Council of Europe approves European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture
Yesterday the 47 member states of the Council of Europe approved a proposal for the creation of a new European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said that “The Council of Europe wants to help celebrate the contribution of Roma art, history, and tradition to our shared cultural heritage. The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture will spread greater understanding of Roma culture and challenge unhelpful stereotypes. I hope that over time it will become a source of pride and self-esteem for our European Roma citizens. The project will be Roma-led, with the Council of Europe and the Open Society Foundations providing funding, resources and political support.”
The Institute will be jointly established by the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, the Council of Europe, and the Open Society Foundations. Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, said, "The European Roma Institute will be a place to encourage the resilience and creative power of Roma communities across Europe, it will help create a sense of pride among Roma and respect for Roma among all Europeans.”
Dr. Nicoleta Bitu, a member of the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, said, "The establishment of the European Roma Institute is great news for all Roma who fight against racism, for artists, journalists, writers, linguists, historians and for all Europeans determined to create alternative narratives about Roma and counter the negative prejudice that poisons people’s minds and souls." And George Soros, chair of the Open Society Foundations, responded to the news by saying, “I welcome the decision by the Council of Europe to support a European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture and look forward to seeing it become a vibrant, creative hub allowing leading Roma thinkers to overcome European borders and act together against the discrimination Roma experience."
While many Romani figures have expressed their support for the creation of such an institution, critical voices have also been raised against the idea. Professor Yaron Matras of the University of Manchester argued in April on Romea.cz that such an institution runs counter to the effort to build Romani political representation in Europe, stating that "Instead, Roma are now being placed on stage as performers and entertainers -- where European audiences have always appreciated their presence, and where they seem to the majority to be less of a menace."
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