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From the Balkans to the Baltics, Roma groups express support for a European Roma Institute

4.6.2015 21:10
The Roma flag.
The Roma flag.

During the past week, three declarations of support for the establishment of a European Roma Institute (ERI) have been issued by Roma from very different parts of Europe, in English, through the Roma Virtual Network listserv. Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Foundations' Roma Initiatives Office (RIO), also discussed the idea of the ERI at a conference in Prague last week as part of the Khamoro World Roma Festival.

The future location of the ERI, which is being discussed as a joint project of the Alliance for the ERI, the Council of Europe, and the Open Society Foundations, has yet to be determined. During the Khamoro conference, the information was shared that some member countries of the Council of Europe are not in favor of the idea.

Roma community in Albania

The Amaro-Drom Union organization in Albania published its support through the Roma Virtual Network listserv on 3 June. "We Roma are the largest minority in Europe,"

Executive Director Skender Veliu writes in the statement.

"Romani people have contributed to the world cultural heritage of different countries of Europe and beyond. Roma have managed to preserve their culture, tradition and language. We strongly support the integration of Roma into society through preserving their identity," the statement reads.

The organization has partnered in the past with the Roma Education Fund and the Terre des Hommes Foundation, Albania. It has convened national-level events on integrating members of the Romani minority into society while simultaneously preserving their cultural identity.

Roma community in Bulgaria

A group calling itself the National Coalition "Intellect"- Bulgaria has also expressed its support for the ERI. In a statement signed 27 May by more than 20 individuals from various organizations, the group says it expects the institute to be a vehicle for Romani self-determination.

"For centuries our image has been formed under the powerful influence of historically shaped stereotypes and prejudices," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, due to the wrongly addressed issues of our community, all these stereotypes and prejudices have intentionally or unintentionally been reinforced nowadays. It is time for we, the Roma, to take responsibility for our image and lives."

The signatories to the Bulgarian statement include Daniela Mihaylova of the Equal Opportunities Association in Sofia, Demir Yanev of the Roma Solidarity Foundation in Petrich, and Mitko Dokov of the Regional Roma Union in Bourgas. A member of the Bar Association of Sofia, Alexander Kashumov, is also a signatory.

Roma community in Latvia

The declaration of support from Latvia, posted on 3 June to the Roma Virtual Network, is also phrased as a declaration of support "on behalf of [the] International Roma Union". In the statement, Normunds Rudevičs, identifying himself as a High Commissioner of the IRU, proposes specific ways in which the IRU and the Roma Community of Latvia are prepared to support the idea.

Rudevičs says in the statement that the community is ready to help convene conferences on the subject of Roma culture and to provide the ERI with resources. He also suggests that it should open a branch in Riga. 

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Aktuality, CEE, IRU, European Roma Institute



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