Weekly news

ERIO'S WEEKLY E-NEWS 03-12-2014

ERIO news and activities

* ERIO high level conference with local authorities
ERIO held its second conference in Brussels on the 27th November 2014 with local authorities. The aims of the conference were firstly, to identify the challenges to the effective implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies at the local level. Secondly, to discuss good practice examples of local authorities that have the potential to be effective in other countries. Finally, to discuss the role of civil society to overcome the challenges faced by local authorities. During the first panel, Axelle Cheney, (European Commission, DG Justice), stated that the Commission will now focus on the role of local authorities in achieving effective Roma social inclusion. She outlined three principle tools which could assist local authorities in this process. Firstly, the provision in the European Structural Fund that requires 20% of funds allocated to member states to be for social inclusion in the next programming period. Furthermore, she stated that next year the Commission will finance transnational cooperation between local authorities to improve Roma inclusion. Secondly, she emphasised the role of the Council recommendation on effective Roma integration measures. Every member state has committed to this recommendation which includes a specific section on the steps they should take to involve local authorities. Finally, she outlined the role of the national Roma contact points to assist in this process.

The discussion then moved to identifying practices of local authorities. Sergi Alegre Calero, Vice-Mayor of the municipality of El Prat de Llobregat, Catalonia, Spain discussed the steps the municipality had taken to improve the situation of Roma in San Cosme. He emphasised the role municipal pressure through regular inspections of public areas, health etc. had in achieving this. Furthermore, he emphasised the important role Roma participation had in this process. Ronald Lucardie, ERIO Board president concluded the conference by stressing the importance of establishing a continuing dialogue between local authorities and civil society.
* ERIO at the Commission’s interactive dialogue meeting on the 2015 Roma Platform

ERIO was invited to participate in a meeting organised by the European Commission on the 25 November in Brussels. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the format and content of the next European Roma Platform taking place on the 5 February 2015. The meeting was attended by representatives of civil society, international organisations, local authorities and different Directorate Generals of the Commission.

With its new mandate, the Commission has taken this opportunity to consult with and gather suggestions from civil society. The one-day meeting provided several opportunities for small interactive group discussions between participants to discuss about their experiences of previous Platforms, the purpose and topics of the next Platform as well as participants to invite. After gathering many diverse ideas, the Commission will work on the basis of the suggestions put forward by civil society in order to organise the 2015 Roma Platform.

* ERIO meeting with the British Ambassador for Romania
On Monday the 24th November, ERIO staff welcomed Mr Paul Brummell, British ambassador to Romania and Ms Fionn Craig, second secretary of the UK representation to the EU to the ERIO office. The purpose of the meeting was for the ambassador to discuss the situation of Roma in Romania. Ivan Ivanov, ERIO executive director discussed the state of implementation of the Romanian National Roma Integration Strategy and the steps the British embassy could take to assist in the engagement of Roma civil society in this process. ERIO discussed the steps it is taking to improve the capacity of Roma civil society. This aims to ensure they can actively participate in decision making processes at the national and local levels and effectively communicate to Roma their rights and duties under relevant EU legislation. During the meeting the potential for future collaboration between the British embassy and ERIO was discussed. Including through the organisation of ERIO roundtable meetings with Roma civil society, local authorities and other relevant actors.
* Art4Rom’s final conference in Brussels
ERIO participated in the final conference of the Art4Rom project which was held on 26 November in the PressClub Brussels Europe in Brussels.
The Art4Rom project (www.art4rom.eu) is a project financed by the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme promoting intercultural dialogue within Roma and non-Roma children through the practice of arts in school and non-school environments. This two-year project is a partnership of eight partners of which ERIO is part of covering five European countries: Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain.

This event brought together keynote speakers who reported on the results of the Art4Rom project. During its intervention, ERIO’s Executive Director emphasized that art is a tool to promote the integration of Roma and combat stereotypes. Through art one can change mentalities and raise awareness among children. Artists can be ambassadors for Roma integration since they can bring change and improve the relationship between Roma and non-Roma, added ERIO’s Executive Director. To conclude, he argued that the Art4Rom project should be taken as a good practice by the European institutions. Education by culture is necessary and concrete results are noticeable after a few years.

OTHER news

* Égalité?: Traveller and holocaust survivor talks of violence at the hands of the French police
By Amnesty International

27/11/2014 - Exactly 74 years ago today, 15-year-old French Traveller, Raymond Gûreme, was arrested along with his parents and six siblings and taken to a detention camp in Linas-Monthléry in Nazi-occupied France. He went on to experience years of abuse at the hands of the Nazis for being a Traveller. Now, seven decades later, he lives like many Travellers on the margins of society with discrimination still part of his daily life. He was recently beaten in a police raid. Raymond and his family were arrested on 27 November 1940 following an order by the German occupying forces that all ‘Gypsies’ in France had to be sent to detention camps. They were immediately transferred to Linas-Monthléry in the southern outskirts of Paris.

