We Want to Hear What You Think About the European Roma Institute

We propose that the European Roma Institute be an independent organization that aims to battle prejudice and increase the self-esteem of Roma.
This post was coauthored by Dr. Nicoleta Bitu, on behalf of the Alliance for the European Roma Institute*, Ulrich Bunjes, special representative of the secretary general for Roma issues at the Council of Europe; and Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office.

Over the last few months, we have been promoting the initiative to establish a European Roma Institute. Numerous discussions around this initiative have been taking place at public events in cities throughout Europe, including Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Berlin, Strasbourg, Sarajevo, and Krakow, as well as online.

During these events, representatives of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, experts, activists, academics, artists, curators, media experts, and governmental institutions have had the opportunity to express their support or criticism of the Institute. And now that we have come to a complete proposal, we would like to open this discussion up even wider and allow everyone the chance to participate.

The idea of the European Roma Institute is not new. In fact, it has been proposed by Romani intellectuals for decades. Agnes Daroczi, from Hungary, has been one of the most vocal proponents of the idea. “When in 1992, after the change of the political regime, I founded the Romedia Foundation, I knew that in order to be able to speak of ourselves, to express our interests, to develop a suitable image, we need our own narratives and our own institutions,” she says.

The Council of Europe and the Open Society Foundations want to provide institutional, material, and financial support to make the European Roma Institute a reality. As George Soros and Thorbjørn Jagland wrote recently in a joint statement: “It would act as an important symbol—and symbols are important, as is the ability to tell one’s story in one’s own voice.”

Today, the idea is more relevant and urgent than ever. The economic crisis and political extremism are scaling up historical anti-Gypsyism to the level that it can influence political and policy decisions that affect Roma. More than ever in the last 20 years, Roma culture and identity are used as scapegoats. If we want to achieve justice and equality for the Roma in this environment, we must create a long-lasting response at the European scale that can provide an alternative narrative about Roma and counter the negative prejudice that poisons people’s minds. 

We propose that the European Roma Institute be an independent organization that aims—through arts, culture, history, and media—to battle prejudice and increase the self-esteem of Roma. We hope 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.

According to the rules and procedures of the Council of Europe, the proposal for the institute must first be reviewed by member states to gauge their interest. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe formally endorsed the next preparatory steps and is currently consulting the member states’ experts. We are opening the proposal for views and suggestions from nongovernmental stakeholders. 

We would like to hear your views about this proposal as well. You can express them via email and Facebook. We also plan to organize telephone conference calls. All those interested in a teleconference can email us.

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Our support on behalf of the association DEMÀ (Departament d'Estudis dels Medis Actuals) from Barcelona

The proposed Institute will be as a representative body of all the symbols of the Roma community, and having such clear objectives and goals, I think the institute will be one of the major stakeholders to better represent the Romani image (as it has a very good staff involved). Overall, I think it is more then necessary to have such an institute

I support the proposal for the European Roma Institute and hope to be a part and an equal member of.
Hedina kataro Sarajevo

I am happy to see this article and to see an open call for people to tell you what they think. I think this initiative will only be stronger if people who are really concerned about making it a success are open to criticism, which is what you are trying to demonstrate here. It looks like you are on the path to achieving that.

I also think some people who have good ideas may not want to display them publicly for fear of them being utilized by those who have set out from the very beginning to quash this initiative. I hope you hear from them soon and that they also choose to engage with you.

I encourage you to translate this article and publish in local journals, so that you can reach as many people as possible. Some people have had doubts about this project as being restricted to "the Roma elite" and it is great to see you perservere and continue to communicate that this is not the case. As input is continually and hopefully continuously sought, ERI will only grow in importance.

Our own narratives - taking back Daroczi's words - tell the Romani History since events considered foundering. Comparison with historical sources confirm.
Please, help us for the broadcasting of this work, romanes,tranlation,comments. Regards

Very important achievement on the way of our institutional self-definition. It is a possibility for us, Roma, identifying what/who we are, and not. This all will help us: providing values, culture and knowledge to Europe. It will also help us, representing our social, political and economic agendas. Respect to all, who help this initiative to come real. However, we should, all carefully see and recognize how much we are heterogenic, colorful, different, - not only as individuals, but as communities, even in a country. We are all one, we are all Roma, but we are all different, with different thinking, value, and dreams. I think the biggest challenge what this institute will face is how culturally represent this variegation, to not generate the feeling of exclusion. We all know, that there are strong identities, even if we are Roma, beasi, lovari, kastalo, sinto, traveler, Gitano, Rom Ungro, half Roma etc. We should work on keeping this variegation, and give the place for identification and representation. I would support this effort, for us, for those who are part of our Romani nation. Baxtale te aven!

