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ERIO news and activities

* ERIO’s Recommendations to the Slovak EU Presidency
Slovakia assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union between July-December 2016. ERIO calls on the Slovak Presidency to commit to Roma’s rights and equal treatment and ensure that their rights are guaranteed and respected by taking into consideration the following recommendations:
1. Ensure stronger political will to promote Roma integration and equal treatment
 We welcome the fact that the Presidency will focus on Roma integration. We ask the Presidency, through the proposed Council conclusions, to urge member states to adopt horizontally anti-discrimination legislation in the different fields (i.e. education, health, housing and employment) of their national system and implement their anti-discrimination legislation at national level. Additionally, all necessary measures should be taken to combat increased levels of hate speech and anti-Gypsyism, the latter being the main cause of discrimination and marginalisation of Roma.
2. Strengthen the social dimension in employment policies to ensure racism-free labour markets
We ask the Presidency to use the opportunity of the proposed Council conclusions on the Youth Guarantee to ensure that such measure does not reproduce the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion of disadvantaged youth, such as the Roma. To ensure that the Youth Guarantee is inclusive and targets all youth, some key challenges need to be overcome: tackle discrimination and stereotypes of employment services and employers by providing cultural sensitivity training; provide assistance for registration process by facilitating access and providing mediation services to assist those who need; and promote ethnic data collection.
In light of its commitment to focus on the European pillar of social rights, the Presidency should ensure that the Pillar includes social key principles and values addressing people in disadvantaged situations such as the Roma.
3. Make sure the refugee situation does not push Roma issues to the side-line
The current refugee situation is having a strong impact on Roma inclusion at different levels. It is spreading panic and a feeling of insecurity which is fuelled by extreme right nationalist and populist parties resulting in increased hate speech and racism towards Roma.  Moreover, Roma inclusion slipped down the political agenda as many officials are using the refugee situation as an excuse to stop or delay the implementation of the 2013 Council recommendation on effective Roma integration measures. We ask the Presidency to urge member states and local authorities to strengthen their commitment to Roma inclusion which should be considered as a priority in their political agenda and not as in competition with the refugee situation.
4. Ensure greater efforts from enlargement countries on Roma integration
As a consequence of the current migration crisis and Brexit, EU enlargement will most probably be delayed and will not take place soon. Since a large Roma population lives in many of the EU candidate countries and their situation is worse than in the rest of Europe, this community will be greatly affected by current developments. Thus, we urge the Presidency to ensure the commitment of candidate countries to meet the EU acquis communautaire of promoting Roma integration and to pressure them to transpose and implement the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies at national level or to adapt existing national strategies to European Commission’s and Council Recommendation’s requirements as well as the Race Equality Directive 2000/43 and the Framework Directive 2000/78. The transposition of the EU Framework and anti-discrimination legislation would be facilitated with their EU membership where they would directly benefit from opportunities to EU funds to effectively implement their Roma national strategies.     
* ERIO Conference “Strengthening Roma’s political participation
​On 10 June, ERIO in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee organised a conference “Strengthening Roma’s political participation” in the EESC in Brussels. The conference aimed to advance Roma’s political participation at the local, national and European level, and to offer an opportunity for stakeholders and experts to engage in dialogue on how best to increase Roma’s participation and representation in politics.
Ivan Ivanov (ERIO Executive Director) opened the conference and reminded participants about the on-going need to promote and ensure Roma political participation. “Roma political participation is still low in the EU: with an estimated Roma population of 6 million, one would expect 2% of political representatives to be from the Roma community. However, this number has not yet been achieved in 2016”, he noted. Mr Ivanov explained that some barriers and obstacles are still blocking Roma involvement in politics as voters and as representatives. He believes Roma should take themselves the responsibility and not leave it to other parties or politicians. Moreover, he pointed out the need to make Roma political participation possible in public life and in politics and give them access to decision-making processes and institutions.
Georges Dassis (EESC President) said that Roma should be involved at all stages of the decision-making in order to achieve effective policies that can improve their situation within the EU. They should be strongly involved in the development of the national strategies from the preparation, implementation to the evaluation, he added. This view was shared by Dora Husz (EC, DG JUST) who stated that Roma should be involved from development to the implementation of policies including policy review at all levels.  
Candy Sheridan (Norfolk County Council Planning Committee Chair) shared her story and the challenges she faced to get involved in politics as an Irish Traveller woman. She considers that Roma should be actively and directly involved in politics and use their right to vote for to influence the political sphere by voting out politicians who support anti-Gypsyism. According to Nadezhda Mouzykina (National Democratic Institute), Roma representation is still disproportionate at both European and national levels, although the situation at the local level is improving. She identified barriers that could explain low Roma’s political participation: the lack of political will; the political system and mechanisms that make difficult for Roma to compete; the manipulation by mainstream parties of Roma, putting on their list to secure votes; the general mistrust of Roma after years of segregation; the technical difficulties such as the lack of documents, the lack of infrastructures and of voter education and some issues such as voter intimidation or vote buying; and the disunity among Roma community. Anna Striethorst (Open Society Foundations) stressed the importance of Roma activism   for Roma inclusion. Some potential solutions for improving Roma political participation pointed out included: offering education to the citizens, through for example campaigns inviting Roma to use their rights to vote, or give support to organizations that educate voters; preparing candidates for office and assistance them while in office; engaging a stable dialogue (at least 2 years before the elections) with Roma voters for differentiating simple mobilization from real participation.
According to MEP Benedek Jávor the main problem with Roma political participation and representation is the inherited anti-political sentiment. Unfortunately, Roma might think they have nothing to do in politics. It is crucial to change this way of thinking. Marta Garcia Fidalgo, (EC, DG NEAR) expressed the need for Roma to get involved, to be present in the institutions, such as the European Parliament. Having Roma representatives could help fighting discrimination and overcome the lack of political will, she said. According to her, Roma need to be part of mainstream policies in order to solve problems, and for this they should be empowered and supported. Massimo Toschi (FRA) presented on the right to political participation of Roma as specified in EU and international laws. He explained that there are no legal barriers to political participation of Roma but that the main problem is the implementation of the existing legislation.
Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia, as the first Roma MEP, considers the voting system as the main obstacle for more Roma to get involved in politics. Taking the example of Spain, he criticized the geographical restriction of the electoral system which allows voters to vote only for candidates in their region. The first Roma woman to be elected MEP, Lívia Járóka, underlined the importance of learning-process for better involvement of Roma in politics and that Roma political participation should be an everyday process, supported by Roma and non-Roma. According to Madi Sharma (EESC), since Roma is one of the main issues nowadays in Europe, the main actor and speaker should be Roma. For her, one of the barriers Roma face is the lack of know-how in politics. Thus, Roma need to be empowered and their access to social and economic rights should be ensured which in turn will give them access to political rights. 
See photos of the event here: http://www.erionet.eu/event-100616

