ERTF and EGAM are joining forces to fight for the dignity of Roma people in Europe

Written by Secretariat on .

European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) and the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) are joining forces to fight for the dignity of Roma people in Europe.

Who can still ignore the racial discriminations striking Roma people everywhere in Europe? The list of discriminations, rejection and racist violence that they face, like a baleful litany, is ever-growing and could sink into despair.

In Romania, entire communities are rejected to secluded areas surrounded by walls, lacking water and electricity, like in Slovakia, where Roma women were sterilized. In Bulgaria, they are confined in urban ghettos. In the Czech Republic, they are targeted by an increasing number of neo-Nazi demonstrations. In Croatia, they get Molotov cocktails thrown at them. In Hungary, they are harassed and assaulted by the Jobbik paramilitary militia and therefore have to seek shelter abroad.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, they suffer daily discriminations like in Italy, Republic of Moldova or Serbia. In France, the calls for hatred and even for extermination increase and Roma people still suffer from stigmatizations and even expulsions similar to the ones that took place under the former government. Some of them are forced to go back to Kosovo, as a consequence of the on-going expulsions from Germany, Denmark or Sweden.The violence of these discriminations varies according to the countries, but their nature remains the same everywhere. They draw their origins from the same stigmatizing representations and the same over-used stereotypes.

Memory is also directly attacked sometimes; this certainly helps make these discriminations linger on. In Lety, for example, in Czech Republic, a piggery has been built on the site of a former Nazi camp, sullying the memory of the 1,300 Roma people who were concentrated there between 1942 and 1943 – only 300 of them survived deportation and their stay in the camp.

In front of this bleak reality, the reaction of the political institutions has not been up to the seriousness of the situation – in some cases it even led to its deterioration.

As it could be expected, the "National strategies for Roma inclusion" presented by the EU member states to the European Commission in late 2011, often planning no budget, no goals and no measures, did not allow any improvement of the situation regarding the social misery and racial domination to which Roma communities are too often confronted. Because it lacks power, legitimacy and sometimes conviction, the Commission has not taken the necessary European measures, while the situation is getting dangerously worse for these communities all around Europe.

It is time for the member states to stop implementing strategies of avoidance or even rejection, and for the EU to appear as guarantor as far as the observance of the fundamental rights for all individuals is concerned, even though this can lead to a conflict with the member-states. The fundamental values of Europe are at stake here.

Unlike political institutions, the civil society has gotten decisively involved, consequently bringing hope and prospects for the future to a whole continent.

For three years now, the Roma Pride has been both the origin and the symbol of this involvement. This vast movement of self-emancipation brings together Roma leaders and organizations and the rest of the European civil society, altogether committed for equality and against the different expressions of racism.

The Roma Pride spirit is a spirit of dignity, justice and solidarity that nourishes the numerous initiatives led by the civil society throughout Europe.

On August 2nd, several hundreds of people gathered in dignity on the site of Auschwitz concentration camp to commemorate the Roma genocide, and more particularly the night between August 2nd and 3rd of 1944, when 2,500 Roma people were killed there. This date must be part of the European commemorative calendar: the Samudaripen/Pharrajimos
memory must be given the place it deserves and the current discrimination, rejection and racist violence must be fought by pointing out clearly where they come from.

After the series of racist killings against Roma people in Hungary, the victims and the civil society asked for justice, not revenge. More than three years of proceedings later, the culprits were fairly and heavily punished.

The civil society has reacted to the revolting provocations and threats from the neo-Nazis in Czech Republic with solidarity and by calling for the respect of the law.

While the enduring crisis exacerbates nationalist hatred and incites to designate the most fragile ones as responsible for this crisis, when they are actually the first victims of it, we call on all individuals to express their desire to live together in Europe, with our differences in cultures, languages and identities, and to experience their solidarity beyond borders.

On Sunday, October 6th, we will all gather at the same time for the Roma Pride in about 15 European countries, from Paris to Kiev, from Oslo to Istanbul via Prague, Budapest or Bucharest. We are determined to show why and how we can live together in a truly democratic Europe – that is, when we get rid of racism and nationalism at last.

*This statement was jointly signed by the Roma and antiracist associations of EGAM (European Grassroots Antiracist Movement) from 31 European countries and the ERTF (European Roma and Travellers Forum).

