, inclusion and participation, as well as legitimacy of the CSO’s representations (community ties, accountability to beneficiaries and/or members);
  •   respect for pluralism of opinion, tolerance and personal integrity of the representatives is mandatory;
  •   good working knowledge of English as this is the working language of CSO consultation meetings; and
  •   demonstrated ability to engage in constructive dialogue with other governmental and/or non-governmental organizations is highly valued.

In addition, the applicants have to be registered in the EU Transparency registry, proving their legal constitution, including proof of grant of legal personality, evidence of internal rules procedure, audited financial statement for the last 2 years or any other official document demonstrating the annual income; annual activity reports for the last 2 years or any other published reports or research as evidence of Roma-relevant work; and CV(s) of the CSO representative(s).

For the above mentioned call more information can be found  here.

A similar call has been launched for anti-racism civil society organisations or the implementation of the EU Anti-racism action plan with a small difference in that there is no minimum limit on the years of proven expertise in the case of antiracism CSOs and that in their case they should have worked on at least one or more of the following: policy, research, advocacy work concerning racial and ethnic equality and anti-racism; and in at least one or more of the following thematic areas: racial justice, equality, reparations and decolonisation, anti-migrant racism.

More information about the anti-racism CSO call can be found here.

Different than in the case of Roma organisations, antiracism CSOs fear that this mechanism could restrict access of more radical NGOs, including pro-Muslim associations which have been banned or accused of inciting to hatred, for being vocal against Islamophobia, particularly in France, under the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron. With a growing victimization of human rights defenders and NGOs, EU institutions should ensure depolitization of antiracism civil society work and build further trust and cooperation with antiracism NGOs.

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

Fighting antigypsyism as a precondition to achieve equality for Roma

Regional Conference: Fighting antigypsyism as a precondition to achieve equality for Roma

On 22 June, ERGO Network together with the Central Council for German Sinti and Roma, the Roma Active Albania and Equinet co-organised the Regional Conference: Fighting Antigypsyism as a Precondition to Achieve Equality for Roma – The Role of Ombudsperson Institutions and Equality Bodies. The Conference brought together equality bodies, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations from Western Balkan countries, European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Germany. Participants discussed on the role of equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national Roma strategic frameworks to tackle antigypsyism based on the principles of non-discrimination and equality set out in the EU Treaties, reaffirmed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC and the Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

Some of the conclusions highlighted inter alia that equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions:

  • have a mandate to deal with discrimination using civil and administrative law and most of them have a mandate to deal with hate speech using their general mandate for promotion of equality and fighting discrimination or broadly interpreting their mandate to tackle harassment.
  • should also have a mandate to start own-initiative cases and use strategic litigation as an effective means to reach an impact that goes beyond the individual case.
  • even in the absence of an explicit legal mandate to cover certain issues related to antigypsyism (such as hate crimes, for instance), can gather information, commission or conduct studies to reveal the extent and manifestations of antigypsyism
  • can contribute with independent reports in the implementation of national Roma strategic frameworks.
  • should raise awareness about antigypsyism and widely communicate positive, values-based messages; use their powers to advise governments and other policymakers so that policies and legislation contributes to challenging antigypsyism; use their powers to work with duty bearers, such as employers and service providers, to spread good equality practices
  • should ensure close and structured cooperation with civil society. Equality bodies should enter into a constructive dialogue with pro-Roma civil society that should include mutual education where each party shares their unique knowledge and expertise
  • work closely with Roma and involve them in their activities – as trainers and trainees, as valued partners and as employees of the equality body and ombudsperson institution.

The conference also emphasized the need for equality bodies and ombudsperson institutions to be provided with the necessary human and financial resources, powers and independence to conduct their work effectively. Participants saw this regional conference between equality bodies, the EU and civil society as an important step in building a closer and structured cooperation in fighting structural antigypsyism.

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

 

Conference on fighting antigypsyism in the Western Balkans

Conference on fighting antigypsyism in the Western Balkans

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, ERGO Network, Roma Active Albania and the Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union organised on 25 March 2021 the virtual conference “Role of the European Union and of individual Member States to fight antigypsyism in the Western Balkans and to ensure inclusion of Roma”.

The goal of the conference was to discuss with representatives of the European Commission and of individual EU Member States the need to fight antigypsyism in the Western Balkans and the need to include the position and situation of Roma in all relevant policies of the European Union with regard to the countries in the accession process.

The new “EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation” is equally relevant for the countries in the Western Balkans, which requires them to include the fight against antigypsyism in the strategies and action plans that are in the process of development.

Also in October 2020, the European Commission adopted the “Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans” as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package, which emphasises that “the integration of Roma people into society by supporting their full participation in education and in the labour market is of particular importance and will be a key priority of the EU integration process”.

Against this background, the conference focused on providing representatives of the Roma with the opportunity to present their position and their proposals for policies and measures and to discuss them with representatives of the European Commission and Member States of the European Union.

The conference was opened with encouraging remarks of Ambassador Thomas Ossowski from the Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union and Colin Wolfe from the European Commission, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), Head of Western Balkans Cooperation. Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma also welcomed the participants and talked about the experiences of the civil rights movement of the German Sinti and Roma to fight antigypsyism, which can serve as and example for other countries both in the EU and the Western Balkan.

Following the keynote speech by Gabriela Hrabanova, Executive Director of ERGO Network on “the need to fight antigypsyism and to include the position and situation of Roma in all relevant policy fields”, a panel with a wide range of participants combined the position and activities of the European Union with experiences and requests from representatives of the civil society and other representatives of the Roma.

The panel addressed from several perspectives not only how the fight against antigypsyism could be strengthened in the Western Balkans, but also how a new policy approach with Roma in the Western Balkans could be achieved.

The representative of DG NEAR, Liselotte Isaksson, talked about the role of civil society in the Western Balkans in promoting inclusion of Roma and fighting antigypsyism” and Hristina Petkova from DG JUST informed about the focus on antigypsyism in the new EU Strategic Framework for Roma and the approach within the European Union.

Orhan Usein from the Roma Integration Team 2020 of the Regional Cooperation Council informed about the state of affairs and the involvement of the governments with regard to addressing antigypsyism in the new national Roma inclusion strategies.

Several Romani representatives presented their activities. Isabela Michalache (ERGO Network) informed about a new project on “Romani women – Power of change in the Western Balkans and Turkey” while Petrica Dulgheru, Executive Director Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI) talked about their activities in the Western Balkans and about Romani entrepreneurs as a driving force.

Isak Skenderi, Executive Director, Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo, informed about their activities in Kosovo, in particular focusing on the successful cooperation of Romani civil society with international actors and the government in combatting antigypsyism. Petar Antic talked about the project “Inclusion of Roma and other marginalized groups” that GIZ Germany implements in Serbia. The project includes a strong anti-discrimination focus and could serve as a promising practice for the region.

Finally Marija Sulejmanova of Romalitico in North Macedonia informed about the situation of Roma during the COVID 19 pandemic and their activities regarding the inclusion of Roma in assistance programmes to fight the pandemic.

The virtual conference was a first step in advocating for more activities in the Western Balkans to fight antigypsyism and to include the situation and position of Roma in all relevant policy fields. In this context, the active participation of the Roma is crucial and key to success and sustainability.

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, ERGO Network and Roma Active Albania will continue their respective activities and encourage not only the European Commission, but also individual Member States to step up their activities with Roma in the Western Balkans.

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