21.01.2015 Successful model for overcoming the anti-Roma stereotypes among young people discussed in Brussels
Members of European Parliament, representatives of DG JUST and DG EMPL of European Commission, national institutions, NGOs and municipalities from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Hungary took part in the conference “YOU(th) ARE TOLERANT” organized by AMALIPE Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance in Brussels on January 21. Two weeks after the entire world became Charlie and in a city full with policemen and soldiers like never before, they discussed a model for overcoming the anti-Roma stereotypes among young people, the place of anti-discrimination in the EU Roma policy and how activities for tolerance will be supported via European financial instruments.
The contribution of EU Roma integration policy for overcoming anti-Roma stereotypes was the topic of the first session which brought around the table Damian Draghici (member of European Parliament from Roma origin), Michel Verschraege (DG Justice), Andrey Ivanov (Fundamental Rights Agency), Ivan Ivanov (European Roma Information Office) and Teodora Krumova (Center AMALIPE). Discrimination is not only in EU and not only against Roma, we have to fight all forms of discrimination and not to use discrimination as self-excuse, said Mr. Draghici. He hailed the organizers from Amalipe and their partners from Romani CRISS as Roma organizations that are doing real activities at local and national level stating that local level is the most important in Roma integration. “It is important to make changes at the local level by starting with the younger generation. We have to educate ourselves in order to make progress” was the main massage of the Roma MEP. He also noticed that recently Romanian government finally adopted National Roma Integration Strategy consulted by the Roma organizations and backed it up with 100 million euro from the state budget.
Michel Verschraege from DG Justice presented the role of European Commission. Although the EU Framework for NRISs does not pay special attention to the role of anti-discrimination, this omission was later overcome in the Council Recommendations for effective Roma integration measures from December 9, 2013 which are the first EU legal instrument dedicated specifically on Roma. Mr. Verschraege stressed that DG JUST is publishing annual evaluation reports about the implementation of the NRIS in every member state and the topic of anti-discrimination is included in them. He mentioned the model of Youth is Tolerance groups tested in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Hungary as very successful tool for engaging the young people – both Roma and non-Roma – and expressed satisfaction that it was created with the support of DG Justice.
Andrey Ivanov from FRA shared his opinion on the topics discussed via skype. He explained that the Agency measures the level of discrimination in EU and plans to have permanent monitoring of Romophobia. With this purpose FRA is financing a big plot project for participatory action research on the implementation of local Roma integration plans in 22 localities situated in 11 countries (namely Bulgaria, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom). Within the frames of this project the local communities in the pilot localities will be supported to implement Roma integration plans through active Roma involvement, explained Mr. Ivanov. The involvement of young Roma and non-Roma will be crucial and activities for overcoming anti-Roma stereotypes should be included in the local action.
The executive director of ERIO Ivan Ivanov spoke about different forms of discrimination faced by Roma. He stressed that very often the anti-Roma prejudices are based not on personal experience but on myths and media publications. Even the well-educated Roma can not escape the stigma that makes many young Roma hide their identity. This dangerous tendency could be avoided only through hard work at grass-root level for forming acceptance, stated Mr. Ivanov.
Teodora Krumova from Center Amalipe presented the model for overcoming the anti-Roma stereotypes among the young people created within the project “Youth is Tolerance”. It is based on four pillars: Establishment and development of Youth Volunteer Clubs for Tolerance (based on the principles of volunteering & the snow ball effect), peer trainings of young people (students train students), broad set of Regional, National and International campaigns, addressing hate speech in social and other media. She presented also the results achieved: in numbers of people reached and degree of attitudes changed.
The work of Youth Volunteer Clubs for Tolerance and the results achieved were presented during the second session by the youth coordinators and the partner organizations: Amalipe (Bulgaria), Romani CRISS (Romania), Antigone (Greece) and Dartke (Hungary). The presentations themselves reflected the entire spirit of the project combining “fresh” ideas, innovation, smiles and youth energy. Using the method of “World Café” the volunteers from every country explained to the guests what they have done to change the stereotypes of their peers. Short movies prepared by the volunteers themselves brought the feeling of tens of colorful campaigns.
How different European financial mechanisms could support anti-discrimination activities and the model sustainability was discussed during the last session by Kiril Kiryakov (DG EMPL), Paivi Anttila, (EEA / Norwegian Financial Mechanism), Roberto Marinov (Managing Authority of Human Resources Development Operational Program), Denislav Georgiev (Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sport) and Kalina Durankieva (Municipality of Vratza). The session was moderated by Deyan Kolev who introduced the issue of model sustainability: we discuss a simple and cheap model (based on voluntary work and youth ambition) that was tested and partly standardized within the project “Youth is Tolerance”. There are several means for extending it in other municipalities: Volunteering and youth ambition; ESF funded programs; the EEA / Norwegian Financial Mechanism; the Swiss Contribution; Many others (such as municipal budgets, etc.)
Kiril Kiryakov stressed the importance of investment priority “Socio-economic integration of marginalized communities such as Roma” suggested by the new ESF regulations. Access to employment, education, social and health services as well as overcoming the anti-Roma discrimination and stereotypes will be supported by ESF. In addition, the European Code of Partnership requires participation of all stakeholders (including NGOs) in planning and implementing EU funded programs and interventions, said Mr. Kiryakov. He pointed Bulgaria as good example: the two ESF funded operational programs contain investment priority “Socio-economic integration of marginalized communities such as Roma”, they are well-designed, Amalipe and the other Roma organizations participated actively in preparing them and will participate in the Monitoring Committees, etc.
Roberto Marinov from Bulgarian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (Managing Authority of one of the ESF funded programs) further explained in details how the program will support activities for overcoming anti-Roma stereotypes. In 2015 a call for proposals “Integration” will be announced. It will support projects of municipalities and NGOs and one of its sub-priorities is “Community development and overcoming the anti-Roma stereotypes”. It could finance structures like the Youth Tolerance groups and many others, explained Mr. Marinov.
Paivi Anttila presented the possibilities provided by EEA / Norwegian Financial Mechanism. She explained that the Mechanism supports 47 programs with focus on Roma inclusion in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain with around 34 million euro. For us civil society is reliable partner and we invest funds for the development of NGOs, explained Mrs. Anttila.
The work of the Youth Volunteer Club for Tolerance in Vratza is remarkable and it achieved brilliant results, said Kalina Durankieva. That is why we as municipality will ensure the necessary funds for the club after the project ends: we will provide the honorarium for the youth coordinator and will sign contract with Amalipe to provide supervision and management of the volunteers, explained Mrs. Durankieva. Similar statements were done by the deputy mayor of Blagoevgrad Valeri Smilenov and the representatives of Plovdiv and Veliko Turnovo Municipalities.
The conference was concluding event from the project “Youth is Tolerance: Combatting anti-Roma Stereotypes among Young People” implemented in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Greece by AMALIPE Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance, Romani CRISS, Dartke and Antigine. The project is supported by European Commission within Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Program.