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Final International conference “+Respect: Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People” – Rome, 13 May 2011
The results of the thematic seminars were brought to the attention of the 100 and more participants of the final +Respect conference ”Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People”, held in Rome the 13th of May 2011 in the Room Di Liegro at Palazzo Valentini (House of the Province of Rome). The conference had a focus on the local strategies aimed at fostering inclusion and participation of Roma people and favored a broad debate on the main issues of the project by presenting different good practices implemented in Europe and encouraging debate and confrontation around the topic of the improvement of the situation of the Roma in the EU.
The conference had a special significance as it took place a few weeks after the presentation of the Communication of the European Commission “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020″. The conference moved from the recent adoption of this strategic document, by which the Commission had recently called on the EU member states to develop national strategies for the integration of Roma people, with the aim of creating a framework for national policies and fostering the use of funds available at community level to support inclusive processes. The conference provided an opportunity to assess the local, national and European policies aimed at fostering the access of the Romany population to housing, education, health services and employment.
It was divided in four parts: welcome greetings, +Respect project dissemination of results (results of the project and achievements of the thematic seminars), presentation of the direct experience of the two Roma and Sinti associations partners of +Respect (RomSinti@Politica and Sucar Drom), a high level round table on the inclusive policies for Roma people (opportunities and perspective for Italy and other EU countries).
The Secretary General of Cittalia, Pierciro Galeone, introduced the topics of the conference highlighting that the project +Respect aimed at echoing and supporting the position of the European Commission on the topic of the participation and non discrimination of Roma people through integrated local actions implemented at European level with the aim of combating discrimination, debunking stereotypes and fostering mutual understanding and a higher level of participation of the Roma communities to the democratic life of the Union. Pierciro Galeone also affirmed that the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI) is contributing at national level in Italy to the development of a national plan for the non discrimination of the Roma and improvement of their economic and social situation through the creation of an “ad hoc” working group. Mr. Galeone underlined the importance of fostering a bottom-up approach, encouraging good practices at local level and allowing these experiences – a real resource in terms of ideas and experience – to feed into the national and European policy frameworks.
Claudio Cecchini, Province Minister responsible for social policies, said that in order to improve the situation of the Roma it is sometimes necessary to adopt short-term initiatives but it is more important to develop long-term strategies aimed at fostering the clearing of the bad practice of the nomadic camps that in different EU countries, and especially in Italy, represents an obstacle for a genuine improvement of their social and economic life. It is also necessary to implement more effective non exclusive work, health, housing and schooling policies, not only for Roma but for all.
The project +Respect and conclusions of the thematic seminars
In this panel, the project coordinator outlined project objectives, activities and results, giving appropriate visibility to the EU funding programme. The coordinators of the thematic seminars held on the previous day presented the outputs of the workshops.
In particular, Salvatore Petronella (Cittalia, Regione Puglia) reported on the Thematic Seminar I (media), underlining how media, too often, put a negative accent on Roma and focus on “fake” problems. The real problem “is not the Roma, but the poor life conditions that characterize many people”. Too often, the point of view of Roma people – who should be the main sources of information on Roma-related matters – is ignored as Roma people simply represent, in most cases, the object of a bad communication done by someone else. Anticipating the conclusions of the four seminars for media organized in the framework of the project reported in the Guidelines for Media, Salvatore Petronella confirmed the importance of a transversal and non–exclusive approach (mainstreaming) on the Roma, a more frequent accent on good practices that exist, and a “de-ethnicisation” of the communication process.
Stefania Bragato (Coses) and Maria del Mar Gonzalez (Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras) reported on Thematic Seminar II (good local practices). The seminar has showed that a good number of good practices in the field of inclusion of Roma people has been achieved in different EU countries (such as Belgium, Spain, Romania, England) on different themes: housing, employment, schooling, helath, communication. Concerning housing, which is a fundamental prerequisite for decent life conditions and further participation and inclusion in civil processes of the Roma communities, it has emerged that building social houses costs less than running and managing the so-called nomadic camps. The co-planning of housing interventions (deciding together with Roma representatives) has proven to be a very important element of success in housing projects, as demonstrated by the experience told by Soros Foundation Romania. On the contrary, the lack of participation of Roma people, who are beneficiaries of some of these housing projects, is the cause of their failure. Maria del Mar Gonzalez highlighted the importance of the involvement of Roma people since their childhood: participation and acceptance should be prepared working in the schools with the aim of creating the conditions for a positive social and cultural development of all human beings, Roma and not-Roma. Education and training are of fundamental importance, however the experience of Puerto Lumbreras proves that a real improvement in the situation of Roma, and debunking of stereotypes, are possible only through a strong collaboration between the school system and the local authorities. If citizens are informed and directly involved in participatory actions, it is possible to avoid ostracism and racism.
