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ERIO news and activities

* #FIGHTROMAHATE: ERIO’s 4th Annual Workshop with Equality Bodies
ERIO partnered with EQUINET to organise its fourth annual workshop with Equality Bodies titled “Fighting hate speech against Roma: the Role of Equality Bodies”. The workshop was held at the Center for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism in Brussels on 16 October 2015. Present at the workshop were Equality Bodies from member states and accession countries, anti-discrimination experts and representatives of Roma and non-Roma civil society.

Ivan Ivanov, ERIO’s director, opened the workshop. He said that ERIO aims to provide a platform for the Equality Bodies and anti-discrimination experts to learn about each other's challenges and successful practices. Jana Balazova (DG Justice, European Commission) expressed the Commission’s view on the need to fight hate speech and the importance of the Equality Bodies in the advancement of Roma rights. She spoke on the European Commission’s efforts, specifically the infringement cases launched against the Czech Republic and Slovakia. However, Ms Balazova also stated that the Commission is limited in its capacity to investigate individual cases. The panels dealt with the topics of EU policies addressing hate speech and hate speech and stereotypes in a broader sense. Christel Mercadé (DG Justice, European Commission) addressed the legal EU instruments available to fight hate speech. Jeremy McBride (ECRI expert) presented ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation No. 15 on Combatting Hate Speech.

Moreover, it was expressed by the panelists that efforts need to take place on all levels and using criminal law should be a last resort. Joël Le Déroff (ENAR) said that the Equality Bodies should help citizens to access justice when there is a case of discrimination. Also, he urged them to engage with political actors, journalists and educational institutions. Furthermore, the topic of the Roma in the media was discussed by Jörg Gebhard (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities). It was said that the Roma are rarely asked their perspective and news reporting remains largely bias. According to Ronald Lucardie, president of ERIO’s board, to fight this discrimination hate speech has to be targeted at its source in social settings before it becomes socially acceptable. 

During the afternoon, two thematic workshops took place. The workshops focused on how Equality Bodies can tackle hate speech and how partnerships can aid them in achieving their aim. From the workshops it was found that there is difficulty in drawing the line between freedom of speech and hate speech. Moreover, there is a problem in the low number of hate speech cases against the Roma community. Building partnerships with other Equality Bodies, NGOs and governmental institutions is vital to further Roma rights. During the course of the day the participants were able to learn about good practices from other Equality Bodies. 

Event hashtag: #fightromahate
Event mini-site: www.erionet.eu/event-161015
* ERIO at HIRA conference 13 10 2015
On the 13th of October 2015 ERIO was an invited speaker at a conference titled: “Addressing Anti-Semitism Today: Education of Holocaust, Roma Genocide”. The conference was hosted by the Embassy of Hungary to Belgium and Luxembourg in cooperation with the Institute of Jewish Studies of Université Libre de Bruxelles in the framework of the Hungarian Presidency of IHRA.

The conference was opened by Zóltan Nagy, Ambassador of Hungary to Belgium and Luxembourg by Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky, State-Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Head of Hungarian International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Delegation. IHRA is currently chaired by Hungary and constitutes of 31 member states. The organization’s mission is promoting education concerning the Holocaust, fighting to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and fighting against Holocaust denial. In accordance with the Stockholm declaration, today’s speakers focused on the universal responsibility to fight Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

The first panel centred on the topic of the education of the Holocaust. Robin Sclafani, the Director of CEJI presented education to be the key to develop students’ full potential to be responsible citizens. Ms. Sclafani said that the Holocaust both inspired a unified and democratic Europe and also the international recognition of the state of Israel. Through learning about the Holocaust, students would learn about the destructiveness of hatred. The education system faces many problems when dealing with the Holocaust, ranging from a lack of teacher training to resilience by the students. She highlighted the danger of a single story being a real issue, as many students have shown generalized opinions about Jews. For students to understand empathy, develop critical thinking and be able to work together across differences, it is vital to not only teach the Holocaust to students but also to retrain teachers. Joel Kotek, Professor at ULB went on to elaborate on the importance of the Holocaust to Europe’s development. He agreed with Ms. Sclafani with reforming the education system. The lessons provided by the Holocaust were argued to be universal. Teaching about the Holocaust according to Mr. Kotek would teach children about diversity and tolerance, responsible citizenship and the use and abuse of power. He identified that there is no correct way to teach about the Holocaust. However, general guidelines could be made where the Holocaust can be taught not as a Jewish tragedy but an European tragedy in which not only Europeans were present in fighting it. Moreover, in teaching about the Holocaust the colonial experience should be included so that the minority student groups can feel that the lessons from their history are interlinked with that of the Holocaust. Both Ms. Sclafani and Mr. Kotek agreed that students should not exclusively learn about the Holocaust but instead learn through it so that the generations to come would not make the choice to commit the same mistakes that were committed in the past.

