Тhe 15-th European Roma Platform in Prague: key statements and behind them
The 15-th European Roma Platform brought together representatives of the EU Commission, National Roma Contact Points, other Governmental representatives and Roma and pro-Roma NGOs. It took place in Prague on October 25 and 26, 2022. More than 150 participants attended the Platform in person (for first time after the Covid crisis) and other 100 took part in the discussion online. Center Amalipe was represented by Deyan Kolev and Teodora Krumova.
Almost full absence of national governmental representatives at political level (apart from the National Roma Contact Points) was one of the features of the platform that impressed the participants. Although the event was in the Prague no minister from the Czech Government was present. Other national governments where not present at political level either although the respective ministries or deputy prime ministries where invited. Many participants in the platform stressed this absent as indicator for the lack of national governmental commitment.
The lack of visible advance at local level regarding Roma inclusion was another issue discussed frequently. Many participants who had taken part in many previous platform expressed their disappointments that Roma related policies have gained support at EU level but have not met еnough engagement from the national governments.
“You are suffering from professional blindness. We have been discussing these problems for 30 years now, but the implementation of these strategies has never reached the local level. Concrete deeds to improve the Roma situation are minimal,” said Ivan Veselý, a Romani activist from the Czech Republic.
Third topic discussed many time from the participants from the platform concerned the lack of engagement at local level. Many municipal authorities denied to implement action for Roma inclusion although they can use EU funds. The Slovak MEP from Roma origin Peter Pollak said:
“There are little islands of positive examples, but it is not possible to get the funds from the European Union to the local level. There are still a large number of Roma who get their drinking water from streams,” Peter Pollák said, criticizing national governments, cities and municipalities in his speech.
According to Pollák, Roma are supported at EU level, but the mayors of cities and municipalities are not interested in investing EU money into improving the Roma situation. “It isn’t enough to have political ambition at the European level, it is also necessary to have it at the local level,” said Pollák, according to whom cities and municipalities which refuse to invest EU money into improving Romani communities’ situations should be prohibited from using EU funds.
“We need to improve the communication with the cities and regions. However, if the municipalities still do not want to use the funds to support the Roma, they should not have access to EU funds generally,” he added.
This statement was supported also by Gabriela Hrabanova (ERGO Network) and many other participants. It is valid also for Bulgaria and it’s experience with “social housing”: although there were significands funds from the Regions and Growth OP for social housing.
The discussion during second day was organizesed in two working gropus: 1) segregation in education and housing and 2) using EU funds. Deyan Kolev from Center Amalipe was speaker in the first working group. He pointed five features and two question regarding segregation:
1. Huge extend of the problem: segregation is one of the biggest challenges regarding Roma related policies. According to FRA data 60 – 70 % of the Roma students in BG study in segregated schools or classes. According to survey carried out by Center Amalipe and MES (within No-segregation project) almost half of the primary school in BG are with students are from concentration of vulnerable school and 1/3 of the VET schools (Professional gymnasium) could be defined as segregated school or school in process of segregation.
2. Positive development in some countries is that governments started to recognize publicly the problem. For example the new Public Education Act in Spain uses the term segregation for first time; In BG there is National Program for Supporting Desegregation, etc.
3. There is very low commitment for concrete targeted action for overcoming segregation: Governments invest efforts for ensuring full enrolment and overcoming early school leaving but do not touch the problem with segregation and the need of introducing intercultural education.
4. Regarding the funding governments use predominantly ESF and ERDFS money for limited operation. Only few exceptions for using national funds for overcoming segregation could be pointed. They are regarding segregation and education (sync there is public support) and not for housing desegregation (sync there is public resistance to this process)
5. Segregation is a deteriorating problem: many surveys show that the percentage of Roma children who study in segregated environment is increasing. There is a sharp need for catalyzer of desegregation processes. EU could be the strongest catalyzer. Kolev raised two open questions for the discussion:
- Does desegregation exclude investment in raising the quality in segregated schools and segregated Roma neighborhoods: Is it possible to organized sustainable desegregation process without investment in the “Roma schools” for decreasing the “gap” in education.
- What kind of EU support we need: Financial support existed but what kind of political support is necessary to make national governments responsible for the process