Sandra Rainero (Cittalia, Coordinator of ENSA network), moderator of Thematic Seminar III (rights and policies), said, about the theme “relations with the policy makers and between the policies with the aim of fostering participation”, that the workshop was the result of the attempt to achieve a common position between different approaches. The conclusion was that…different policies are possible, depending on local contexts. The most important thing is to avoid emergency measures and focus on long-term social inclusion strategies, with the help of the media and of a new, more balanced, communication language.
Participation and fight against discrimination: a Roma perspective
A specific sub-panel hosted the interventions of two Roma associations, partners of +Respect, that deal in their everyday life with the challenges of participation and fight against discrimination of Roma people: RomSinti@Politica and Sucar Drom.
Nazzareno Guarnieri (President of RomSinti@Politica) denounced the “disaster, which is now evident”, caused by many policies and initiatives adopted in the past for the Roma. The most evident disaster is the bad practice of the camps, which is so evident in Italy (with some exceptions, for example in regione Abruzzo – for social, historical and political reasons – there is no nomadic camps). Politics, civil society and media share a great responsibility in this sense. The real problem, said Nazzareno Guarnieri, is that the majority of the initiatives “aimed at the Roma” did not foresee the direct involvement of Roma communities, who are too often considered only as “external” beneficiaries of projects and decisions made by someone else. The key for the success of all inclusive projects is to foster the direct participation of Roma people and share all the decisions of the projects with them during all the operational steps. On a policy level, said Mr. Guarnieri, the effort should be that of improving and increasing the capacity of participation of Roma people in all kinds of Roma-related projects, and not only. A mainstreaming approach is needed, even if sometimes specific actions are required.
Davide Casadio (Mediator of the Sinti Association Sucar Drom), highlighted the importance of debunking stereotypes starting from the political levels. It is of fundamental importance to develop appropriate policies aimed at increasing the participation of people of Romany origin, bearing in mind that only through collaboration between policy levels it is possible to change the current situation, which is very difficult in Italy and in many other EU countries.
Round table on inclusive policies for Roma people
The organization of a high level round table had the purpose of create a direct involvement of policy makers at European and national levels and experts with the view of contributing to foster a structural dialogue on the theme of non-discrimination and participation of Roma people, and raise awareness on this topic. The round table was kindly moderated by Roberto Chinzari, Journalist of Rai 2 (Italian national television) and Secretary of the Journalists’ Association of the School of Perugia, for which he had previously co-organized the initiative “NewsRom” aimed at improving the communication and the action of Media in relation to the Roma, debunking stereotypes and prejudices.
The speakers of the round table were:
- Pietro Vulpiani, Expert of the National Office for the Promotion of Equal Treatment and the Removal of Discrimination Based on Race or Ethnic Origin (UNAR), Italian Government
- Elena Montani – Policy Officer, European Commission – Representation in Italy
- Peter Csonka – Justice and Home Affairs Coordinator, Hungarian Presidency of the EU
- Roberto Di Giovan Paolo, Senator, Member of the Commission for the Safeguard and Promotion of Human Rights of the Senate of the Italian Republic
- Flavia Perina, Member of the Italian Parliament, Member of the Commission for Social Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies
- Martin Demirovski – Policy Officer, Open Society Institute Brussels (Soros Foundation Europe)
- Daniela De Robert – Vice Secretary USIGRAI (Unione Sindacale Giornalisti RAI)
Pietro Vulpiani informed that UNAR will coordinate in the next months in Italy the high level working group that will design the national strategy, in accordance with the guidelines of the Communication of the European Commission “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020”. Vulpiani recalled the EU policies and guidelines on the theme of non discrimination and confirmed that Roma people are the ethnic group which is more exposed to episodes of discrimination, quoting data collected by UNAR. Vulpiani highlighted the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach and the need for a more incisive coordination role of the national institutions, in order to systemize, classify and exploit the results achieved in different local contexts through the implementation of good practices (such as those highlighted during the project “+Respect”).