The second panel dealt with the Roma Genocide. Not surprisingly many links were drawn to the previous speeches concerning the Jewish community. The Roma Genocide that took place at the time of the Holocaust is not discussed as widely as the tragedy of the Jewish Genocide. Ivan Ivanov, the Executive Director of ERIO spoke on the efforts of ERIO in promoting awareness concerning the Roma Genocide through the project MemoROM (www.romasintiholocaust.eu). The Roma community did not only suffer during the Holocaust due to torture and mass killings of which the numbers are unknown; they also suffered before the Holocaust and are suffering today. The MemoROM project focussed on preserving the memory of the genocide and raising awareness about it. When speaking about the Roma genocide, it is difficult to find written evidence because of widespread illiteracy in the Roma community and their culture’s taboo concerning speaking about the dead. ERIO has built alliances with the media, academia, Holocaust experts, European Union institutions, local authorities and embassies to raise awareness. ERIO also has created a network for all the stakeholders interested in this issue. The MemoROM project was seen by the European Commission as a successful practice, for this reason ERIO is interested in wanting the project to spread throughout Europe. Mr. Ivanov went on to stress the importance of continuing to ally with the Jewish organizations to learn from their experiences in promoting awareness.

OTHER news

* Czech Government rejects bill to compensate victims of illegal sterilizations
Victims of illegal sterilizations perpetrated over decades apparently will not be receiving compensation from the Czech state according to a proposal developed by the team of Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD). Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD), after a nighttime cabinet session, told journalists early this morning that the Government disagrees with the proposal, but would not give details.    

According to the bill, the women concerned would have been compensated as much as CZK 300 000 (EUR 11 000). Prior to today's meeting, some ministries were already against the proposal. The ministries said victims had been able to sue for compensation in the courts and that it should be enough that the state has already expressed regret for the incidents and changed the rules according to which such surgeries are performed. Czech Deputy Human Rights Minister Martina Štěpánková said yesterday on Czech Television that objecting that the women concerned should sue is incorrect because the statute of limitations has expired in most cases.  

Štěpánková also expressed doubts as to whether the communist regime would ever have permitted court hearings of such cases. Moreover, many social barriers obstructed the afflicted women's access to the courts. Without the aid of nonprofit organizations, most of the forcibly sterilized women have been unable to figure out how to even bring a case. During the legislative commentary process prior to yesterday's meeting, several ministries raised objections to the bill. The Czech Agriculture Ministry said the amount of compensation is disproportionately high compared to compensation paid to victims of the communist regime, who received CZK 100 000 (EUR 4 000). The Czech Finance Ministry was concerned that some cases might fail to meet the "burden of proof".

Read more here
* Legal Fund Launched to Defend the Rights of Gypsies and Travellers
By IRR News Team

A legal fund has been launched by the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups (NFGLG) to challenge a ‘cruel and inhumane’ policy change to the treatment of Gypsies and Travellers.
Earlier this summer, a new policy was introduced with immediate effect which could have disastrous implications for Gypsies and Travellers. Under the Planning policy for traveller sites [sic], ‘Traveller’ has been redefined to exclude those who no longer travel permanently. And as such, those who can no longer travel for reasons such as ill health or old age will no longer be within the planning definition of Gypsy or Traveller. They will essentially be prevented from applying for planning permission for a site.
* Report on Roma and Sinti youth released at OSCE/ODIHR event in Warsaw

Roma and Sinti youth have the potential to become active and engaged citizens, according to the new report Activism, Participation and Security among Roma and Sinti Youth, launched on 1 October 2015 during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. The report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) presents the findings of the Roma and Sinti Youth Conference: Activism, Participation, and Security, which was organized by ODIHR and Serbian authorities in Belgrade in 2014 and brought together young Roma and Sinti from 17 OSCE participating States.

"Addressing the situation of Roma and Sinti youth is in line with the OSCE commitments made in the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE region and further reinforced by the 2013 OSCE Ministerial Council Decision focusing on Roma women, youth and children," said Mirjam Karoly, ODIHR Senior Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues. "Nevertheless, exclusionary mechanisms in education and employment stop many young Roma and Sinti from developing to their potential."

Participants in the launch event also highlighted the importance of involving youth from Roma and Sinti communities in public and political life. Silas Kropf a young Sinti activist from Germany said: "We have to raise awareness, to empower young people to fight discrimination and to be active citizens in their countries."

Read more
* The Rubik's Cube of Roma Rights
By John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus and Editor, LobeLog

The World Post. Many European organizations, the Open Society Foundation among them, have put a great deal of money and energy into addressing the issue of Roma. Some progress has been made. Roma parliamentarians, business people, journalists, lawyers, and academics have for instance pushed for equal rights for the Roma minority in their respective countries. They are the visible sign that policies of inclusion have worked.
And yet, for the vast majority of Roma, inclusion remains a distant goal. More than 70 percent of Roma live in poverty, and at best only 29 percent graduate from secondary school.

Larry Olomoofe is the racism and xenophobia advisor for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization of Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Warsaw. After working on Roma issues for many years, he likens the challenge to a Rubik's Cube. There are a lot of working parts, and it requires considerable coordination. You can make progress up to a certain point, and then it just seems impossible to get any further.

