High level conference on Roma and Travellers in Europe
Strasbourg, 20 October 2010 – On 20 October, Strasbourg hosted a high level conference on Roma and Travellers in Europe.
At the invitation of the Chairman of the CoE Committee of Ministers, Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, and Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, the conference was also attended by high representatives of the member states, including the Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, the Finnish Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors, the Turkish State Minister, Faruk Celik, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Konstantin Dimitrov, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Security of Romania, Valentin Mocanu, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche, the Deputy Minister for Regional Development of Russia, Maxim Travnikov, and others.
Other participants included the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, ODIHR Director Janez Lenarčič, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mevlut Çavusoglu, and representatives of other international organisations.
The participation and address by the President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski, were of particular importance. He stressed that seeking ways of overcoming the issues faced by Roma requires their participation and he highlighted in particular the importance of access to quality education for Roma and teaching the majority population about the history and culture of Roma. He expressed the hope that the conference and the adoption of a declaration were a first step towards the implementation of commitments already adopted.
Slovenia was represented by Mr Stanko Baluh, Director of the Office for Nationalities, who highlighted good practice developed by our country during the last few years.
Both the member states and the European institutions are aware of the urgent issue and many of them have already adopted strategies and action plans for improving the situation of Roma in society; however, much needs to be done in the implementation, which requires political will. The fight against intolerance, racism and anti-Gypsism is not enough; it is necessary to ensure comprehensive inclusion of Roma and their participation in society. Particular attention needs to be devoted to quality education and to social and health care rights, and especially women and children. In addition to the activities of member states, this also requires close cooperation among the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE and other institutions.
The member states adopted the Strasbourg Declaration, which confirmed their decision to address issues concerning the situation of Roma in Europe effectively. The Declaration empowers the Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, to reorganise the Secretariat and services of the Council of Europe, so that they can more effectively ensure the implementation of the commitments adopted. The Declaration is available here.