Elena Montani expressed the position of the European Commission, highlighting that the new Communication of the Commission gives the Member States a specific responsibility in adopting national strategies that should be able, from a mainstreaming point of view, to improve the situation of Roma people in Europe.
Peter Csonka spoke in representation of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU, confirming the commitment of the Hungarian Presidency to continue on the path traced by the “trio”. Mr. Csonka said that the improvement of the Roma condition is one of the first point of the programme of the Presidency and that there is need for a stronger coordination, at intergovernmental level, on this ground as the problems and challenges faced by Roma people in the EU are more and more evident.
Sen. Roberto Di Giovan Paolo talked about the legal framework and future political perspectives in Italy in relation to the so called “emergency nomads (emergenza nomadi)”, starting from his experience of legislator (he is the author of the only national law proposal dealing with the problems linked to the current situation of the Roma people). Mr. Di Giovan Paolo, member of the opposition in Italy, stressed the importance of fostering inter-institutional collaboration, and said that the current governmental approach, exclusively adopted in a security/policy perspective, is inefficient and useless since it is not accompanied by a more holistic social strategy aimed at encouraging cohesion, social connectivity and respect, non discrimination and participation. It is necessary to bridge the gap between Italy and Europe in the policies for housing, employment, school inclusion of the Roma people through a new approach and a new culture of civic participation.
MP Flavia Perina said that politics must improve and consider more carefully the problems of integration, whose solutions cannot be left only to the associations that deal with these problems at local level. An organic coordination is needed, starting from the national levels.
Martin Demirovski gave a very in-depth contribution, talking about the EU policies and welcoming the Communication of the Commission but, at the same time, criticizing some aspects of this document and of the strategy adopted by the Commission. In particular, Demirovski highlighted the particular moment of difficulty for Roma people and the proven inefficiency of the mainstreamed policies and initiatives adopted so far. In such exceptional circumstances, said Demirovski, ad hoc initiatives tailored on the specific challenges faced by Roma people must be welcomed.
Due to the impossibility of participating for force majeure causes, Roberto Natale (President of FNSI, National Federation of the Italian Press) was substituted (upon indication of Roberto Natale) by Daniela De Robert, Vice Secretary of the trade union of the Italian journalists and expert in social field / social communication. Daniela De Robert addressed the theme of non-discrimination and inclusion from a deontological point of view, stating the importance of a new approach of the media and of the civil society as a whole towards the challenges of inclusion and interculturality. She also mentioned the importance of referring to good practices existing in this field and highlighted the success of many initiatives that were characterized by the direct involvement of Roma women, since it is proven that equal opportunity approaches have a higher degree of success especially when they are linked to ethnic-related projects.
Flavio Zanonato, Mayor of Padua and Vice President of the National Association of Italian Municipalities – ANCI (responsible for Migration and Welfare), released a declaration about the theme of the conference which was also reported in a press release of ANCI a few days before the conference: “a lot of big and medium-sized cities in Italy and Europe – Zanonato said – are encouraging the clearing/overtaking of the camps through the support to initiatives of self-building / social-building or promoting the adoption of more stable housing solutions for Roma populations. There is a need – he continued – to adopt a national strategy that is able to enhance these experiences and establish efficient collaboration between public and private organizations with the purpose of improving local reception and inclusion, facing these challenges not only in the perspective of an increased security, but also – if not mainly – in the framework of a real social and economic inclusion”.
The many national and local policies aimed at combating discrimination and at promoting the inclusion of the Romany population in local communities and their active participation in the decision-making process, have shown little effect in Italy and in other EU countries. Notwithstanding some progress, the general impression of the experts and policy makers who participated in the conference was that a bigger effort is needed if we want to activate real inclusive policies and combat discrimination effectively.
