Summit of Mayors on Roma : “Building mutual trust at the grassroots” – 22 September 2011, France
Opening address by Ms.Olga Romanyuk, Vice-Minister of Regional Development, Construction and Housing and Communal Services for the Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers
Mr Secretary General,
Presidents of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly,
Mr Mayor of Strasbourg
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and also a pleasure for me to participate in the opening of this summit, on behalf of the Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on taking the initiative of organising this important event. My thanks also go to the authorities of Strasbourg, which are the joint organisers of this Summit, as well as to the Secretary General's Special Representative for Roma issues.
The Committee of Ministers and the Ukrainian Chairmanship pay particular attention to this initiative for several reasons.
The deplorable living conditions of – sadly – a great many Roma has long been a source of concern for the Committee. Time and again, the Committee has stood up for the rights of Roma.
Improving the situation of Roma is one of the top priorities for the Organisation. The high-level meeting on Roma held here in October 2010 was a very tangible demonstration of the importance which the Committee of Ministers attaches to this question. But above all, it showed our political will to search and find proper solutions in keeping with the principles of human rights and the equal dignity of all individuals.
The Strasbourg Declaration adopted at the end of the high-level meeting marked the firm commitment of the Organisation's 47 member states to work along these lines.
Whereas international organisations are sometimes criticised for not following up words with actions, this Declaration has certainly been acted upon. Since October 2010, we have seen numerous initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions of Roma communities all over the continent.
Speaking about my country I’d like to say that since March 2011 as part of the implementation of the Strasbourg Declaration, the new European Roma Mediators Training Programme (ROMED) has been launched in Ukraine. This programme is also implemented in some other member states in a form of training sessions for representatives of Roma communities.
However, to be successful, the dynamic that has been in place for nearly a year now cannot be limited to the international and national levels alone. As was emphasised in the Strasbourg Declaration, local and regional authorities have a key role to play in improving the situation of Roma in Europe.
This has been borne out by the numerous initiatives launched by municipalities, departments or regions to promote the integration of Roma in terms of access to housing, health, education and culture or employment.
Encouragement must be given for developing these on a broader scale. Exchanges of experience and good practices are vital in this respect.
Today's Summit is a good opportunity to foster those exchanges in order to – as the theme puts it so well – "build mutual trust at the grassroots". Without that trust, which is so difficult to achieve in a context of prejudice, we cannot build a lasting foundation for the harmonious integration of Roma in the member states of the Council of Europe.
Let me conclude by wishing all of you every success for this Summit and your further activities.
Thank you for your attention.