Why We Are Setting Up a European Roma Institute

For more than four decades Europe’s Roma community have wanted to establish an institution that would give their music, art, and unique traditions their own stage. Across the continent, such bodies exist to celebrate an array of cultures, nationalities, and identities. Yet there is nothing of this kind for Roma. Many feel this absence, particularly among Romani campaigners, educators, and intellectuals. It compounds a sense of exclusion and denies all of us the opportunity to celebrate the Roma influence on our shared cultural life. We are joining forces to help put this right.

Europe’s 12 million Roma remain the continent’s largest minority—and its most resilient. The vast majority continues to live segregated from mainstream society, in many cases set apart by a wall of prejudice and mistrust. This centuries-old intolerance has no place in an open and modern Europe. We believe a new European Roma Institute can help.

First, it would have the power to educate, chipping away at the negative stereotypes which still pervade across the continent. Second, a fully fledged European Roma Institute would, we believe, become a powerful source of self-esteem. It would act as important symbol—and symbols are important, as is the ability to tell one’s story in one’s own voice. Such an institute could also explore the ways in which Roma life has shaped, and been shaped, by other cultures and forces, underlining similarities as well as differences. Perhaps most important, it would provide a landmark for Roma children to look upon and feel a sense of belonging and pride.

The value of such confidence building should not be underestimated. Many individuals of Romani descent will tell you of the pressure to assimilate into the mainstream in order to be successful. For those looking to get ahead, abandoning their already beleaguered heritage can seem the safest route.

This mindset is likely to remain so long as strategies designed to support Europe’s Roma communities are pursued in a piecemeal and disconnected way. A Roma Institute cannot, alone, reverse this, nor is it a panacea for all Roma troubles. However, over time it can help foster the kind of self-assuredness other communities feel.

To this end, the Open Society Foundations—working with leading Roma organizations and Roma intellectuals—have sought the Council of Europe’s help in establishing Europe’s first Roma Institute. The project will be Roma-led, but we, together, can provide needed support. It is a natural partnership: in our different ways the Council of Europe and the Open Society Foundations have long sought to advance the rights and empowerment of Roma people. Under the proposal, our two organizations will act as founders alongside a new group—the Alliance for the European Roma Institute. The Alliance will be made up of existing Romani groups including, for example, the Romani museum from Romania and the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma from Germany. Together, we will commit to fund the European Roma Institute in its five-year start-up phase.

The Institute will celebrate Romani heritage while also recording the Romani experience and acting as a vibrant creative hub. It will be a place for Roma in the arts to work together and connect with the creative community across Europe for the exchange and development of ideas. Through its events, exhibitions, and performances the Institute will seek to educate the wider public on the richness and greatness of Roma culture and achievement. Institutionally, it will also act as a policy advisor to the Council of Europe and member states, seeking to establish partnerships with similar bodies around the world.

No such institution has ever existed—and this one has our full support. Together with our Roma partners we will now seek to make it a reality. For decades leading Roma thinkers have debated how they can cut across European borders to act in concert against the discrimination they have all experienced. A European Roma Institute can be at the vanguard of this extremely important pursuit.

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Excellent! But I do recommend that Romani populations in North and South America be somehow involved. Our socioeconomic situation here is far better than it is for Romanies in Europe, and support, financial and otherwise, can come from here.

That was mentioned at one of the consultation meetings! Many people think the same and I think that point is an important one that will not be forgotten.


Permanent Conference of Roma citizens 'associations' League Roma from Serbia gives strong support to the idea of creating and launching the work of the European Roma Institute.
Roma constitute a large ethnic and cultural community, not only in European but also in the world. I make a specific community - Roma have no home country. Lack home country means a lack of institutional mechanisms to establish and guarantee the internal sociability and cultural order. Despite the lack of state Roma have managed to preserve and cherish their culture and society. Although under constant segregation and assimilation strikes, Roma identity has survived. Visible and recognizable. This fact is all the more important that Roma have never nurtured their identity negation of any other identity. Negation (nationalism, chauvinism, racism ...) and elimination (extermination, genocides, the Holocaust ...) members of the community they serve a different identity, the constituent cities of western culture. No and Roma.

The Roma, as an inherently pacifist and cosmopolitan communities without their own state guarantor ever been put away from the major cultural, political, integrative and economic trends in Europe and the world. At the same time, on the other hand, their contribution to European and world culture is disproportionately large in relation to their social position - in relation to their initial social position. In this case demonstrates the truth of the maxim "everyone is the architect of his own fortune" - just as someone forges a red-hot iron hammer on the anvil, and it forges a bare fist in his own lap.