Read more here
* Far-Right Mayor In Hungary Cracks Down On Roma
By Charlotte Alfred

The World Post.OZD, Hungary (AP) -- The workers wake up in the middle of the night and walk miles to get to their jobs by 6 a.m. Taking up hoes and rakes, they toil for hours with little chance of rest. Soon surveillance cameras shaped like eyeglasses will track their every move. The workers are mostly Gypsy men and women, and their boss is a new far-right mayor who is cracking down on a group his Jobbik party often casts as an enemy. David Janiczak's leaderhip in Ozd gives clues into what Hungary might feel like if the surging Jobbik managed to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Orban's conservative Fidesz party - which is slumping in popularity.

Jobbik now runs about a dozen Hungarian towns and holds 12 percent of the seats in the national parliament. It is also the most popular party with young voters. If the trend continues, the party could pose a serious challenge to Fidesz in 2018 parliamentary elections.
Since Janiczak won power in Ozd - whose population of 34,000 is about one-third Gypsy - members of the minority who work on city-run farmland and other public projects have seen their work conditions get much harsher. The mayor has imposed longer hours, fewer breaks and soon the introduction of surveillance cameras to ensure that they don't slack off.

Read more here
* Anti-Gypsyism in the Czech and Slovak Republics: the Council of Europe remains ‘gravely concerned’
By Bernard Rörke

Despite some glimmers of hope and signs of progress, two reports published by the Council of Europe last Tuesday (October 13), paint a broader and quite frankly dismaying picture of persistent segregation of Roma in schools and housing, worrying levels of anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime, numerous reports of police brutality, and a general climate of intolerance among majority populations towards Roma in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Read more here


* ERIO’s 4th Workshop “Fighting hate speech against Roma: the Role of Equality Bodies” - CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

Brussels, 16 October 2015

The European Roma Information Office (ERIO), in close cooperation with the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET) invites you to attend a workshop with Equality Bodies and Roma representatives which will take place on 16 October 2015 at the Rue de Ligne 37, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.

Within the framework of the Race Equality Directive 2000/43 (RED) and national equality laws (legal provisions regulating media), the workshop will focus on how Equality Bodies can fight hate speech against Roma. By organising this workshop, we aim to:
- Foster discussion between different Equality Bodies, civil society and experts on effective practices and challenges to tackle hate speech against Roma
- Provide a platform for Equality Bodies to exchange good practices on hate speech (e.g. prevention, public awareness, litigation)
- Promote cooperation between Equality Bodies and civil society to jointly address hate speech against Roma

The workshop will be in English.
For 2016 ERIO is seeking for an External Information and dissemination assistant
The External Information and dissemination Assistant will contribute to the implementation of ERIO’s information program with helping the team in Brussels office with taking the following tasks:
  • To monitor online and other media and collect articles and information related to Roma issues and more specifically to the EU Roma-related policies and events, other intergovernmental policy making and actions, governmental and NGO activities concerning Roma rights and integration. 
  • To contribute to, and update the content of ERIO website and other information tools such as newsroom, face book and other information online pages. 
  • To collect country specific information related to the Roma situation in the accession countries, candidate and potential candidate countries to the EU, develop information packages to be submitted by ERIO to DG Enlargement of the European Commission or other bodies and institutions interested in this information. 
The candidate should have the following knowledge and skills:
  • To speak English and preferably Romanes
  • To hold minimum high school degree.
  • To have at least 3 years of experience in working with NGO
  • To have at least 3 years of experience in working in the field of Roma, human rights, minorities
  • To be aware of EU institutions and Roma related processes at EU level
  • To be able to work in team
  • To be able to take ad hoc tasks
  • To be able to conduct internet and field research
  • To apply for the position candidates should send CV and letter of interest and offer to ivan.ivanov@erionet.eu
The deadline for submission applications is December 04, 2015. The approved candidate will be approached by 15th December 2015. Starting date 01 January 2016.
For 2016 ERIO is seeking an External Advocacy Assistant 2016
The External Advocacy Consultant will help ERIO’s Brussels based headquarters to run success-fully
their advocacy, and networking activities. To do that consultant will have the following tasks:
  • Communicate and advocacy with EU, National and Local authorities
  • Communicate and advocate with ERIO Network members and other stakeholders
  • Communicate and advocate with media
  • Develop advocacy recommendations, statements and papers for EU, National and Local level
  • Conduct research of Roma related reports, policies and use it for advocacy actions
  • Participate in ERIOs advocacy initiatives 

The applicant should have the following knowledge and skills:
  • To speak English and preferably Romanes
  • To hold a university degree in social sciences
  • To have good advocacy and communication skills
  • To be able to work in team
  • To be able to take multiple tasks
  • To be able to do internet research
  • To be familiar with EU Roma related policy
  • To have at least three years of experience in working in an NGO
  • To have at least three years of experience in the field of Roma, human and minority rights
  • To have previous experience in communication and cooperation with authorities.

Applicant should submit CV and Letter of interest and offer to ivan.ivanov@erionet.eu
Deadline for submission of applications is December 04, 2015. The successful applicant will be informed by December 15th. Starting date January 01.2016
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
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