Weekly news


ERIO news and activities

* ERIO’s  Mission to Bulgaria with European Commission Delegation
On 21-23 April, the European Roma Information Office and network members joined the delegation of the European Commission (EC) in a fact-finding mission in Bulgaria. The goal of this mission was the EC delegation to visit Roma settlements and projects in the cities of Devnia, Varna, Kavarna and Sofia. This involved meeting with Roma activists and local authorities and collecting information on successful Roma integration initiatives. These meetings provided the possibility for Roma integration stakeholders to discuss the main issues and way forward, based on the experience of local authorities and civil society. ERIO network members voiced their concerns and views with national authorities and the Commission. They told the delegation that there is progress at national level but at local level, there is low awareness of the National Roma Integration Strategy and its implementation. Another concern raised during the different visits was that Roma activists are rarely involved in consultation with local authorities on Roma integration actions. The delegation of the Commission consisted of representatives of several DGs including Justice, Employment and Social Affairs, Regional Policies, Agriculture, Education and Culture, Health and Food and Safety. They all provided information on the Commission’s future initiatives concerning Roma as well as the possible funds which Bulgarian authorities could use for the successful implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy.

Devnia municipality presented a successful project on housing and employment which provided a number of Roma families with social hosing in a newly built block of flats, as well as employment in EC supported programs. In Varna, ERIO and representatives from the Commission visited schools with successful educational and integration practices for Roma children.

On 24 April, the EC held a bilateral dialogue with the Bulgarian government. Since 2012, the Commission has had bilateral dialogues with several European national authorities involved in implementing the National Roma Integration Strategy. During the Commission’s discussion with Bulgaria, some consideration was given to the challenges faced and progress made in the implementation of the Bulgarian National Roma Integration Strategy.
As part of its work plan, ERIO continues to visit countries with larger Roma population to monitor the implementation of their National Roma Integration Strategies.
* SMILE: Training teachers about the Roma culture, history and language
The last SMILE training session for primary school teachers in Brussels took place on 15 September. The last session was on the Romani language. In addition of having a basic understanding of its historical dimension, teachers learned some Romani vocabulary useful to use with their Roma pupils. These activities are done within the context of the SMILE project financed by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme and deals with the social inclusion of Roma children within the school context.
View photos of the training here.
Visit the project website: www.romasmile.com
* ERIO is working on the setting-up of a European Roma Media Network
The European Roma Media Network is 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 conference gathered representatives of EU institutions and Roma and non-Roma media professionals. Participants discussed that media represent a strong communication tool in shaping the opinion and behaviour of Europeans on a daily basis. Roma are subject to discriminatory and racist discourses in the media whose reports continues to identify them as ‘outsiders within’ and as a threat to the fabric of the European society. Media tends to reinforce and reproduce existing stereotypes of the Roma and constructs them as useful scapegoats in times of economic crisis. These representations greatly influence individual attitudes and strengthen racist discrimination against this community, prejudice, xenophobia and even incitement to ethnic hatred.
During the conference, media experts and Roma civil society representatives agreed that there is an urgent need to address these issues by establishing a well-coordinated Roma media network. Due to the significant impact of media on European societies, the Network should promote a special approach on informing about Roma, who constitute the largest European ethnic minority. The ultimate goal of the Network will be to join efforts in inverting the role of the media as a tool to fight anti-Roma sentiment 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 will be also to provide a platform for different stakeholders to exchange online 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 will be to react on media hate speech and negative portrayal of Roma and address the responsible authorities. Members of the Network will include journalists (Roma and non-Roma) and media experts.

OTHER news

* European Commission Public Consultation on EU Citizenship
European citizens have a number of important rights attached to their EU citizenship status, such as the right to move and reside freely in the EU; or the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European and municipal elections in another EU country where you live, under the same conditions as citizens of that country. The European Commission is working to safeguard and strengthen these rights, as well as make EU citizens' lives easier when they exercise these rights. In this context, the Commission has launched a public consultation to gather citizens' opinions as well as experiences on matters relating to EU citizenship rights, common values and democratic participation.
As a network/civil society organisation, you can have also your say, on behalf of your members, on what more the European Commission could do to make easier the exercise of EU rights. Even though some of the questions are primarily addressed to individuals, e.g. referring to the personal experiences of the respondents, civil society organisations or other stakeholders may also reply to these questions on the basis of the common experiences of their members.
Only a few questions are mandatory so you can choose to respond to the questions that are more interesting to you.
You can fill out the questionnaire online from 14 September to 7 December 2015 at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/EUCitizenship. Feel free to pass on the word to your peers who may wish to participate and express their views.
* France Destroys Large Roma Camp Near Paris
By VOA News