The life of the Roma community in Slovenia has improved in the past years, a 2012-2013 report has found. But while the document, adopted by the government last week, lists a number of improvements, especially in education, the Roma warn that their lives are not getting better but worse.

Read more here
* UK's Roma population much higher than previously thought
By Hayley Dixon, The Daily Telegraph

New research estimates that there are 200,000 Roma living in the UK, despite government claims two years ago that "relatively few" had settled in the country.
Britain has one of the largest Roma populations in western Europe as around 200,000 migrants have set up home in the country, a new study has found. The figures contradict government claims made in 2011 that “relatively few Roma citizens” were living in the UK. A report prepared for the Department of Children School and Families in 2009 estimated that there was around 49,204 Roma living in England.
The new research comes as the row continues over how many migrants will arrive in the country when restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria are relaxed in January.

Read more here
* Czech Government Approves Response to Brussels Denying Roma Discrimination in Schools
By ryz, Radiožurnál, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

The Czech Republic is objecting to the European Commission's charges that the state discriminates against Romani children in the schools. The country's official stance was approved today by the Government and Czech Radio's Radiožurnál station has a copy of the document.  

In September the Commission threatened to sue the Czech Republic over its high number of Romani children in special education. Brussels formally contacted the Czech Republic with a request for information regarding the alleged discrimination of Romani children in the education system.
The move was the first step in a proceeding that may end up before the EU Court of Justice. Prague was given two months to respond. 

Read more here
* Poll: Most Czechs believe Roma should be educated in regular schools
By ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Prague, 24/11/2014 - Romani children, according to most Czechs, should be educated in regular classes in the primary schools. A survey performed in September by the Center for Public Opinion Research (Centrum pro výzkum veřejného mínění - CVVM) found that 59 % of respondents agreed with such a statement while roughly one-third disagreed.

With respect to the integration of children with auditory and visual disabilities, 54 % of respondents are against integrating them into mainstream education, while 80 % are against integrating the mentally disabled into mainstream education. Most people agreed that pupils from both impoverished and wealthy families should be educated together in regular classes, with nine out of 10 respondents responding positively.   Approximately three-quarters of those surveyed approve of integrating children with physical disabilities and foreigners, while 60 % of respondents approve of integrating exceptionally gifted children. Romani children's integration received less support than that, but a positive attitude still predominated there.

Read more here
* Opinion: Roma and Local Politics
By John Feffer, Foreing Policy in Focus

"All politics is local," said legendary politician Tip O'Neill. But if O'Neill hadn't risen to the nationally prominent position of speaker of the House of Representatives, no one would remember this quotation, which comes from the time when he lost his only election -- to the Cambridge City Council in the 1930s.

Local elections in East-Central Europe, for instance, get very little notice outside the region. They don't attract a great deal of attention inside the region either. In Romania, for instance, turnout for local elections generally falls considerably below 50 percent -- and that's the case for most of the countries in the region. Except for some hotly contested mayoral seats, local elections don't generate a huge amount of interest.
And yet, these elections are the lifeblood of the democracy. They engage residents in issues that directly affect their lives. They serve as a training ground for politicians. And, in multiethnic countries, they both indicate the status of minorities and represent an opportunity to amplify previously.

Read more here
* City council scraps plans for Budapest Roma education centre
By MTI

26/11/2014 - The general assembly of the Budapest City Council decided on Wednesday to scrap plans for a Budapest Roma education and cultural centre and repay 900 million forints (EUR 2.9m) state subsidies received for the project.
The city council signed a contract with the ministry in charge of local governments in 2009 to set up a centre in the city’s 8th district by the end of 2014. The interior ministry informed the city council in November this year the support contract would be cancelled and that the government planned to set up a state-owned company to see to the task.

Opposition Socialist representative Csaba Horvath told the general assembly meeting today that the failure to set up the centre was a loss for Budapest and also for the Roma community. Democratic Coalition representative Erzsebet Gy Nemeth also said it was regrettable that such a decision had been made after six years.

Read more here

ANNOUNCEMENTS and events

* ERIO’s Screening/debate “The untold story: the Roma and Sinti Holocaust” on 12 December from 15:00 – 18:00 at the Centre Culturel, Room Capart, Avenue Charles Thielemans 93, 1150 Brussels.
The DVD includes interviews with Sinti Holocaust survivors and experts. One of the survivors, Zoni Weisz, will be a guest speaker and participants will have the opportunity to ask any question. Due to limited capacity, early registration by email is needed.  More information here
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