2nd Workshop with Equality Bodies

27 September 2013, Brussels
ERIO organised its second annual workshop with Equality Bodies and Roma representatives which was held on 27 September in Brussels.

Within the framework of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) and the Race Equality Directive 2000/43, this workshop fostered discussion between different Equality Bodies, Roma representatives and key experts on effective practices and challenges to be overcome. Participants were able to exchange information and ideas about anti-discrimination issues in their own country and discuss challenges and opportunities when it comes to the implementation of the NRIS and the Race Equality Directive.

The workshop was opened by Ivan Ivanov, Executive Director of ERIO, who noted the specific work needed to address the particular discrimination of Roma, and emphasised the importance of Equality Bodies and civil society working together. Anne Gaspard, Director of EQUINET, then explained the role and work of EQUINET in addressing the discrimination of Roma. François Sant’Angelo, Lawyer for the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism followed by drawing attention to the significant challenges facing Roma, particularly widespread prejudice and denial of full access to their rights as EU citizens. Finally, Jana Balazova from the European Commission spoke about the need for EU member states to appropriately implement both the National Roma Integration Strategies and other anti-discrimination legislation in order to convincingly fight discrimination of Roma.
Two rounds of discussion with the Equality Bodies then identified a number of key challenges that they face in the fight against discrimination of Roma. Underreporting of experiences of discrimination was identified as a significant issue. A range of reasons for this trend were identified, including lack of trust in authorities and Equality Bodies, and a lack of knowledge and awareness amongst Roma communities of their rights. In addition, a number of Equality Bodies reported that the economic crisis and subsequent budget cuts have placed constraints on their work. Further, widespread austerity measures have left majority society in a number of states hostile towards the prospect of money being used in programs aimed at the integration of a minority group. Finally, a vigorous discussion took place on the singularity of Roma racism and discrimination. It was observed that in many states, racism towards Roma is freely expressed as a socially legitimate phenomenon, and that a change in attitudes must be the first step in achieving equality.
In conclusion, the need for Equality Bodies and civil society to work together and exchange information was stressed, as was the vital need for Roma to be involved as active participants in the process of combating their discrimination. 
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