By country :

Albania : Aldo Merkoci, President of Mjaft ! Movement and Adriatik Hasantari, President of
Roma Active

Austria : Claudia
Schäfer, CEO of ZARA, Alexander Pollak, President of SOS Mitmensch
and Andrea Härle, Executive Director of Romano Centro

Belgium : Patrick N'Siala Kiese, President of Kif Kif

Bosnia : Alma Masic,
Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Bosnia

Bulgaria : Krassimir
Kanev, President of the Helsinki Committee, and Deyan Kolev,
Chairman of Amalipe Roma Cultural Centre for interethnic dialogue and tolerance

Croatia : Mario
Mazic, Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Croatia, and Jasmina
Salihi, Coordinator at Nevo Drom

Czech Republic : Anna
Šabatová, President of the Czech Helsinki Committee, Miroslav Broz,
President of Konexe, and Jarmila Balážová, President of Romea

Denmark : Jette Moller,
President of SOS mod racisme, and Ferdi Sabani, President of Roma
Forzning i Danmark

Estonia : Merle Haruoja,
Director of the Estonian Centre for Human Rights and Roman Lutt,
President of the North Estonia Roma Association

Finland : Janette Grönfors,
Coordinator of Rasmus, anti-racist network, and Founding Member of Nevo Roma

France : Cindy Léoni,
President of SOS Racisme, and Alain Daumas, President of the Union
Française des Associations Tsiganes – UFAT

Germany : Serdar
Yazar, Spoke-person of the Turkish Union in Berlin-Brandenburg (TBB) and Emran
Elmazi, President of Amarodrom

Greece : Ahmed Moawia,
President of Greek Forum of Migrants

Hungary : Janos Farkas,
President of the Government of the Roma Minority of Gyöngyöspata, Jeno Setet,
Roma National Leader and Erika Muhi, Director of NEKI

Italy : Angela Scalzo,
President of SOS Razzismo, and Graziano Halilovic, President of Roma

Kosovo : Raba Gjoshi,
Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo, and Muhamet Arifi, President
of Balkan Sunflowers

Latvia : Sigita Zankovska-Odina,
Researcher for the Latvian Centre for Human Rights, and Anatolijs
Berezovskis, Member of the Board of Nevo Drom

Macedonia : Hristo Ivanovski,
President of the Alliance for Human Rights

Republic of Moldova : Nicolae
Radita, President of the Roma National Center, and Valerian Mamaliga,
Manager of the Moldavian Institute for Human Rights

Montenegro : Boris
Raonic, President of Civic Alliance, Senad Sejdovi, President Romski
savjet and Teuta Nuraj, President of the Nacionalni Savjet Roma i

Norway : Rune Steen,
Executive Director of  Antirasistisk Senter

Poland : Paula Sawicka,
President of the Open Republic Association, Kasia Kubin, Director of the
Foundation for Social Diversity, Klaus Witold, President of the
Association for Legal Intervention, Karolina Mirga, President of
Harangos and Roman Kwiatkowski, President of Roma People Association in

Portugal : Bruno
Gonçalves, Co-President of the Centro de Estudios Ciganos

Romania : Marian
Mandache, Executive Director of Romani Criss

Russia : Svetlana Gannushkina,
President of the Memorial network for the rights of migrants

Serbia : Maja Micic,
Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia, Jovana Vukovic,
Coordinator at the Regional Centre for Minorities and Stevan Nicolic,
Manager of the Roma Education Centre of Subotica

Slovakia : Irena Bihariova, President of the Ludia
proti rasizmu

Slovenia : Anita Ramsak, Manager of the
Ekvilib Institute for Human Rights

Spain : Sandra Heredia
Fernandez, President of Fakali

Sweden : Kalle Larsson,
President of the Centrum Mot Rasism, Lina Gidlund, Manager of Upsala
Anti-discrimination Centre

Turkey : Selcuk Karadeniz,
President of Roma Youth Association, and Cengiz Algan, Spoke-person of
Durde !

Ukraine : Zola
Kundur, President of the funds for women Chiricli

United Kingdom : Nick Lowes, Coordinator at
Hope Not Hate