BUDAPEST—The 47 member states of the Council of Europe will join the initiative to establish a European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. This decision means that the Council of Europe will be a cofounder of the Institute, next to the Open Society Foundations and the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, a coalition of Roma civil society organizations, activists, and artists.
Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, said, “The European Roma Institute will be a place to encourage the resilience and creative power of Roma communities across Europe; it will help create a sense of pride among Roma and respect for Roma among all Europeans.”
The idea of the European Roma Institute is not new and has been proposed by Roma intellectuals for decades. This is a historic moment for Roma arts and culture organizations in Europe, Roma artists, cultural producers, and intellectuals who will now have their own stage to celebrate the art, history, and traditions of European Roma; share their cultural heritage with all Europeans; and combat anti-Roma stereotypes by means of arts, culture, history, and media.
George Soros, chair of the Open Society Foundations, said, “I welcome the decision by the Council of Europe to support a European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture and look forward to seeing it become a vibrant, creative hub allowing leading Roma thinkers to overcome European borders and act together against the discrimination Roma experience.”
The European Roma Institute will be an independent organization that aims—through arts, culture, history, and media—to battle prejudice and increase the self-esteem of Roma. It will rigorously document Romani artistic and cultural heritage of all forms, not just the mainstream, and provide opportunities for creative exchange. One of the founding principles of this initiative is that Roma themselves should present the image of who they are and who they are not. Roma intellectuals, artists, journalists, writers, linguists, historians, and others will lead the institute, with the support and cooperation of many other members and contributors, regardless of ethnic origin.
Dr. Nicoleta Bitu, member of the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, said, “The establishment of the European Roma Institute is great news for all Roma who fight against racism, for artists, journalists, writers, linguists, historians, and for all Europeans determined to create alternative narratives about Roma and counter the negative prejudice that poisons people’s minds and souls.”
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, we support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.