Weekly news

ERIO'S WEEKLY E-NEWS 07-02-2013

ERIO news and activities

* ERIO met with the Irish EU Presidency
On Wednesday the 6th February 2013, ERIO met with a representative from the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The meeting followed up ERIO’s submission of recommendations to the Presidency, with the aim of ensuring that the current Presidency keeps the Roma issue on the agenda and briefs ERIO on its planned activities in the field of human rights and anti-discrimination. Some of these activities will be:

Review of the Council Framework Directive on combating racism and xenophobia
Given that fundamental rights are a priority of the Presidency, ERIO asked what developments were planned in the area. We were informed that the Framework Directive on combating racism and xenophobia is due for review before November 2013 and the Presidency wants to promote a more holistic, horizontal approach. At the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting in Dublin in January, the Irish Minister proposed working with the Commission and the FRA to produce a more effective framework for the protection of fundamental rights. This will be debated in two more conferences during the Presidency, in Dublin and Vienna, before a document is prepared outlining the prospective new approach.

National Roma Contact Point Pilot Group Review
As part of the Commission’s EU Roma Strategy, National Contact Points were set up to coordinate national Roma policies and report on the implementation of their National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS). In October, a pilot group of 14 member states was set up to debate different approaches and share best practice. We asked the Presidency when the first feedback from the pilot group would be made available. The Presidency responded that the first report would be submitted in February, and Commission recommendations on the Strategies’ implementation based on their findings will be published in May. Additionally, ERIO sought the Presidency’s commitment to using its influence to push member states to develop more comprehensive NRIS. The Presidency assured us that it will work hard to encourage member states’ meaningful adoption of the recommendations.

Moving forward the proposed horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive
The Presidency stated its commitment to building consensus in the Council to push through this Directive which seeks to safeguard access to services for minority groups. ERIO stressed how important its adoption is for Roma communities, as it will complement the 4 existing anti-discrimination Directives, and asked what developments had occurred recently. We were told that it is a firm priority for the new trio-presidency and a progress report was currently being drawn up which will be presented at the EPSCO meeting in June.

Ensuring the proper implementation of the Race Equality Directive
ERIO stated that it had concerns that some member states are not properly implementing the minimum requirements of the Directive. We asked the Presidency what it was doing on this issue. The Presidency responded that it was waiting for the results of the Commission’s implementation questionnaire, the deadline for states’ submission of which has been extended until March. It would then formulate a response based on those results.

Negotiations on an EU Fund for the Deprived
In October last year the Commission proposed the setting up of a Fund to provide food, clothing and activities to promote integration for EU citizens in poverty. When we asked whether it envisaged a fast enactment of the fund, the Presidency stated that it was committed to negotiating its implementation and hopes to see success here before the end of its term.

Tackling Migration Issues
The negotiations to fully bring Romania and Bulgaria in to the Schengen zone remain ongoing, and the Presidency stated its desire to see them concluded without any block put on citizens’ right of free movement. ERIO stated that it was happy to see the Presidency prioritizing this, and asked what was it doing in relation to the Western Balkan accession states, home of many Roma. The Presidency replied that it was working on finishing negotiations on a new EU common asylum policy that would harmonize the response to asylum seekers from this region. 
* Meeting Andrzej Mirga, OSCE ODHIR Senior Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues
On the 7th February at ERIO’s office in Brussels, we met with Andrzej Mirga, Senior Advisor at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Director of its Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues. The aim of the meeting was to bring ERIO up to date with the activities of the OSCE and ODIHR and discuss areas of potential collaboration. The main areas of discussion were:
  • The ODIHR field report on segregated Roma schooling in the Czech Republic. We agreed on the need for EU structural funds to be focused on integrated education here.
  • The current EC funded ODIHR project in the Western Balkans focusing on sharing best practice in Roma integration policies.
  • The priorities of the OSCE-ODIHR under the Ukrainian chairmanship which are to be discussed at the November meeting. A parallel 2 day session will be held on Roma where young Roma will be invited to address the audience.
  • A prospective ODIHR field report on the impact of the economic crisis on Roma communities in Spain and Greece.
  • A potential future joint project focusing on leadership training for young Roma and encouraging educated young Roma to become local political advocates. 
* Consultation meeting with UN
ERIO as part of the European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) will be attending a consultation meeting with the Geneva-based UN Regional Team on the 18 February 2013 in Brussels in order to discuss the future direction of Roma related policy in the EU. Representatives of the International Organisation for Migration, the World Bank and the European Commission will also attend.
* KEYROMA Handbook on Service Sector Labour Market Requirements
The KeyRoma project implemented in five EU countries (Bulgaria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Romania and Spain) aims to address the lack of integration of Roma women in the labour market as a consequence of poor education by enabling Roma women to learn the skills necessary to participate. ERIO is one of the project partners. The project has just published their Handbook on Service Sector Labour Market Requirements which sets out the main competencies required by Roma women to find employment. The Handbook will assist the project partners in providing appropriate training to Roma women and gives Roma women an understanding of the skills they need to develop to make themselves more employable.  It is available in English, French and Dutch.
* ROM-UP! Newsletter 4
Our joint project ROM-UP! which has created an International Romani Network to raise awareness of the successful educational experiences of Roma children that have proved effective at integrating Roma children to allow them to achieve educational success has now published its newsletter 4 to provide more information on the project results. This is available online at the project website: www.rom-up.eu 
* Follow Art4ROM on Facebook!
The Art4ROM project aims to promote intercultural dialogue between Roma and non-Roma children through the arts in five EU countries (Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain). Find out more about our joint project by visiting the project’s Facebook page and please support the project by liking it. You can access the page here.

