The week 9-12 April marked the third edition of the EU Roma Week organised by the European Parliament and European Commission to celebrate the International Roma Day. During four days, policy-makers, experts, activists and civil society organisations met in Brussels to celebrate Roma culture and to debate the future of the EU Roma framework. EUROCITIES was an official partner and brought three cities (Barcelona, Ghent and Rome) to share their good practices of Roma inclusion from the ground with EU and national policy-makers in view of building a better vision for the EU approach to Roma post 2020.
This year’s EU Roma Week brought in focus the structural discrimination that Roma people face across Europe and the deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism that needs to be recognised and combated through strategic and coherent responses. MEP Soraya Post, one of the Week’s hosts, presented the own-initiative report adopted in October 2017 on ‘Fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU: fighting anti-Gypsyism’ which called upon the EU and member states to put the fight against anti-Gypsyism at the forefront of efforts for the social and economic inclusion of Roma.
The EU Roma Week started on 9 April with an award ceremony in the European Parliament. Eight mayors from the Western Balkans and Turkey, selected from 49 competing municipalities, won the award for ‘The Most Roma-Friendly Mayor’, which is an initiative of two umbrella Roma NGOs (ERGO and Roma Active Albania). When handing over the prizes, MEP Soraya Post said: “We are looking forward to have more mayors who will take full responsibility in fighting anti-gypysim”.
EUROCITIES and its members voiced the role of cities in Roma inclusion in three panel debates. On 10 April, Barcelona debated with MEPs, the European Commission and civil society how to improve access of Roma people to quality education and decent jobs. Barcelona’s intercultural approach to Roma promotion policies was explained in four values: recognition, intercultural dialogue, equity and non-discrimination. Aida Guillen, director of citizens’ rights and diversity department, said: “EU must learn from local level which is the frontline of work with citizens and where real changes for inclusion happen. No intervention or policy can be successful without the direct engagement of Roma people”. Albert Sales, advisor to the deputy mayor of Barcelona, explained: “The biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing which creates a competition between vulnerable groups for social housing. We need to connect social services with promotion policies to avoid discrimination and create tolerance and social cohesion”.
On 11 April, the third day of the EU Roma Week, Ghent spoke in the high-level panel debate on assessing the EU Roma Framework and ways forward for 2020. Speaking on behalf of all cities active on Roma inclusion at EUROCITIES, Bieke Dobbelaere, head of service equal opportunities, said: “Roma integration is an urban challenge as much as a European challenge. Cities are doing a lot on the ground, many have a local strategy financed from municipal budget, but we need more support from national and EU level”. She stressed the way forward after 2020 should be based on an integrated approach to Roma inclusion to create synergies between policy areas, a multi-level governance mechanism that involves cities in developing and implementing the National Roma Integration Strategies, and a better access for cities to EU funding to channel the support where is needed the most by Roma communities.
On the fourth and final day of the Roma Week, EUROCITIES spoke in a panel debate next to representatives from European Commission DG Employment, DG Justice, DG Health and DG Education. The topic of the debate was Roma contribution to a healthy Europe with a focus on tackling inequalities in health and early childhood development. The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), who organised the session, stressed that Roma have ten years less in life expectancy than non-Roma population. Open Society Foundations shed light on the smart investment in early-age education, highlighting that investing in the first 1,000 days makes a seven-fold return on investment.
Watch the EU Roma Week video: https://www.europarltv.europa.eu/programme/society/roma-week
Find the presentations given by EUROCITIES and its members enclosed below.