OTHER news

Discrimination against Roma in Albanian Children’s home

​Budapest, Tirana, 7th July 2016: If you are one of the children institutionalised in the care home for children in Shkodra, you are probably Roma or Egyptian. More than half the children there belong to these minority groups, which make up only a fraction of Albania’s overall population. To be a Romani or Egyptian child in state care means a childhood apart from your family with little to no chance of returning home. It also means being exposed to a higher risk of abuse.

The ERRC, along with the Centre for Legal Civic Initiatives, the Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, and Tirana Legal Aid Society, submitted a complaint to the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination on 7th July detailing how the overrepresentation of these groups of children constituted indirect discrimination against them. This comes after a draft report from the Ombudsman released on the 30th June which found serious violations and abuses committed by those running the School Children’s Home, Shkodra. Among many other failings, they are treating the Romani and Egyptian children living there in a discriminatory way.

Read more here
* Czech Republic: Roma report racism to Facebook after calls for "gypsies" to be set on fire are posted 
By František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

A person presenting herself on Facebook as "Bára Fictumová" now awaits criminal investigation after two Romani people, the well-known activist Jan Čonka and journalist Patrik Banga, filed a report of criminal activity over a post on that page. Fictumová has sadly now become famous on Facebook by posting the following message: "All gypsies should be set on fire just like Natálka, what sense does her life make when she is burned, fingerless, incapable and even blacker than before?" The remarks were posted in a group called "Who Wants Me?" ("Kdo chce mne“).