OTHER news

* The ‘Belov’ Case as the European Court of Justice
Last week the European Court of Justice gave its judgment in the case of ‘Belov’ (C394/11), the first time it had been asked to address the issue of indirect discrimination based on ethnic origin. In the event, the Court disappointingly declined jurisdiction and refused to give a ruling.

The court was asked to interpret the EU Race Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) by the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination (KZD) in a case deciding on whether the placing of electricity meters at 7 meters high in predominantly Roma districts was illegal under anti-discrimination legislation. Surprisingly, the Court took the unusual step of disagreeing with the opinion of the Advocate General, an independent judge appointed to assist the case judges by giving a highly influential opinion on the law in question, and found that it could not respond to the KZD’s request for a ruling because it was an administrative body, and not a court.  

The case arose over the fact that in two districts of the Bulgarian city of Montana, the electricity authority was placing electricity meters at an inaccessible height of 7 metres, rather than the conventional height of 1.7 metres. The authority’s justification was that this was necessary to reduce the high levels of electricity theft in these areas and to fulfill their duty to maintain the safety and supply of the power grid. However, these two areas are predominantly inhabited by Roma people, so the question arises: is this discrimination based on ethnic origin?

The Advocate General held that this was a prima facie case of indirect discrimination under the Race Equality Directive, as Roma people had been put at a particular disadvantage compared to other ethnic groups due to a seemingly neutral measure. Additionally, she found the KZD fulfilled all the criteria to be considered a court in this instance. However, she also found that combating fraud and abuse was a ‘legitimate reason’ for discrimination under the Directive and it would be for the national court to decide whether the measure taken by the authority was legal, based on whether it was proportional to the threat faced and was the least detrimental way of achieving security. The Court, however, made no judgment on these issues and instead held that, contrary to the clear opinion of the Advocate General, it could not respond to the KZD because it has too much investigative power and is not truly judicial, so consequently cannot legitimately refer cases to the ECJ. It did state, however, that the case could be successfully referred to the ECJ if the forthcoming ruling of the KZD is appealed to a higher court. 

News by Alex Brereton, ERIO
* "Social inclusion is essential for economic recovery" - Press Release by MEP Lívia Járóka 
The European Parliament held a debate on the preparations for the upcoming meeting of the European Council. In her speech MEP Lívia Járóka highlighted the potential of social inclusion policies to drive competitiveness and growth and urged Member States to consider social inclusion as an essential part of their strategies for growth and consolidation.

The plenary session of the European Parliament devoted a key debate to the preparation of the upcoming meeting of the European Council. In her speech MEP Lívia Járóka, Rapporteur of the EU Strategy on Roma Inclusion, reminded that the potential of social inclusion policies to support competitiveness, innovation and growth, was largely neglected when tracing possible ways for economic recovery. She emphasized that this not only left those in the most fragile socio-economic situation unprotected, but also adversely affected the ability of social inclusion - and labour market integration in particular - to retain and develop the economy. 'Countries cannot afford to waste the potential of any part of their populations. Therefore, giving priority to social inclusion is not an option but an obligation' - she concluded. 

For further information: Office of MEP Lívia Járóka: +32-228-47218
* OSCE media freedom representative welcomes Turkish Government’s reform pledge, stresses need to better protect journalists
Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in a productive meeting today with Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergın, commended the government on easing pre-trial detention procedures and stressed the need for further improvements. Mijatović said that any amendments should meet international standards and result in better protection of journalists. “The high number of pending court cases involving journalists accused of a range of alleged crimes, and facing severe punishment and long detentions, makes it clear that laws need to be changed,” she said.
Read more here.
* Housing conditions that Roma families face in Ostrava
A recent article on the housing conditions of the Roma in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, in ROMEA highlights the living conditions that many Roma in the area face. The article discusses one Roma family, forced to leave their apartment to live in derelict garages, after facing death threats in the event that they did not leave. Neither the municipal nor national authorities were interested in the case. Meanwhile Roma families evicted from Prendnadrazi Street have been re-housed in a residential hotel with high rents which left some unable to afford food, while the cramped conditions and lack of sanitary facilities in the hotel led to the spread of dysentery. The remaining inhabitants of Prendnadrazi Street have had their electricity cut off and only have one operational water tap. This coercive treatment amounts to forced eviction and represents a discriminatory denial of these Roma families’ legal rights.

