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ERIO news and activities

* ERIO met with the Greek EU Presidency
Every six months, the Council of the European Union is chaired by a turning presidency, whose role is to stimulate and frame the EU agenda. Following its continuous commitment in seeking dialogue with EU institutions, we sent by the end of 2013 our policy recommendations on Roma inclusion to the current Greek Presidency. In order to discuss these recommendations, we met one Presidency representative on the 25th February at the Greek permanent representation to the EU.
The representative lamented the lack of Commission’s proposals specifically addressed to Roma as a reason for not having a Roma agenda within the Greek Presidency’s programme. Instead, he pointed out the forthcoming implementation reports on the National Roma Integration Strategies, addressed by the national contact points to the Commission, as a way to keep on monitoring the results of the EU framework. As for Greece, the representative stated that Roma issues are already mainstreamed within national policies.
One major point that was debated concerned the anti-poverty agenda. Indeed, as one of the poorest groups across Europe, Roma are (or should be) particularly affected by this kind of policies. Even though poverty represents a horizontal issue within the Europe 2020 strategy, no specific actions currently target Roma in a peculiar way.
As for the fight against discrimination, the Greek Presidency assured they will promote the approval of the horizontal anti-discrimination Directive proposal inside the Council. This will be no easy task – said the representative - because of the opposition of some Member States.
In conclusion, the current political landscape, marked by worries and fears about the next European elections, seems to be quite disappointing. Still, it is in this very context that unremitting action by organizations like ERIO is all the more crucial to keep Roma inclusion in the European agenda.
* ERIO met with the Greek EU Presidency
By Gianluca Cesaro, ERIO

On the 27th February, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) discussed the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) during its plenary session. One of the key speakers was Zoltán Balog, Hungarian Minister for Human Resources.

Recalling the problems faced by the European Roma community, Mr Balog stated that the solution lies in an integrated approach encompassing culture, education and employment. As an example of this attitude, the Minister pointed out some recent developments in Hungary, including vocational training both for men (“Start” programme) and women, the integration of learning modules on Roma culture and history in school curricula, the creation of a General Secretariat for Roma inclusion in 2010 and the introduction of a minority-based representation inside the Hungarian Parliament in 2011. If approved, a new law will also set compulsory education for three-year old kids; this will be supported by a form of public aid, as long as the children continue to attend the school.

As regards the NRIS, Mr Balog called for nationally-tailored indicators, both qualitative and quantitative, in order to better monitor the implementation of the measures. Common European indicators were rejected by the Minister because of the heterogeneous situation of Roma communities across the EU. Mr Balog also made a plea for Europe to face historic oblivion and acknowledge the tragedy of the Roma Holocaust, as no Nuremberg trial did justice for this population.

Concluding the session, EESC President Henri Malosse announced the delivering of a European prize for civil society organisations in October 2014, which will be awarded to an organisation working with - not just for- Roma. The three groups forming the EESC were required to identify and propose their candidates within this scope.

* ECRI’s new report on Belgium and Germany
By Jana Finke, ERIO

ECRI published new reports on the current issues related to racism and intolerance in Belgium and Germany. The reports, amongst others, refer to the situation and treatment of Sinti, Roma and Travellers in those countries.

In the Belgian case, ECRI criticizes the lack of reception sites for Travellers and the poor state of the existing ones. The report also noted positive developments such as the creation of the Belgian Council of Roma, Sinti and Travellers and the launching of the National Strategy for Roma.  

In the German case, ECRI criticizes the negative discourse on potential “poverty migration” from Romania and Bulgaria with the introduction of the free movement on 1 January 2014. The debate and media reporting has, according to the report, also turned against Roma. ECRI also notes that in the German National Action Plan on Integration Sinti and Roma are not addressed sufficiently despite of severe discrimination against them.

For more detailed information click here.

* ERIO’s workshop “Remembering the Roma and Sinti Holocaust: challenges and opportunities at national level“
On Wednesday, 26 February 2014, ERIO organized a workshop titled “Remembering the Roma and Sinti Holocaust: challenges and opportunities at national level” in Brussels. The workshop was part of ERIO’s project MemoROM which aims at the creation of an international remembrance network for raising awareness about the Roma and Sinti Holocaust in order to fight discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes about these communities.

A great variety of stakeholders such as representatives of Roma civil society organisations, museums and other organisations working on remembrance, history education and anti-discrimination attended the workshop.

The workshop started off by a presentation by ERIO’s policy officer Marta Pinto on the
MemoROM project. Laurence Schram, historian at Museum Kazerne Dossin, told about the faith of Sinti and Roma from Belgium and the north of France who were assembled in the Kazerne before they were deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Gabriela Hrabanova and Irvin Mujcic from ERGO network linked the Roma persecution during Nazism and their ongoing discrimination.

Presentations were followed by small group discussions where participants discussed the challenges on raising awareness and recognition on the Roma and Sinti Holocaust in Belgium and they developed recommendations for possible strategies to overcome those challenges.  
The workshop gave us and the participants the possibility to exchange experiences, establish new contacts and identify problems and challenges as well as think of new solutions together. All in all it was a very interesting, motivating and fruitful event.  

Photos of the event are available

OTHER news

* Roma represent a large ethnic minority in Bulgaria
By Balkans.com Business News Correspondent

Roma are a large ethnic minority group in Bulgaria. As many as 60 different Roma groups live in the country, representing a wide-range of cultures, religions, traditions, and livelihoods. Although diverse in many regards, Roma throughout Bulgaria struggle with one primary development challenge: poverty. As many as one out of every three Roma lives in extreme poverty - earning less than $4.30 a day - compared to just one in twenty among the rest of the population. Approximately 86% of Roma belong to the bottom 40% of the income group in Bulgaria. But poverty alone is not the only challenge Roma are coping with. According to a new World Bank report, Roma face a variety of challenges that can adversely affect their strategic life choices, such as those concerning education, employment, and family formation.

Read more here

* France and the Roma: Cities employ tough love
By Henri Astier BBC News, Paris

The presence in France of thousands of Roma people from Eastern Europe has been a hot national issue since 2010. In July that year, following clashes between travellers and police in central France, conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy said the illegal camps where Roma people live were rife with "exploitation of children for begging, of prostitution and crime", and called for their destruction.

Since coming to power in 2012, the Socialists have stepped up the policy of camp clearances. France has also continued to deport thousands of foreign camp-dwellers every year, mainly to Romania. But the Roma issue was exercising local politicians long before it broke through at national level.

Read more here


* ERIO workshop “Remembering the Roma and Sinti Holocaust: challenges and opportunities at national level”

ERIO is organising a workshop on 26 February. The aim of this workshop is to discuss the challenges faced at national level when it comes to raising awareness and recognition of the Roma and Sinti Holocaust and finding possible solutions to overcome them taking into consideration the national context. The workshop will result in concrete recommendations to send to national governments, media, schools, museums, etc.
This workshop is part of a one-year project funded by the European Commission under the Europe for Citizens Programme: MemoROM “Keeping the Memory Alive: the Roma and Sinti Holocaust”.

Read more here

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