"The Voice of the United Roma in EUROPE"
The idea of having a forum representing Roma communities in Europe has been in the air since the early nineties. It was the Roma themselves who started thinking of a body that would help them express their concerns at the European level. The idea took a more concrete form when, in 2001, Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, in an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, proposed "serious consi "serious consideration be given to a need to create for the Roma some kind of consultative assembly to represent them on the pan-European level.”
Ms. Halonens proposal raised a lot of interest both amongst the Roma and within the Council of Europe. As a result, an informal exploratory group composed of Roma leaders and personalities started examining the feasibility of setting up such a body, or Forum, as those involved began to call it. From 2001 until July 2004 several dozen meetings took place in Strasbourg where Roma and Travellers representatives negotiated with the Council of Europe the creation of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF).
The conclusions were positive and in July 2004 the Forum was registered as an association under French law. November 2004, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers agreed to establish close and privileged relations with the European Roma and Travellers Forum through a Partnership Agreement which was signed on 15 December 2004.
By virtue of this agreement, the Forum receives assistance in terms of financial and human resources, and has a privileged access to the various bodies and organs of the Council of Europe which deal with matters concerning Roma and Travellers. In February 2005, the Forum opened its Secretariat in Strasbourg within the Council of Europe's premises. During the first year, national elections for national delegates were organised in fourty countries. The first Plenary Assembly of the Forum took place from 13 to 15 December. It was attended by by 67 delegates from 33 countries as well as delegates of European and international Roma organisations and ended with the election of an Executive Committee and the establishment of different directorates.