Please click here to read the article and share it to highlight the situation.  

News by Catherine Boyd, ERIO
* United States Mission to the OSCE Statement on Discrimination Against Roma - As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly to the Permanent Council, Vienna
Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

Since its inception, the OSCE has been in the vanguard of efforts to promote the rights of European Roma, and the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti remains a clear and cogent guide. Regrettably, some governments have not only failed to create equal opportunity and foster the human rights of Roma citizens but, in some cases, continue to pursue policies that have the opposite effect.  We regret that as we prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Roma and Sinti Action Plan, the situation of Europe’s Roma citizens is perhaps more precarious than ever.

Read the full statement here.
* Survey shows Poles like Czechs most, Romani people least
The results of a public opinion poll released yesterday in Poland show that the Czech nation is so well-liked that it was the only group to receive more than a 50% approval rating. The Czechs came in first at 51% and, according to the Polish Press Agency, have done so for the third time in a row. The survey was conducted by sociological research company CBOS among more than 1 200 Polish people who were asked to give their opinions of the members of 36 nations. CBOS reported that Slovaks came in second place at 48%.

Read more here.
* Agree an EU Budget capable of contributing to the EU Poverty Reduction Target
On the eve of the critical European Council to agree the future budget for the EU, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) urges EU leaders to agree a budget that takes the EU poverty Reduction target seriously. The Budget must respond to the rapid rise in the number of people living in poverty and social exclusion (latest official figures: 119,6 million[1] in 2011 against 115 million in 2010) with its devastating social consequences.

Read more here.
* Roma inclusion: Moving beyond the research ivory tower
In 2011 two parallel and complementary surveys were carried out in an effort to map the current situation of Roma in Europe. The first survey focused on social and economic development and was carried out by UNDP and the World Bank and financially supported by the European Commission and UNDP. The second survey focused on the fulfillment of key fundamental rights and was carried out by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). After releasing the first results of these surveys in May 2012 and publishing the country profiles from the UNDP/WB/EC regional Roma survey in September 2012, UNDP has started with publishing thematic working papers on Roma inclusion. 
 
Read more here.

ANNOUNCEMENTS and events

* SAVE THE DATE: ERIO conference "European Year of Citizens: Are Roma people European citizens like any others?" - 22.04.2013, Brussels
Our conference “European Year of Citizens: Are Roma people European citizens like others?” will address the extent Roma are able to exercise their rights as European citizens and the barriers they face. The conference will be held on the 22nd April at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels. The agenda will follow in coming weeks but you can register now by sending your full name and the organisation you work for to ERIO by e-mail at office@erionet.eu or by phoning the office on  +32 27333462. 
* European Commission "Hearing on EU citizenship: Making the most of EU citizenship" - 19.02.2013, Brussels
The objective of the event will be to look at practical solutions to remove obstacles EU citizens still encounter in their daily lives when exercising their EU rights, notably their right to free movement and their political rights.
More information can be found here.
* ROM-UP! Final Conference - 21.02.2013, Barcelona
The final conference of our joint ROM-UP! project will take place in Barcelona on 21 February. At the conference the partners and the actors involved in the successful educational experiences will present the final results of the project. The event is free and we welcome the attendance of Roma grass-roots community, representatives of regional/national authorities with competencies in education, Roma inclusion and social policies and representatives of educational establishments. 

You can register here.
* Council of Europe “Poverty and Inequality in Societies of Human Rights: the paradox of democracies” - 21.02.2013, Strasbourg
The Conference, jointly organised by the European Union and the Council of Europe, intends to formulate a renewed approach to combat poverty. The event is the culmination of two years of reflection conducted in the framework of the Project “Human Rights of people experiencing poverty.”

More information can be found here.
* Roma SOURCE Event and Reception - 05.03.2013, Brussels
Roma Source is organising an event in Brussels where they will explain the work of their partnership which includes local and regional authorities, Roma organisations and a university. The key areas of Roma SOURCE activity are research, health, children, employment and citizenship, and they have worked with Roma, schools, health services, police and employers to tackle exclusion and discrimination.

More information can be found here.
* Internship at EPIM - the European Programme for Integration and Migration
The European Programme for Integration and Migration is looking for an intern to support the work of the Secretariat in Brussels from March 2013. The EPIM Intern will support the EPIM Programme Manager in the development and implementation of all EPIM activities.

Find out how to apply here.
* Call for applications
MA and PhD students of Romani background from Eastern Europe are invited to apply for participating in a 3 day academic seminar on the intersectionality of gender, race (ethnicity) and social class.

Find out how to apply here.
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