Looking forward to seeing the good work this new institute will do.

Seriously? I fail to see the comparison between Khetanes and the ERI.

The world need to see us in other "colors" not just in black. I hope this what you are doing will help.

Three cheers for this idea, long overdue! In 1997 when Herefordshire (where I live) was part of Hereford and Worcester CC, there was atwinning arrangement with Bekes province in Hungary and with the County Council we arranged a visit by a Roma band(Gyemant Gyuru) from Bekes to Herefordshire, where they played and danced on all the Sites and in the Towns and Cities. A number of local Roma said it was the best day of their lives when they played and partied on their sites.

This is a fantastic idea

It is already the European Roma Right Center in Budapest and thousands of NGO- EUROMA- Ltd. Co & Companies around the Europe! The 75% of Roma, Sinti, Manush, Kale, Nuri, and Khovli people live outside of the European Continent! Roma,Sinti,Manush and other people need Diplomats in United Nations, Representative Members of every Government in Europe,South and North of America, Asia and in Africa. The last 25 years of the political transformation of human rights, justice,democracy and peace was catastrophy a tragedy of racial persecution,racist violence,neo-fascism,neo-nazism and genocide and wars in Yugoslavia and in other places around the world. This European Roma Institute will NOT CHANGE the alarming situation of Poverty and Social Disaster in Europe, South and North of America, Asia and in Africa! The World need urgently Economical and Social Reformation, not Wars and Experiments! Billions was invested in the European Roma Question or Final Solution from different places as EU. Mr. Jose Barroso and Mrs.Viviane Reding EP. International Foundations,etc. Nothing WAS CHANGE, just more and more talks, pilot projects,more programmes, more financial support and injections for crime prevention,seminars and the result of that is, that few Roma student study! Roma Industry and Experiments isn't good for Roma at all!

I would appreciate to see more local communities called for action in this project, to balance the mix of top-down ideas and bottom-up needs.

Thank you so much for supporting the Roma culture and people.

Great Project (The Voice comment: This looks entirely different from what your link is about)!

What is so needed for poor Roma families is something on the order of Finland's boxes, a caring. We are giving library schools to young mothers with a stipend so they can stay with their babies in Romania, enter literacy together with their children and the rest of their families, instead of having to leave the children with grandmothers to beg in the streets of Florence. This both empowers and preserves families.

Most certainly the most Positive news for the European Continent this year

I would like to conduct this exhibition exchange between Roma and Cambodia culture and train to Cambofian art staffs about Roma stereotype with Cambodia or with another culture. How we can do together?
Sochovanny Hoy
President of Positive Change for Cambodia.

Splendid news! Some years ago I developed residential workshops (OSF funded) to encourage talented Roma directors, writers and producers to create original radio and television programmes in Eastern Europe. I was inspired by their imaginations and courage against unfair prejudice and hostility from their main stream non-Roma counterparts in the media industry in the region.
I hope this new institute will bring equal opportunities and fresh new work across the arts, media and culture led by Roma talent.

And what is the planned location?

If only I had the capacity; this would have been started in country where 43 ethnic groups reside. Culture diversity is the beauty of a community.All the blessings .................go on

Very exciting ...step one should include Roma people in creating this council and showcase so they are co-contributors to this great idea or any idea moving forward..in essence you are doing this with people the Roma people not for

I do hope this will have a strong positive effect on the intolerance and discrimination that many experience.

Mr. Ian is right. We need support from North and South America. They are the best indicators of how best to sustain the culture.
In Italy As for the culture and musical events we are on level 0. And of course no one wants to finance US either for cultural events or for volunteer work. So I hope that we will be invited to cooperate .

As a frequent visitor to Romania and Hungary I have seen the contempt and ethnic hatred of the Roma minority at first hand and welcome another great initiative from you.
The issue of the 3 million or so Roma continues to be one of the major problems in the EU and requires a degree of goodwill and funding that is difficult to envisage

This is wonderful news! I look forward to this project immensely.

Truly a great idea. A step in the direction of increasing the visibility of the Roma and diminishing prejudice against them all over Europe.

May the all Roma's dream become reality as soon as possile!

I'm glad to know about this initiative and hope it will get great results in the future. It is important to work inside the Roma comunities and the European society.

Excellent! Good luck!

I used to work with OSFs for more than a decade...I have dedicated my time and work to Roma in Central and Eastern Europe...I have learned from my own project and experience that such high level institutions and initiatives are not really helping the Roma in the settlements. This people are struggling in a daily basis wit unemployment, poverty and discrimination. Establishing new institutions for fews selected/favored young Roma is not having a big impact and not changing at all the situation at the ground....Think twice were are you going to invest again a bunch of money...

