Solutions, the good, the bad and the ugly – the 9th EU Roma Platform

18 Mar

Solutions*

These solutions were inspired by previous documents, experiences and discussions before, during and after the meeting of the EU Roma Platform.

  1. Thematic permanent -EU Roma Platform Working groups

Rationale

Permanent working groups will make the meetings of the Platform more efficient as they will be tasked to help the implementation and review of the National Roma Inclusion Strategies. During the preparation of the EU Platform meetings the working groups will deal with some of the recurrent problems of EU Roma meetings.  Frustrations can be vented and solved prior to each of the two yearly meetings. Those involved will have the expertise, interest and discipline to work towards achieving concrete goals. The working groups will also have a fundamental role in capacity building as bureaucrats need to learn about grassroots experiences and Roma activists about available international, national and local mechanisms.  It will ensure the much needed stakeholders cooperation and accountability.

What

Start with some 5-6 thematic groups. Anti-Gypsyism, Employment, Education-Culture-Sport-Citizenship, Health, Housing and Crises ( Humanitarian Aid, Trafficking…)

How it should work

Example Anti-Gypsyism working group/task force

Stakeholders : Anti-Discrimination ( DG Justice), Fundamental Rights Agency ( FRA), Council of Europe (Roma Unit, ECRI, Commissioner for Human Rights), EU High Representative for Human Rights, DG Enlargement, OHCHR , NGOs ( Amnesty, ERRC, ENAR, OSI, ERGO…), governments ( Equality Bodies) and Roma experts.

Goal: Prepare action plans for each of the stakeholders involved based on a realistic analysis of their strengths , weaknesses and complementarities. Such action plans need to include clear responsibilities and accountability for achieving the targets. The end goal is to achieve equality for Roma ( in terms of both rights and responsibilities)

Needs : Each of the institutional stakeholders appoints a person in charge of this task and introduce indicators to stimulate his/her work in its performance review. One part time employed independent expert to deal with the secretariat of the working group.

What :  The working –group will feed –in  the meeting of each platform with updates on the situation and recommendations of needed steps forward.

  1. National Roma Platforms

Rationale

In the past we witnessed a rather limited pool of people and ideas that played a role at the national level. There is a strong need of building hands-on expertise on available national and international instruments among the Roma NGOs and Roma grassroots experience and challenges for the national structures. These platforms need to be built on the same principles as the EU Roma Platform – a similar working groups structure is needed together with a very clear mandate for helping the implementation and the review process of the Roma National Strategies.

How it should work: Based on similar working groups as the example above

Needs :  Budget for an independent expert  secretariat  ( some of those employed at the national level could be the same that ensure the secretariat of the EU Roma Platform working groups in order to reduce the budgets).

  1. Replicate the exceptional success of the EU Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (MCV) in Romanian and Bulgaria for the case of Roma Social Inclusion.

Rationale

Despite being opposed, strongly criticized and often hated by a good majority of the Romanian politicians and media moguls the MCV has led to an extraordinary clean up within the Romanian society in regard to corruption. There is a possibility for a pilot project (based on the good practice of the European Semester ) covering some of the most important countries for the social inclusion of Roma to create a much stronger mechanism for helping the successful implementation of the Roma National Strategies.

How to do it : Together with EC Representations in these countries the European Commission need to appoint an expert on Roma issues capable to help the governments , NGOs and other stakeholders to transform the existing strategies in actions with effect at the grassroots. Such officers should also play a fundamental role in the success of the first 2 solutions proposed here.

Needs : One of the Commissioners dealing with Roma issues should propose such a pilot project to the vice-president in charge of Fundamental Rights. Once approved by the very senior management the bureaucracy in Brussels should be able to come up with a technical solution.

  1. Analyze the efficiency of existing structures, mechanism and practices

Rationale

During the meeting of the platform the participants made clear that we need to address the issue of accountability.  A clear recommendation for such an analysis was the conclusion of one of the two working groups. There are many mechanisms available – some of them are good and need to be much better used, some of them are mediocre and need to be reformed/improved and some are useless and need to be scrapped. The public money saved from giving –up on some existing  mechanisms and practices will surely cover not only the needs from this document but many others.

How to do it : Task an independent expert to conduct a critical evaluation focused on the effectiveness of existing mechanisms to reach equality for Roma. The evaluation should also include recommendations on structural methods meant to put in practice equality duties in order to achieve the goal that Roma have a key role in both setting up the agendas and assuming responsibilities for achieving the goals of those agendas.

The good

Most of the participants openly acknowledged that this was the best EU Roma Platform meeting they could remember.

The Commission was clearly focused on listening and facilitating – in a very strident and very much welcomed opposition to the preaching style of the last EU Roma Platforms I attended ( some 3-4 years ago).

Unexpectedly humble and emotional speech of Commissioner in charge of Roma issues very much different (in a very positive way) from the style of previous Commissioner.

Two Roma MEPs that put lots of time and heart in the meeting – discrepantly different from the previous Roma MEPs that rarely if ever  bothered to stay for anything else besides their own speeches. Some remarkable speeches and interventions of activists (Roma and non-Roma) my age and  younger.

More and higher position (ministers and deputy ministers) representative of governments were present that in any of the Roma Platform meetings I attended or covered. Good intervention from the ministers from Sweden and Luxembourg.

The bad

Discussions were at times very much unfocused and the opportunity offered by the organisers to come up with concrete solutions was partially missed. Some of the speeches and interventions were remarkably dull or unsuitable for the purpose of the meeting.

A weak show up of intergovernmental institutions and the sensation that a good part of stakeholders  see the European Commission as a pile of money and not much else. Local authorities presence was also remarkably weak and the speeches of the government representatives from countries with significant Roma population lacked anything concrete( Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria).

The ugly

Despite a very limited experience with the Roma issues ( according to her own words – only “participation to a few seminars”) the Romanian Contact Point for Roma issues had no problems to show publicly her support for the statement ;”the situation of Roma is improving”. She happened to be the only one among the many Romanians present that had such an opinion.

The Platform also provided a good opportunity for too many to exercise for hours their Facebook and shopping skills. It seems that we Roma also need to find ways to hold accountable some of our own that misunderstand or misuse their positions and waste not just public money but some good opportunities.

*Solutions focused on the role and functioning of the EU Roma Platform.

PS. Open Democracy decided also to publish my previous post – it can be found at

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/valeriu-nicolae/no-accountability-%E2%80%93-case-of-roma-social-inclusion-in-europe

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2 Responses to “Solutions, the good, the bad and the ugly – the 9th EU Roma Platform”

  1. Stephen Collins March 19, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Like! Honest, constructive assessment and concrete proposals.

  2. jpakiers March 20, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Valeriu, a very good and constructive proposal…Let’s hope EC will take it up!

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