On 25 August French police dismantled one of country's biggest and oldest Roma camps, north of Paris, promising to find shelter for all evacuees. As many as 300 men, women and children were ordered to pack up and move out. Many of the women are pregnant or caring for babies.
The evacuation was peaceful, even if some of the residents complained that they are now homeless. Authorities gave out hotel vouchers to the most vulnerable residents and said they will help others find shelters. A court ordered the camp in Seine-Saint-Denis closed down and destroyed.
"This camp started in 2009 and it is potentially hazardous," said a police official. "It's unsanitary, there's no water...the electricity there is provided by generators, which pose a fire hazard."
Pro-Roma groups accuse the government of doing nothing to help Roma families. They say destroying the camp takes the Roma far from their schools, jobs and health care facilities.
Roma complain they are often the target of discrimination. They say they are unjustly accused of crimes and denied job and educational opportunities in cities across Europe.

Read more here
* 'Gypsy' No More: Romani Music Festival Combats Stereotypes
By Matt Saincome

Romani culture is often romanticized and stereotyped; depicted on reality TV shows, news reports, and movies as either carefree traveling musicians or untrustworthy criminals, Roma are rarely given the opportunity to present their culture to the public on their own terms.
"For too long people have just danced and thought, 'Oh, these happy Gypsies,' well, it's actually quite the opposite," Carol Silverman, professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon and board member of Voice of Roma, said. "This music grows out of discrimination. It grows out of a long history of marginalization, and we're lucky Roma have preserved, and adapted, and brought their culture through the centuries for us to enjoy — but it's up to us understand Romani history and music in context."
Voice of Roma, a human rights advocacy organization dedicated to the promotion of Romani cultural arts and traditions, holds its 18th annual Herdeljezi festival Saturday, May 2. The one-day-only spring holiday of renewal and fertility aims to put the music of the Romani people in its historical and cultural context by emphasizing the musicians' biographies.

Read more here
* European Manifesto of EGAM: A Question of Dignity : Moving the pig farm from the site of the Lety concentration camp
By Benjamin Abtan, Président du MouvementAntiracisteEuropéen - EGAM

There is, at the heart of Europe, an industrial pig farm that stands on the site of a concentration camp.

On the fence of this farm, there is a sign marked with the EU flag; the farm, in fact, receives European subsidies through the Common Agricultural Policy. The difficult nature of the access to the site - which obliges a half-hour walk through the tall grass, sometimes through mud, even in the height of summer, in order to reach the clearing that borders the site on which stands a sole explanatory panel - contributes to the erasing of the memory of the crime, and impedes the transmission of history. The presence of pigs, with their filth and sickening odour which dominates, stains the memory of those lost, and is an assault on their dignity and that of their descendants.

It is Lety, in the Czech Republic, around one hour south of Prague by car. A camp established there in 1939 to detain various prisoners was turned into a concentration camp exclusively for Roma in July 1942, until its closure in August 1943. Hundreds of Roma were reduced to forced labor and were deported to their deaths, above all to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

This “locucide,” referring to the crime against the site, resonates with the genocide of which the Roma were victims during the Second World War. It echoes the persecution and discrimination to which the Roma are still subjected in Europe today. It symbolizes the absence of knowledge regarding this part of European history.
Read more here


* ERIO’s 4th Workshop “Fighting hate speech against Roma: the Role of Equality Bodies” - Brussels, 16 October 2015 - CONFERENCE INVITATION

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.

Places are limited. Please confirm participation as soon as possible, latest by 25 September 2015.
Register by email/phone by sending your name, surname and the organisation you represent to:
Tel: +32 (2) 733 3462
* Eurodiaconia 2015 Roma Hearing,  ‘Roma Inclusion: Exploring the gender dimension’ - Brussels, 21 October 2015

Eurodiaconia is organising the Hearing  ‘Roma Inclusion: Exploring the gender dimension’ on 21 October 2015 in Brussels. The key aim of the 2015 Roma Hearing is to raise awareness about the particular challenges Roma women are facing across Europe when it comes to accessing education or employment, and making their voices heard in the political arena. By discussing the state of play, positive practices and next steps, we hope to connect stakeholders from different backgrounds (institutional actors, representatives of Roma communities, local authorities and civil society representatives) and provide space for fruitful reflection on how the gender dimension of Roma inclusion could be better taken into account in policy-making, EU funding initiatives and concrete projects

Read more here
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