Strasbourg, 3 April 2014
Dear Ms Reding,
Dear Mr Barroso,
Dear Mr Schulz,
The European Commission is celebrating with great pomp a European Roma Summit Meeting on 4th April in Brussels. This one-day meeting consisting largely of a series of speeches by non-Roma personalities raises serious concerns as to its purpose, content and participation.
We find it difficult to understand what is the purpose of the Summit and its added value to what has been achieved so far. The themes of the panels – making policies inclusive for all Roma at the local level, making EU funding reach the local and regional authorities to support Roma integration, and making Roma integration a local reality in enlargement countries – are issues which have been discussed ad nauseam in both national and international fora and been the subject of numerous recommendations and decisions of the European Commission and other international bodies. A series of speeches by Ministers and Deputy Ministers is not likely to create the commitment which is so sadly missing.
It is lamentable, to say the least, that after years of preaching that work should be done with the Roma and not for the Roma, we are presented with an agenda where hardly any Roma appears on the list of over thirty speakers. Furthermore, the European Roma and Travellers Forum*, Europe's' largest Romani representation, whose creation was supported by the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the OSCE is completely neglected and marginalised on this occasion. Moreover, we are supposed to admire the know-how and follow the advice of a group of non-Roma participants, some of whom have never met a Roma or visited a Roma settlement.
Many of the efforts of the European Commission have so far ended with a minimal or no result at all. This will continue as long as the Roma community and its representatives are not involved and consulted in designing programmes and initiatives.
To add insult to injury the European Commission has thought fit to invite as speaker in the opening of the Summit no less a person than Mr Traian Basescu, President of Romania, who has recently been condemned by Romania's official National Council for Combating Discrimination for his of discriminatory remarks about Roma population. Furthermore, the cities/regions which have systematically been expelling Roma from their territories are invited to take the floor in some of the above-mentioned panels.
In these circumstances we feel that our participation at this Summit will only be decorative. This is something that we can not accept under any circumstances. The Roma yearn for genuine and honest participation and not to serve as puppets in a show.
We would like to be as constructive and helpful as possible. For this reason we would like to have a meeting with you to discuss practical and sustainable strategies for a better future of the 12 million Roma in Europe.
President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum
*The European Roma and Travellers Forum has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a cooperation agreement with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.