Another conclusion, on which everybody agreed, is that the fight against discrimination of the Roma, as well as their participation in the democratic life of the Union, should start from the local level but these local policies need to be coordinated at national and European levels. Today, unfortunately, Italy and other EU countries experience a lack of coordination policies, or weak coordination. In this context, and even in a moment when resources for social actions are scarce, the capacity of local systems to obtain more data, raise awareness, provide services and implement measures to address poverty and foster inclusion, is crucial in order to fight against racism and strengthen the economic and social cohesion of the territories, as well as to enhance the rights and culture of Roma people as a resource for society. However, in a moment when resources are insufficient, local authorities cannot be left alone.
Another problem experienced especially in Italy is a methodological problem: the misunderstanding at the base of the public policies that have led to the camp system, that is considering Roma people “nomadic” while, today, only 3-4% of the Roma population in Italy has a nomadic way of life.
Another major issue concerns the role of the media, too often responsible for a stereotyped information. A better information, together with a direct involvement and participation of Roma people, is necessary in order to improve the situation of the Roma in the EU.
The conference was attended by more than 100 participants and interpretation was provided in three languages. Some certificates of attendance were issued at the end of the conference upon request of the participants. Unanimously the conference was considered a success in terms of participation and interest generated by the debate. The travelling stand was present at the conference, welcoming the participants and speakers outside the conference room.
The event received media coverage in Italy. An article on the conference and on the themes of the conference was published on a national Italian newspaper (“Terra”) on the day of the conference. During the conference, 100 free copies of the newspaper were distributed to the participants. Several Italian social magazines, such as “Il Redattore Sociale” (whose director was present at the thematic seminars in Rome), covered the conference with articles. Some radio networks (Radio Manà Manà, Radio Popolare Roma) were also present during the final conference and made specific services on the contents and results of the conference and of +Respect. In particular, Radio Popolare Roma, a quite popular radio of Rome, dedicated an important part of its programme (“Interferenze Rom”), on that day, to the +Respect final conference ”Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People”, with interviews and in-depth analysis.
The Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union puts Roma inclusion up into political agenda
Hungary holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1st January until June 2011. The Presidency has fixed the priorities of its political Agenda focusing on the human factor, in particular in order to boost the Roma people inclusion. The Hungarian programme, entitled “Strong Europe with a human touch”, indeed, is built around four main topics on which the Presidency intends to work during the first half of 2011: growth and employment for preserving the European social model, stronger Europe, citizen friendly Union and, finally, enlargement and neighbourhood policy.
In relation to the first issue, the Presidency intends to promote the economic growth by strengthening economic governance and concentrating on job creation and social inclusion. This means that it is necessary to put Europe at the service of its citizens, addressing the policies to the human face of European integration by the new legal framework of the Lisbon Treaty as well.
Thus, in line with the EU 2020 strategy the Hungarian Presidency wishes to foster the employment, competitiveness and social inclusion for fighting child poverty and promoting Roma integration by adopting, moreover, the EU framework on national Roma integration strategies and conclusions from the EU council on the European platform against poverty.
On the same wavelength Eurocities, the network of major European cities, has recently established a task-force on Roma inclusion which will soon start working.
Download the Hungarian Presidency programme
In the recent years, inclusion and integration of Roma and other minorities in the local policies, both at national and European level, were the subject of many debates and actions. Despite some improvements, much remains to be done to achieve full integration of minority rights in local decision making processes.
In this context, the capacity of local systems to obtain more data, raise awareness, provide services (such as access to housing, education, health services, employment) and to implement measures to address poverty, is fundamental to fight against racism and for strengthening the economic and social cohesion as well as to enhance the rights and culture of Roma as a resource for society.
