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.

 

Recommendations for national strategic Roma frameworks

Recommendations for the national strategic frameworks under the new EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation

On 7 October 2020, the European Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the new Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation for 2020-2030. The new framework is replacing the previous EU framework for national Roma integration strategies 2011-2020. The new framework is a positive step in the right direction; it shifts the perspective of the previous EU framework to a more balanced approach between social inclusion, human rights and empowerment objectives. It asks Member States and Enlargement countries to develop national strategic frameworks (NSFs), not just strategies, proposing an intersectional approach to tackle discrimination and defining intersectional discrimination as such for the first time. The new framework includes a good reference to antigypsyism using the spelling proposed by the Alliance against Antigypsyism. The framework addresses Enlargement countries on an equal footing and acknowledges the importance of the Western Balkan region for the EU, while the Neighbourhood countries are mentioned for the first time in relation to Roma inclusion under the current framework.

ERGO Network has developed a set of recommendations for national governments that should be prioritised when developing national strategic frameworks in the first months of 2021.

These recommendations have been developed based on ERGO Network’s previous policy and monitoring work in the area of equality, inclusion and participation of Roma and on valuable on-the-ground input from ERGO Network’s member organisations across Europe and from Roma and pro-Roma organisations members of the EU Roma Policy Coalition.

You can access the recommendations here.

The following organisations contributed to the recommendations:

  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • Open Society Public Policy Institute (OSEPI)
  • European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)
  • Phiren Amenca
  • European Network against Racism (ENAR)
  • Roma Active Albania
  • Roma Association Utrecht ,Netherlands
  • National federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, UK
  • La voix des Rroms, France
  • Slovo 21, Czech Republic
  • Integro Association, Bulgaria

Recommendations for national strategic Roma frameworks

Recommendations for the national strategic frameworks under
THE NEW EU ROMA STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR EQUALITY,
INCLUSION AND PARTICIPATION

This publication provides recommendations for national governments that should be prioritised when developing national strategic frameworks in the first months of 2021.
These recommendations have been developed by the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, based on the organisation’s previous policy and monitoring work in the area of equality, inclusion and participation of Roma and on valuable on-the-ground input from ERGO Network’s member organisations across Europe and from Roma and pro-Roma organisations members of the EU Roma Policy Coalition.

Download link

 

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.

Member States need to step-up their efforts

 

On June 27 2016 the European Commission published their Communication on  the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies in 2015 and reviews, for the first time, Roma integration measures put in place under the Council Recommendation 2013. The report is based on information submitted by Member States about their efforts made to integrate Roma, supplemented by input from civil society. ERGO Network concludes that the report clearly indicates a lack of action in crucial areas – also in those Member States with a significant number of Roma. Therefore, ERGO Network supports the urgent call of the European Commission on Member States to address the key priorities and step up their efforts.

In this note we present a brief examination of the European Commission’s (EC) assessment and indicate how it can be used by Roma Civil Society in their national advocacy.

The 2016 report consists of two parts: a summary ‘Communication’ – which presents a brief overview of the measures reported by the Member States, in thematic order- and a ‘staff working document’ that presents country-by-country assessments and highlights examples of practices in the various thematic areas.

In the country fiches the European Commission presents the information provided by the Member States along with its own assessment. In many cases, the assessment is critical and points to a lack of action or indicates that Member States still face considerable challenges to realize the potential of the measures they reported. Therefore, although in the first part of the report (the ‘communication’) the overview tables appear praise the Member States for taking certain measures, a closer look at the individual assessment of each country’s performance, shows a much more critical perspective. This critical perspective is also clearly reflected in the Conclusions (pp. 16 – 18) that call on the Member States to urgently address a number of key priorities.

In this note, ERGO Network points to a number of conspicuous gaps in Member States’ performance. Also, we present some critical remarks on the reporting process and framework. It aims to invite ERGO Network members and other civil society actors to highlight the Commission’s assessment and recommendations before national governments, and to attentively read the country-fiches (pp. 37 – 98) to verify the information reported by Member States and, where necessary, supplement the Commission’s assessment with additional critical notes.

Find the full report here: Member states need to step up their efforts

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National frameworks – ERGO Network

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