We are glad to get to know about this initiative. We welcome the idea of a European Roma Institute as most needed in this delicate moment of our history and we would be delighted to give our support and contribution to it.
Best regards from Sarajevo, Foundation Wings of Hope

Nobody can object to the formation of an independent institution, set up by private individuals with the support of OSF or any other private foundation, with the aim of pursuing the goals described in the above statement. Any person or group of persons have the right to pursue such an endeavour and to try to inspire others to join it. However, the Council of Europe is wrong in associating itself with this initiative in this way. Giving ERI the official backing of the Council of Europe would suggest that the Council of Europe endorses the following principles:
1) that the promotion of culture is the responsibility of international political organisations,
2) that culture should have an ‘official’ version rather than remain the exclusive property of individual grassroots initiatives,
3) that Romani culture belongs in a separate and segregated framework,
4) that promoting artistic performance can effectively tackle the main issues that Roma face, namely discrimination, exclusion, human rights protection and lack of effective political participation,
5) that culture can be conflated with, or used as a vehicle for, or as a cover justification for policy advice, as a substitute for proper Romani political representation,
6) that a small number of self-appointed individuals, whose names appear above, have the right to claim to be speaking on behalf of the Romani people, or even on behalf of Romani artists and intellectuals, BEFORE any wide consultation has taken place with stakeholders,
and finally 7) that this small circle of self-appointed individuals has the right to govern an institute that commands the support of the Council of Europe without any safeguards for transparency of decision-making procedures, appointments, quality assurance, performance indicators or risk assessment.
For a private initiative, none of this is problem. But for one that seeks the official recognition, funding, branding and support from the Council of Europe, it is entirely unacceptable. So I wish the initiators the best of luck with ERI as a private initiative, but I appeal to the Council of Europe to withdraw from the process, and instead to wait and see how ERI develops and what kind of partnerships may be set up with it in the future.

Very interesting monopoly experiment on Roma again for another 25 years, but what about the Euro-Nazional Socialist and racist strategy,racial persecution,police brutality and violence, poverty, health and social disaster across a Europe? Just look on the situation of hunger in Ukraine,former Yugoslavia,Slovakia,Hungary, Albania,Kosovo,Bulgaria,Romania,Moldova,Greece,Portugal,Spain,Czech Republic,Belarus,Russia etc.!

Yes to Lubomir! And no to ERI as it is proposed and promoted... Does anybody know that members of the Ad hoc Committee of experts on Roma issues (CAHROM) had not supported Jagland and Soros 2 days ago... And I'm Rrom.

International Romani Union is well-established. As long as the proposed European Roma Institute is supported by and has links to International Romani Union, it must be a good thing.

Before all, I wish this initiative to be more successful than the Roma Decade initiative.

I order to achieve its goals, the Institute has to have a very proactive role. Otherwise, it may turn into an ordinary organization/cultural center, like some existing national ones, focused solely at its own existence.

To insure a proactive role of the Institute, at least 2 things have to be done in advance: secure a minimal long-term budget and hiring motivated personnel.

Devlesa to all!

​On behalf of International Roma Union, as its High Commissioner and the Head of Roma Community of Latvia I express our support for the establishment of European Roma Institute - a joint initiative of the Council of Europe, the Open Society Foundations and Roma organizations.

We endorse all of the declared activities of the future Institute of Roma Culture and propose to support the initiative by deeds, namely:

1. Invitation for the Institute to open its branch in Riga, Latvia.
2. Provision of the resources in Latvia for extended activities of the Institute - workplace and conference halls.
3. Offering our base and resources for the organisation of International Roma seminars and conferences
4. Conferences on the subject of Roma Culture and linked subjects.
5. Cultural collaboration in making the exhibitions about Roma heritage, to create a touring and an exchange scheme within EU.
6. Creation of joint research programmes.

Watch video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-UmgNspbTxtNDNmMnZUXy1NOWM/view?usp=sh... (6:35 min.)


Hight commissioner of International Romai Union

Normunds Rudevičs

In my opinion, it will be wise to shape the activities and narrative of proposed ERI as an authentic Roma voice
and never as merely a reaction on this world`s dislikes against Roma and misconceptions about them.

