Navigation path

Commission Roma conference closes on a pragmatic and optimistic note

The conference "EU projects in favour of the Roma community" hosted in Brussels by the European Commission has closed its plenary session on Thursday afternoon (11.3). Organised by Directorate General Education and Culture, the conference aimed at disseminating the results of various EU programmes which fund projects related to Roma people, as well as creating a space for debate between policy makers, representatives of the civil society, project promoters and the public at large.
More than 400 participants shared their experiences and expectations during the intense one and a half day, in a series of workshops, plenary sessions and networking breaks. The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of 21 selected projects, co-financed through European funds in the fields of education, culture, youth, citizenship, employment and regional policy. Among the speakers, Prof. Ian Hancock, distinguished Romani scholar and director of the Romani archives of the University of Texas, gave the start with a keynote speech. Odile Quintin, Director General for Education and Culture in the European Commission led the discussions in a panel between Andrzej Mirga, senior advisor on Roma and Sinti issues to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Bernard Rorke, Director of the Roma programme of the Open Society Institute (OSI), Ivan Ivanov, Director of the European Roma Information Office (ERIO) and Katarina Maternova, Deputy Director General for Regional Policy in the European Commission. The need to have a combination of legislation and policies effective on the ground was underlined by the participants, as well as a transversal, targeted and inclusive approach. The 10 basic principles for Roma inclusion, identified by the European Roma Platform, are an important step for Roma inclusion policies at the European level. An integrated approach is needed to include the 2 Es- education and employment- and the 2 Hs- housing and healthcare. This was also one of the recurrent themes in the 3 parallel workshops on the topics of integration through intercultural dialogue, lifelong learning and social inclusion through community involvement and housing. Another topic highlighted by participants and speakers was the role of the media including the community media and social media- as an effective way to bridge differences between communities, to increase knowledge about the other and to touch a "mainstream" audience. Another topic touched upon during the lively discussions was the importance of cooperation between different actors – educators and trainers, local authorities, employment agencies, families- in a long term approach that takes time to build, but is the only effective way to ensure the success and sustainability of the projects. During the conference, a special panel of three young Roma activists dealt with personal experiences of discrimination, but also success. The equal access to quality education was emphasised by the speakers as the key to make the young Roma the decision-makers of their lives, as well as giving them the opportunities to take a leading role in the public life. In parallel to the conference, a parallel seminar brought together experts from the academia, discussing the challenges and opportunities of a potential network on Roma culture and Roma studies. The final plenary meeting brought together Belinda Pyke, Director for Action against discrimination in DG Employment and Social affairs and Vladimir Ĺ ucha, Director for Culture and Communication in DG Education and Culture, who insisted on the explicit recognition of Roma aspect of European policies, as well as the "self-interest" of the non-Roma population in the Roma inclusion: the potential of the largest European minority is immense, especially taking into account the European demographic crisis. We simply cannot afford not to include the Roma in employment market and not use this resource. The conference ended with the presentation by Dolores Ruiz Bautista from the Spanish presidency of the second Roma summit that will take place in Cordoba, on 8 and 9 April 2010.

To know more

More information