Photographs of the victims of the April 2009 arson attack on a Romani family's home in the Czech town of Vítkov, to which the post referred, were posted beneath the text. Banga and Čonka  are convinced that three different offenses have been committed through this post:  Defamation of an ethnic, national, racial or other group; incitement to hatred against a group; and approving of a felony.

Read more here
Report onto the Opinions and Aspirations of Gypsies and Travellers in Relation to education Provision
By Isaac Blake 

​The Romani Cultural & Arts Company is unique as an organisation. We are 100% Gypsy, Roma & Traveller led and managed; staffed by the very community our organisation seeks to serve. We have always been ideally-placed to directly consult with our community on matters of significance. Our deep connection enables trust and a common understanding with the GRT communities that is unrivalled. This is why we are so successful at the ground-breaking work we do with Gypsies and Travellers.
In January 2016, we were very lucky to receive a grant to conduct some research on Gypsy & Traveller caravan sites throughout Wales, focused on gaging the opinions and aspirations of some of the most marginalised, vulnerable and abandoned members of Welsh society. As, I am sure you are fully aware, the gap between Gypsies and Travellers in terms of educational attainment, employment, housing, income, life chances and mortality and the rest of Wales remains significant with many young people abandoned and failed by schools and local authorities who in some cases, make no provision for site-based children at all and are often even totally unaware of the actual numbers of children and young people living on local authority sites.
I am pleased to attach the brief report from the consultation programme that took place between January and May 2016. In particular, I draw attention to page 59 onwards. Please also forward the report onto any contacts that it might interest.

Isaac Blake www.romaniarts.co.uk


Join the The European Roma Media Network!

The European Roma Media Network was an outcome of ERIO’s conference “Media: a key tool to fight hate speech and anti-Gypsyism” organised on 23 June 2015 in Brussels. The ultimate goal of this informal Network is to join efforts to invert the role of the media as a tool to fight anti-Roma sentiments and anti-Gypsyism. The media has a crucial role in combating racism and stereotypes about the Roma. This can be achieved with an ethical and critical journalism which aims to raise awareness and provide a greater understanding regarding Roma issues.
The role of the Network is to provide an online platform for different stakeholders to exchange information and ideas about good practices and to discuss possible challenges and opportunities in tackling negative stereotypes and hate speech in the media. A parallel objective of the Network is to monitor and react to hate speech and negative portrayal of Roma in the media and address the responsible authorities.Who can join? Members of the Network should be journalists (Roma and non-Roma), media experts or NGOs working on media.

Want to apply for membership?
To apply for membership please fill in this registration form and send it to office@erionet.eu
European Platform for Roma Inclusion 2016 - Online consultation

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion will take place on 29-30 November. Within this context the European Commission is launching an online consultation process which will contribute to establishing the agenda for the European Platform for Roma inclusion.
The online consultation process has been preceded by operational-level discussions and policy reflections with various relevant stakeholders (Civil Society Organizations, National Roma Contact Points etc.) resulting in the Agenda items proposed in the online consultation form. As you know, the European Platform for Roma Inclusion was reformed in 2015 to ensure a more participatory process. Last year's Platform focused on two topics: multi-stakeholder cooperation and fighting discrimination and anti-Gypsyism. More details about this can be found on: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/events/roma-platform-2015/index_en.htm
For this year's Platform, the European Commission (in its mission of fostering a balanced and inclusive consultation process) puts forward only the topics which have been commonly identified by the consulted stakeholders. Consequently, the Commission now invites you to identify the topics which you consider of most relevance within the context of the European Platform for Roma inclusion taking into account the political priorities both at European and National level with a focus on Roma needs at local level. We kindly ask you to disseminate the survey link to as many stakeholders as possible (including National, Regional and Local Authorities, Civil Society and Roma Communities).

Online consultation: https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/EU_ROMA_Platform2016
Please bear in mind that the deadline for submission is 9th September, 2016.
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