Very nice this initiative ..

Excellent idea, but why setting up an institute in cooperation with the CoE and simultaneously stopping the cooperation between CoE and ERTF? Why focusing on Romani art and simultaneously weakening a Forum that is focusing on Romani politics? Why seaking the support of a Romani elder and simultaneously frustrating the functioning of another? Why deviding whereas uniting is so much more effective?

This is an excellent idea!

Dear Tina you are absolutely right and thank you for your comment!

This sounds amazing. Hopefully, Romani people from Canada, America, and Central America will also be invited to participate.

ERI could be an excellent initiative, if: a) it adopts a well-defined concept and a clear remit, b) it is inclusive, drawing on existing initiatives with a long track record of achievement and a genuine commitment to promoting public awareness of Romani culture, c) it sees itself as complementary to other initiatives, and does not seek to compete either with grassroots political representation of Roma, which is led by various networks Romani human rights NGOs and political parties, or with academic research and training, which is carried out at numerous established universities, and d) it ensures that its management is composed of experienced people who command public respect and have a recognised track record of achievement. Unfortunately, none of these conditions has so far been met: a) no concept has been put forward, except the very fuzzy notion that ERI will promote culture, document knowledge, and advise on policy -- three completely different domains of activity that require different kinds of expertise and structure; b) none of the established cultural initiatives have been included in the consultations, save the Culture and Documentation Centre for Sinti and Roma in Germany, which is ironically opposed to public promotion of Romani culture, and the incipient Roma museum in Bucharest, which is still in its planning stage; c) ERI has been pitched almost aggressively as a way of ‘conquering ground’ away from Roma representatives as well as academics; indeed, one of its most vocal supporters has likened it to ‘Empires falling’, and others have described it as a way of ‘taking over power’ and of challenging established academia rather than of working with it; d) as far as we can tell so far from the documented consultations, ERI centres around a small circle of self-appointed individuals, who are all energetic young people but who have no management experience and no declared commitment to transparency. So OSF still has a lot of work to do on this concept. And if it wishes to continue to secure Council of Europe support, then it must ensure that conventional standards of transparency and accountability are met.

Friends have been asking me why I have been spending so much time posting replies on blogs. My answer is that the debate around the ERI initiative has brought up some very important issues about Roma participation in academia. I am grateful to OSF for opening its page to replies, including critical replies, to its initiative. This is precisely the spirit of tolerance and open debate that we expect from Open Society. As an addendum to my previous message, I'd like to address a number of issues that have come up in the discussion:

1. Is current research on Roma dominated by Western, white, colonial scholars?

Historically, we might say ‘yes’; but this is the case in every academic discipline, including physics, sociology, theology, Jewish studies, and arguably even gender studies and cultural theory, where most active participants are white Western individuals living in centres of current or former colonial power. That said, Romani studies has prominent figures of Jewish, eastern European, Middle Eastern, and other backgrounds. Many scholars working this field, irrespective of their background, have a track-record of anti-colonial activism that has strongly influenced their analytical paradigms.

2. Does current research on Roma focus mainly on folkore and the like?

No. Take just a glance through the library catalogue of any major university at recent scholarly journal articles on the topic ‘Roma/Romani’: You will find analyses of policies toward Roma, or Roma participation, and of anti-Roma images in media. The journal ‘Romani Studies’, for example, has published over the past fifteen years many articles on these topics, by the likes of Colin Clark, Andrew Ryder, Annabel Tremlett, Marton Rővid, Aidan McGarry, Paula Trevisan, Kristine Duaud, Laszlo Strausz, Margaret Greenfields, Michael Zimnmermann, Abby Bardi, Eva Sobotka, and numerous others. Many scholars contribute regularly on such topics to other scholarly journals too.

3. Is all research on Roma being carried out without Roma?

There are some models of good practice in this area. The MigRom research consortium, funded by the European Commission, includes as one of its full partners the European Roma and Travellers Forum, a Roma NGO, which contributes actively to research design and to the dissemination of results. All five academic partners in the consortium engage part-time Roma assistants who contribute not just to data collection but also to analysis. The University of Manchester, which is the lead partner on MigRom, employs on the project three Roma on a full-time basis and three others part-time; they work alongside one non-Rom full-time, and three non-Roma part-time. Between 2002-2005, OSI sponsored the participation of some 17 Roma trainees on the Romlex project, based mainly at Graz University.

