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June 28, 2022



ERGO Network: Roma Week 2022 at the EP was the biggest meeting yet between EU politicians and Romani representatives

23.6.2022 11:26
Roma Week 2022 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. (PHOTO:  ERGO Network)
Roma Week 2022 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. (PHOTO: ERGO Network)

After holding Roma Week 2021 online, this year's Roma Week at the European Parliament (EP) was attended by MEPs, by representatives of EU institutions, intergovernmental organizations, international and national nonprofits, and youth activists from the Romani population. The meeting carried on the work of previous Roma Weeks and reviewed EU Member States' national strategies for the inclusion of Romani people. 

Those attending the meeting called on both the European Commission (EC) and the EU Member States to prioritize combating antigypsyism as well as the economic and social inclusion of Romani people EU-wide. The ERGO Network of nonprofit organizations run by Romani people was a co-organizer of the event once again. 

Roma Week 2022 was held under the patronage of the Council of the European Union, the EC and the EP. The following MEPs gave their auspices to it as well: Romeo Franz, Peter Pollák, Anna Júlia Donáth, Terry Reintke, Cornelia Ernst, Klára Dobrev, Sergey Lagodinsky, Juan Fernando López Aguliar, Rasmus Andresen, Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, Monika Vana, Thomas Waitz and Carmen Avram.

The very beginning of the meeting was symbolically scheduled for 16 May, when Romani people commemorate Roma Resistance Day. In her opening speech, ERGO Network director Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová stressed that the bravery of the Romani prisoners who faced oppression in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp is an inspiration to the many Roma who still have to face racism and discrimination today.

Decade to Counter Antigypsyism 

The second day of the conference called for a Decade to Counter Antigypsyism in the EU and the Western Balkans as an innovation on the inclusion of Romani people in strategic terms. The discussion dealt with the current challenges posed by modern antigypsyism and the forms it takes in the European Union, Turkey, and the Western Balkans. 

The relationship between antigypsyism and public policies was addressed and ways to achieve the equality, inclusion and participation of Romani people in public life were also proposed. The conference dealt with how antigypsyism is conceived of in the new EU Roma Strategic Framework to 2030 and paid special attention to the governments of countries seeking to join the EU.

The importance of an extensive advocacy campaign to raise awareness of Romani identity and of the fact that antigypsyism is a specific form of racism were also discussed. A campaign called the "Decade to Counter Antigypsyism" has been created by the ERGO Network to follow the timeframe of the EU Roma Strategic Framework to 2030 and offers the public new measures and new narratives for combating antigypsyism.

Romani civil society monitoring fulfillment of the EU Roma Strategy

The third event of Roma Week focused on how to make sure the local, regional and national funding for Romani equality, inclusion and participation is both adequate and effectively used. It was co-organized by the Central European University Democracy Institute, ERGO Network, and Fundación Secretariado Gitano (Spain) together with the Autonómia Foundation, Nevo Parudimos, the Roma Civil Monitoring Consortium, RROMA, and MEP Romeo Franz. 

This part of the conference emphasized the importance of Romani civil society in monitoring fulfillment of both the EU Roma Strategy and national Roma Strategies  for achieving equality, inclusion and participation by Romani people in public life. The event provided examples from EU Member States on the allocations of funding - or failures to allocate funding - for national priorities under the Roma Strategies, as well as how to acheive synergies with the broader funding of national programs.

MEP Franz commissioned a new guide, developed by the EP's Greens/EFA Group, on how Romani civil society can best benefit from the new EU funding period 2021-2027, which was presented at the event, as was the latest report produced for the ERGO Network by Marko Pecak on funding approaches from the ground up and the grassroots involvement of Romani people. That work was financed by the EEA and Norway Grants' Fund for Regional Cooperation.

Those presentations were followed by the ceremony for the "Most Roma-Friendly Mayor Award", which took place on the afternoon of 18 May. This award is part of the advocacy underway at local level through a project called "Romani Women - Power of Change" in Turkey and the Western Balkans, which is funded by DG NEAR and delivered by the ERGO Network.

The project mobilizes Romani communities in the region and strengthens their abilities to engage in dialogue with local public officials. It is underway in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. 

The project selection panel chose one mayor from each country, who received the honors in Brussels during Roma Week. The ceremony was organized by MEP Romeo Franz and was opened by Mr. Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement.

Zero tolerance of segregation

The final program during Roma Week that was co-organized by the ERGO Network was called "Towards zero segregation in education in Europe”. This event was moderated by Damaris Uzoma, Coordinator of the European Parliament's Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI); by Belén Sánchez-Rubio, Head of the International Department at the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (Spain); and by ERGO's Senior Policy Officer Isabela Mihalache.

Challenges to preventing, combating and sanctioning segregation in education at the national and pan-European levels were discussed, and an approach that would be long-term and sustainable was proposed for collaborations aimed at achieving zero segregation of Romani people in education. Other events during Roma Week also presented recommendations on how to combat antigypsyism, how to define the place of Romani people and communities in the digital and green agendas, or focused on challenges facing Romani women and Romani youth, on the representation of local communities of Romani people, and on the language of Romanes.

Finally, according to the ERGO Network, meeting in person for this Roma Week after being limited to meeting online during 2021 was not just enlightening, but also inspiring and motivating. The in-person interactions highlighted the need for cooperation between stakeholders on different levels in order to bring about real change in the situations of Romani communities across Europe.

agw, ERGO Network
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