The conference, organized by the Veneto Region Brussels Office, is planned in the framework of the activities within the project +RESPECT: Increasing Roma People’s Participation and Citizenship Rights: Campaigns and Tools, funded by the Specific Programme “Fundamental Rights and Citizenship” 2007-2013 . The event aims to raise awareness of local authorities on policies for social inclusion of Roma people. During the event the report “Combating Anti-Roma Discrimination: Knowledge and Policies” implemented by COSES containing recommendations for local authorities on policies for inclusion of the Roma population, will be the basis for a discussion on existing good practices at European level of “liberation of the camps” through social and spatial inclusion local initiatives. The ENSA (European Network for Social Authorities) and ELISAN (European Local Inclusion and Social Action Network) networks, associated partners of the project, will participate in the debate, promoting the exchange of good practices at local and European level and suggesting new scenarios for inclusion and participation of Roma and other groups who are at risk of social exclusion. Third sector organizations operating in the integration and raise awareness of Roma, local authorities (municipalities, provinces), cultural mediators and social workers are invited to participate.
Please confirm your presence via mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For any further information please contact Alessandra Garda at these numbers: +390412794823 (from Italy) and +3227437023.
Provisional programme: +RESPECT Venice international conference 11 March 2011
On 19 December 2010, a conference entitled “The day of the awareness: the reaches of the Sinti and Roma cultures”, promoted by the Mission Zigana Evangelic (MEZ) in collaboration with “Sucar Drom”, “Sinti Italiani” (Italian Sinti), “Istituto di Cultura Sinta” (Sinti culture Institute) and “Federazione Rom Sinti Insieme” (Roma Sinti Together Federation), will take place in Piacenza, San Pietro in Cerro (Italy), 12 Villa Nova street. The Mission Zigana Evangelic, during its religious conference, dedicates a day to enhance the awareness over the Roma and Sinti culture and traditions highlighting their social problems as well.
Download the press release here.
The European Commission launched a Roma Task Force, which is composed by senior officials from all related Commission departments, to evaluate the Member States’ use of European Union funds. The proposal issued from the EC Vice-president Reding’s statement about the recent French measures on the Roma people. The Commission’s Roma Task Force will investigate how EU Member States are enforcing the Commission’s communication of 7 April to foster a Roma inclusion process. The Task Force’s first findings will be reported to the College of Commissioners by the end of the year. Furthermore the Commission invited the Belgian Presidency of the European Council to arrange a joint meeting of Justice and Social Affairs Ministers to indentify a more specific use of national and complementary EU funding for social and economic integration of the Roma population. The Council meeting will be followed by yearly meetings at ministerial level and the Commission will also inform the civil servants through the regular meetings on the Roma situation. The future presidencies will have to respect the road map arranged last June by the European Platform on the Roma, the EU Commission highlighted. The Commission will report to the European parliament and the Council about the Task Force’s assessments on a regular basis.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Roma Projects and Policies, 30 November, Brussels
On 30 November 2010, a conference entitled “Monitoring and Evaluation of Roma Projects and Policies”, promoted by DG Regional Policy of the European Commission, will take place in Charlemagne building, “Durieux” room, 170 Rue de la Loi, in Brussels. The point at issue is to increase awareness over the need of appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and assessing projects and policies for social inclusion of Roma. The speakers’ panel includes Rudolf Niessler, Director Directorate D, Directorate-General Regional Policy; Veronica Gaffey, Acting Director, Policy Development; Antonella Schulte-Braucks, Head of Unit of the Evaluation and Impact Assessment, DG EMPL and Martin Kahanec, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Click here to read the program.
- Download the entire Reding’s statement here: Speech_Reding_14_09_2010
The document “The Social and Economic Integration of the Roma in Europe” has been discussed at the meeting of the Commission for Economic and Social Policy of the Committee of the Regions, held on 22 June 2010 in Kavala (Greece). Mr. Ancisi, Vice President of the National Association of Italian Municipalities, underlined the need to fight against the discrimination of the Roma people. Indeed the local, regional and national authorities can play a strategic role for the inclusion process and for informing the Roma population on its rights. The Roma people situation is worse than the other ethnic minorities. “They have low levels of school attendance and greater levels of unemployment”, Ancisi said. Furthermore it is necessary to combat the manifold forms of discrimination suffered by Roma women and assuring an equal access to healthcare and other public services as well. This is possible only through appropriate urban planning and housing policies adopted by the local, regional and European authorities, which can also play a significant role for the removal of cultural prejudices and stereotypes. Moreover the civil society should be involved in the Roma social inclusion process for a civil harmony in coordination with local authorities and the police forces.
Download the Discussion paper here: The social and economic integration of the Roma in Europe