4. How do we best ensure that the study of Romani culture gains respect?

In my opinion, the best way is to make sure that Romani history and culture, and critical perspectives on Romani participation and Roma/non-Roma relations, are not segregated, but instead are given the attention they deserve within mainstream academic establishments such as universities, journals, and research centres. Many colleagues have been working hard to achieve this for many years now, with good results.

5. Is it a problem that Roma are under-represented in academia?

Yes, but not because all current research is biased against Roma, and not because Roma necessarily have a different viewpoint or analysis than non-Roma. The need for Roma participation in academia is part of the overall need for more Roma participation in general. What we need are more Roma with full academic qualifications, who work to the same academic standards, and whose work is respected not because of their Romani background but because they are good scholars who make original contributions.

6. What can we do about this?

We need to train more Roma as academics. We need to make a special effort to overcome barriers in secondary school education, which will allow more Roma to continue to higher education. We need to ensure that more opportunities are available for Roma to get sponsorship for university degrees, especially postgraduate and research degrees, so that they can join top universities that have an established reputation, and not be segregated in their own Roma institutes. We must make sure that Romani academics are trained to the same standards as non-Roma and can compete for jobs and research grants on the basis of merit, in order to ensure that they command the full respect of their peers and their students.
OSI has made a groundbreaking contribution to supporting Roma in this way, through scholarships, and should continue that work.


I am an American Karldaras and although I agree with some of what you wrote and am very grateful that you i believe desire to assist the Rromani people in ways that have been over looked.
I think however, you are missing or over looking some vital points in regards to our essential rights, natural intelligence, social and or mimicked, self learned, ( through observation, individual commitment) adaptable skills for this field. Our Intellectual awareness and how individually unique we can be and how the "life experiences" we have had (as "multiple" great academic non Rroma Professors, Scientist, etc) have had in exchange or instead of institutional education; how this is not a black and white issue, "educated Rroma or non educated Rroma". For there are millions of Rromani who can intellectually through life experience, passion and commitment, represent their own story, people's needs, understand the issues and contribute, participate, publicly speak, document, both academically and traditionally. I believe this is something the non Rromani academic individual could never fully do. I think maybe without intending , you do not present the issue and unintentionally offer insult and ostracize so many present day younger and older Rromani, who have already had their educational dreams stolen whom need not to have their voices stolen and or opportunity to create career through alternative measures as well as help their present people in need and or to help prevent the next generations to not go through what we just did.
Who could truly offer a great deal to both academia and Rromani human rights for their direct experience and skills associated and or maybe obtained some advantages from not being educated through an academic "institution" that could further be studied, understood and utilized, as an asset and in part advantage; to understanding independent non institutional education and its merits.

I ask you to look at and practice proper compassion and open mindedness, regarding the issue to not include this as a part of the "Rromani experience” and study rather than only a negative. Something that has been an additional injury to millions of the people all of you “study” , to be felt left out due to so many inter tribal and external factors caused by this whole apartheid to begin with! So for you to not be aware that some Rroma might not need years or decades of institutional education (when it is obvious you all have had multiple years ahead of us) to be useful, employable, speak on a podium on behalf of their own people, be a part of a committee, academic circles of their peers and mentors etc, To offer contribution and or be mentored by the leading Rroma and non Rroma professors alternatively (maybe through grants and other programs, petitioned to the academic forces that be?) ; is yet again leaving out and or pushing back and punishing millions upon millions of present day Rromani and millions of the up and coming Rromani generations, whom unfortunately and realistically will all not be educated from this present day forward within the coming 20 to 30 years. I am not trying to imply or down play the need for scholastic education, not by any means. But to exclude members like myself for not having the most perfect grammar in today’s modern technological advancements and tools; is I believe throwing out the baby with the bath water and forgetting that there is a movement happening within “my” generation and slightly younger Rroma who were raised without institutional education but can offer a great deal to further your own academic and human right efforts, within your own careers and life purpose; as well as ours. In more simplistic terms, would it not be nice to share and be fair within your own circles and set an example to the rest of the world to what you are requesting from everyone else by working with us and helping us to benefit as well?
Sincerely, Tamara Demetro Stanley

Why still going on, the Study and Research on Roma? What is the plan of the International and Political Strategy with the Roma in the next 2-3 years in Europe and around the world? Who represented Roma in 1933 and who represent the Roma today in 2015? What is going on? Silent Genocide?

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)

The European Roma Institute will not change or stop the hunger,racism,poverty and police brutality across a Europe!

Hello, an extremely interesting piece of news for me. I would like very much to participate at the activities of the Institute as we are running the Documentation and Information Center for Romani Culture. We are a departement of the State Academy Library and working with the latest digital technologies. It would be very interesting to share experience. Here is our portal: www.portalsvk.eu. Wish you all the best.