I would take a dialectical materialist view,

The European Academic Network on Romani Studies was the the thesis. The ERI is the antithesis. The synthesis, when it emerges, will correspond ideologically to the interests of the funders.
But as a Weberian I see much depends on the coalition which forms the funding alliance, and that alliance's perceptions of its interests. So there is still everything to play for.

Dear people,

On May 17th I placed the following comment on the webpage by mr. Soros' Open Society Foundations about this topic. Sadly NO ONE responded so far.

While I applaud any and every effort to help support and encourage Roma identity and acceptance, I keep wondering why I never find anything like that on the internet combining efforts to help those who suffer the worst: the poorest of Roma who lack everything. For them I'd like to place a copy of my comment to the Soros website with a strong request to read and think about this. Culture is nice and good but of no value to those who don't know how to feed their children today!

Dear people,

With great pleasure I see this initiative. But let's be honest, do these and other initiatives not mainly cater to the culturally and socially more elevated part of the Roma population? What about the simple man or woman in the street who finds out time and again that he hasn't got the money to buy his children adequate food and other things they need and are entitled to?

I don't mean to sound obsessive, but having worked for the past 17 years with primarily Roma youngsters who were classified (but aren't always!!!) as mentally deficient, who often spent their entire childhood in loveless state institutions, I have been confronted on a daily basis with their needs and the question how to help them get a worthwhile independent life within Romania or often also outside of the country.

For this we have constructed a safe home for a maximum of around 25 of them in the province of Sibiu. Unfortunately I've been forced to close this home some time ago for total lack of funds and the home is empty now.

I would love to make a new start, be it in the same way as before, or in an entirely new project in aid of the Roma community. But when I say "aid" I mean aid in order to gain an adequate living standard for all, respect in the Romanian community, working at ways to reduce and preferably eliminate discrimination at all levels.

Culture is great and necessary but for many, many Romanian Roma economical survival was and still is at stake. Especially in the difficult economical times we live in. If anyone has ideas, suggestions, knows means of sponsoring, would like to contribute, collaborate, help, please respond. You may reach us by writing to Fundatia Casa Florilor at email address [email protected]

And please, if you have alternative suggestions in which our foundation and our building may play a role to help the Roma community, be it spiritually or economically, please don't hesitate to make contact. We have contacts within the EU, there are possibilities to at least in part use our premises as a place where young people from all over Europe can be educated on specific themes involving discrimination and exclusion, but it needs a larger context or at least some substantial basic funding in order to create the necessary renovations for such a new project if we are to survive. The situation is urgent if not to say desperate.

Paul van Rossum
President of Fundatia Casa Florilor (RO)
Secretary of Stichting Casa Florilor Roemenië (NL)

As a writer and speaker challenging stereotypes and prejudice, especially against Roma and Travellers, I am 'on the outside' and as such I think the European Roma Institute is a vital tool for progress in Roma claiming their rightful voice. But it has to come from 'the inside' - from Toma and Travellers themselves wanting it to succeed. Only then can we 'on the outside' support it.

I would also like to add that we should not forget about discrimination against Roma,which is currently a on going situation in the eastern europe. There for we should push as hard as we can to put an end to discrimination. The only way to achieve such thing is to speak and raise concerns to Brussels and let them deal with it with the Czech Government in a proper way.

i think this is a good initiative for cultural preservation for posterity.and should be developed.

Hello to all the European Institute in Roma! I deeply'm glad that there was such an initiative, about this organization and intitution! I would like to make your Institute, the court has politically independent and impartial. Institute is needed as a bridge between the nation state and the European Roma. The situation of Roma in different countries are both completely different, both very similar and same time close to the problem. Note, however, that any matters related to the inclusion, integration, discrimination, the effective work of the improvements or traditional roma marriage, etc. It is deeply committed to the science of psychology. I am Latvian Roma. I am a psychologist. I would like to build closer links and relations with other countries' Roma and psihologists. I know that the Roma nationality psychologists have in Greece and Spain. With your support we could founders of Roma psychological support service: How directly work with Roma looking for work? How explained that a marriage in order to reduce early marriage? How roma nation state to deal with prejudices aspects? etc. Roma Nations is a general psychological features, character, a specific way of thinking and feeling the threshold. We Roma Psychologists offer professional help for the nation-state of Roma and providing support to other countries where the Roma population and the difficulties are bigger and more. Internships, exchange of experience, roma psychological educational policy-making is an effective instrument contributes to Roma Nation in Europe as one Nation. We are Roma Profesionals and I see in this point special duties for European Roma Institue.

Andris Tertats, Latvian psychologist, roma, roma researcher

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