This past week was Romani Week 2021 (27th – 30th September), bringing together Roma and pro-Roma actors and stakeholders from across Europe. The primary call was for the European Commission and EU-member states to place antigypsyism and the fight against it at the forefront of efforts towards the full social and economic inclusion of Roma. The annual event serves as a platform to raise concerns, exchange knowledge, and advocate for specific issues. This year most prominent on the agenda was the recognition of antigypsyism and EU-policies for Roma post-2020. Within this context-specific issues such as online hate speech, reproductive rights, entrepreneurship, Roma children in care, environmental justice, and making funding work for Roma were discussed.

The progress that has been made at an EU-level was acknowledged, but there were strong warnings throughout the week about the implications of persistent antigypsyism. Threats to the rule of law and democratic institutions are creating an atmosphere in which justice without prejudice cannot prevail. Some participants questioned the setting of ‘halfway targets’, emphasising that issues such as school segregation, denial of healthcare rights, and police violence cannot be tolerated. There was a consensus throughout that plans and funds should work for Roma people, not that Roma should work for plans or funds.

Eurodiaconia, together with the European Public Health Alliance, hosted an event looking at health equity for Roma, in the context of post-COVID recovery and resiliency plans. Two panels discussed the inclusion of Roma in recovery plans and strengthening policy mobilisation. The urgent need for improved healthcare infrastructure and pathways to access were highlighted, as well as the good work done in member states by community outreach teams and mobile healthcare responses, which met and understood the needs of communities. Our policy officer, Abriel Schieffelers, also participated in a panel discussing essential elements in implementing the national Roma strategic frameworks. The panel reiterated the importance of tying national frameworks to the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan and that most plans lacked the specificity to tackle challenges faced by Roma communities.

We will continue to work, together with our members, to ensure that entrenched antigypsyism is confronted and that Roma communities have access to services as we recover from the pandemic together.

If you would like to watch any of the sessions from the week, they are still available to view on the Facebook page of MEP Romeo Franz – and via the links above.