Institute of Romani Culture in Albania (IRCA), expresses its full support for establishment of the European Roma Institute (ERI). We believe that ERI with the anticipated mandate is a long-needed institution among the Roma civil society. Roma language and identity has been preserved for centuries in families and more recently in local community organizations, surviving against historic oppression and discrimination. However, history teaches us that designated institutions have an indispensable role in documenting, protecting and developing a people’s identity and cultural heritage. During decades of fight for dignity and equal rights, we have increasingly witnessed how Roma identity has often been distorted and stereotyped as misbehavior or at best a status of vulnerability and in both cases wrongly viewed as a barrier for integration of our communities. It is to reverse such legacy in all spheres of life that we need today a transnational institution such as European Roma Institute.
Civilized nations have established ministries of culture as well as cultural agencies to protect their identity and foster intercultural exchange with other nations. Education and intercultural services offered by British Council, Italian Institute of Culture, Goethe Institute, French Alliance, Peace Corps Volunteers have long been inspiring many Roma youth and intellectuals, including the initiators of IRCA back in 2011. Today we are particularly proud to know that ERI will further build on such inspiration and emerge as an institutional guarantor for the diverse Roma identity and cultural heritage in whole Europe.
As ERI is taking its shape as a transnational (European) institution we believe that at national level it would best achieve its purpose and better coordinate with existing local organizations if it operates as a coordinated programme in the form of ERI Info Points (utilizing similar modalities of EU Info Points in certain countries i.e. Albania, Macedonia and elsewhere) rather than as an independent national organization. This could certainly be assessed over time, but at least at the beginning ERI would gain greater support and credibility as a unique supranational institution under the auspices of its three founders.
Having full trust on the unquestioned credibility and invaluable experience of the Council of Europe, Open Society Foundations-Roma Initiative Office as well as members of the Alliance for European Roma Institute, we are confident that ERI will play a unique role and be vested with the proper authority and adequate infrastructure at both transnational and national levels.
As for the above we strongly support establishment of ERI and look forward to partnering for joint actions in promoting Roma identity and fostering cultural exchange between Roma and non-Roma youth in Albania.

Institute of Romani Culture in Albania - IRCA

The idea is relevant and plays an important role, however, when I read the description, I think Roma Cultural Center, and we have and have had these in many countries. In fact, we had one in Stockholm, then it poped in Southern Sweden. So such things need to exist in cities not just countries where there are larger Romani population. You cannot change the way in which identity is viewed or percieved at the EU level, you need that along with several other similiar initiatives. If there was only library in one major city it would be quite limited. I do not see such an idea having a positive effect on identity for the Romani population of Europe, just a few that will be involved. Teatre Romen is in Russia, and Russians love this teatre, but do the Germans or Bulgarians feel the same way? Because its not at the local level and most Roma do not even know it exists outside of Russia.

let me be brief. so many people has joined the conversation or the discussion or something
good is going to happen but let me bring you up to date we have in the world today over 180 million Roma .sinti

and we need everybody participating I will agree with points of the professor, we need education but we also need street smarts or common sense and it takes everyone participating to make this happen we can't forget the hungry or the helpless or the needy what we have to congratulate the organizations that is already plowed through the rocks and the
stumps to get us to the place we're at today. we need everybody. I like the professors point we don't need self-appointed people if you can do the job if you are educated.or you feel you can contribute in some way. or not fine this pool all of our information and work as a team to make this a great nation of people. I must say this England is a great place to start we have some good brothers and sisters that have already established a lot of good things and I hope to see your names on some of these debates get involved you're needed more importantly it takes leadership it takes knowledge to bring people together and so many let it be a starting place and then branch out to country by country and involve everybody and something good will happen to you. greetings to all .

Can European Roma Institute support my project about integration Roma people into small town Umag in Istria
(one region in Croatia)? They live in one part of town, separate of other non Roma citizen and they are no hunger, but they are separate. So, please address of ERI for a project applying.

Nais - Thanks to Mr. George Soros and fondation for all support for Roma . Hi start from 92" year idea to include roma issues in political, ecomi, education agend in EU and World country. Till today Mr. George Soros it whit us. Godd bless you. Im involved in this proces from1997 and till today im very happy tby Roma that im active human right activist in civil society in my countri and Europe.

Will something be done to encourage the Spanish Roma people? They are the poorest and most marginalised in Spanish society and they suffer discrimination all over the Iberian Penninsula from Cadiz to Girona. I have lived in Spain and I can bear witness to this.

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