European Roma activists say Roma need to be involved in politics as candidates and voters to participate in crucial decisions about public finances
Elections in the Czech Republic 2018. (PHOTO: Zdeněk Ryšavý, Romea.cz)
Euractiv’s news server reports that activists of Roma origin working at European level believe it is important for Roma men and women to be involved in local politics and in decision-making regarding public spending, because their involvement is crucial to deal with the situation of the Roma minority in Europe. Here in the Czech Republic, elections for representatives to sit in municipal assemblies will take place on September 23 and 24.
The involvement of Roma in political life is one of the aspects of the EU Roma Policy Framework on Equality and other issues that the European Commission is promoting, the objectives of which are to be achieved by 2030 Roma should participate more in political life at local, regional, national and European level, and their participation in elections, both as candidates and as voters, should increase, as the active civic engagement of Roma still remains at a low level across the EU.
According to a survey of Roma residing in five EU Member States published in 2021 by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), only 23% said they were interested in politics. According to the FRA, only 29% of Roma respondents surveyed declared participating in local elections.
The Council of Europe human rights organization, to which all EU member states belong, runs a joint program with the EU called ROMACT to support Roma political participation in Bulgaria and Romania , taking into account that as a group the Roma are not homogeneous. “We keep our community action groups not officially established, not monolithic, but as something organic and open, so anyone can come and go, because otherwise you end up with the usual suspects. “, said Ana Oprisan, program manager for ROMACT. Euroactiv.
The Council of Europe also works directly with Roma on the ground to prepare them to participate in local politics. “We basically teach people how to participate in a local council meeting,” Oprisan said.
According to Isabela Mihalache, Advocacy Officer for the European Network of Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO), experts of Roma origin play a key role at local level in Romania. “Whether the community needs water or a sewer or very basic utilities, it’s much easier to advocate for those needs by having that form of representation to the municipality,” she pointed out. .
It is also important to involve Roma men and women in decision-making regarding local public expenditure. “It’s not just because we have to be inclusive, but also because they know better what the problem is,” Mihalache explained.
“Sometimes they can also have an idea of the solution because they probably tried to solve it in a more informal way, but they did not have all the support and all the funds necessary,” said the advocacy manager of ‘ERGO. . In the Western Balkans, where discrimination against Roma is still high, an entity co-funded by the EU and the Open Society Foundations called the Roma Integration Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) is working on a project to determine how budgets for public spending serves resident Roma.
The aim of this project, called Roma-sensitive budgeting, is to ensure that socio-economic strategies take into account the needs of Roma. According to RCC policy expert Aleksandra Bojadjieva, public budgets that take into account the needs of Roma residents can also help check how public resources are spent and who actually benefits.