On 21 and 22 March an extraordinary session of the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion was convened in Brussels by the European Commission. The meeting was intended to provide space for the communication of examples of good practice in the context of national strategies for Roma integration, experiences, and opinions. Among those speaking were Czech MEP Richard Falbr (Czech Social Democrats – ČSSD) and Kumar Vishwanathan, the chair of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) civic association in Ostrava.
A clear precondition for the success of inclusion efforts is the Commission’s requirement that the Member States first ensure a non-discriminatory approach to Romani people and that Romani people be treated like all other EU citizens. “There is a need to include Romani people themselves in the discussion on how to improve the life of Romani people in the EU, because they, like many other discriminated minorities, know best what is bothering them,” Falbr said.
Falbr criticized the fact that the only Romani representative included in the five panels of the meeting was Hungarian MEP Lívia Járóka (European People’s Party group). Falbr said Romani people were not being given the opportunity to express their thoughts on the steps taken by the Commission to influence the behavior of the Member States on the question of Roma inclusion.
Kumar Vishwanathan, an educator and social worker who attended as a representative of the nonprofit sector, got the opportunity to present examples of good practice and to join the discussion on the transparent drawing of EU Structural Funds. “I consider this meeting at the European Commission to have been groundbreaking and symbolic. Through this step, I think the EU has shown that it considers it a political priority to address the situation of Romani people in Europe,” Vishwanathan said, adding that a precondition for the development of meaningful national strategies on Romani integration is the intensive cooperation of governments and non-governmental organizations with the lower levels of public administration that are closest to citizens.
The EU Platform for Roma Inclusion was created in December 2008 with the aim of supporting policies for Roma inclusion and the coordination of all parties involved: EU bodies, Member State governments, international organizations, experts, and representatives of Romani civil society. The main aim of the platform is for Member States to discuss their approaches and exchange experiences, good practices, and processes that have proven effective.
voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert