Summit of Mayors on Roma : “Building mutual trust at the grassroots” – 22 September 2011, France
Video message by Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Dear Mayors, dear friends,
Today’s meeting is a strong sign of a new era in promoting a better future for the Roma.
Indeed European Roma continue to be socially marginalised, often living in miserable conditions and faced with huge obstacles in accessing their human rights.
In many places, we see discrimination and increasing hostility.
Incidents of hate speech and physical intimidation or even violence are a common phenomena.
In the Strasbourg Declaration of 20 October 2010, the governments of our 47 member states agreed to improve the situation of the Roma.
They also agreed that the Council of Europe should support the member states in the social inclusion of Roma and the promotion of the full respect of their human rights.
A year ahead, the Strasbourg Declaration is being actively implemented. Government experts are working to exchange, analyse and evaluate national policies, and to identify effective policies so that valuable lessons are learnt and shared.
A European database on national policies and good practice is being set up.
The Council of Europe has launched a European Training Programme for Roma Mediators to improve communication and interaction between Roma communities and public institutions.
Over 400 mediators in 15 countries have completed their first training.
The European Commission has now joined forces with us so that even more mediators can be trained and more countries can benefit from this unique programme.
But I would like to stress that there can be no real progress in advancing the situation of the Roma without the commitment of local and regional authorities.
It is at the local and regional levels where you - elected officials and your administrations - are confronted on a daily basis with the real challenges.
It is also at these levels that we see concrete results of good practice and policy measures that work.
This Summit of Mayors is an essential complementary step.
It opens a debate for mutual learning, sharing of good practice and transferring of useful policy initiatives that will improve the social inclusion of Roma communities.
At the end of the day, the challenge for national, regional and local authorities is to ensure that Roma people have the same access to social and human rights as other people.
The challenge for the Roma people is to make use of the results, to engage in society and to strive for a better future.
To this end, we must join forces and learn from each other.
I would like to express my appreciation for the close co-operation between the Congress of the Council of Europe and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Roma Issues in organising this meeting.
I would also like to express my thanks to the city of Strasbourg and the other partners involved for assisting in making this meeting possible.
I wish you all a very successful and productive meeting.