22nd Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Debate on the Alliance for Roma Inclusion
Strasbourg, 21 March, afternoon, Hemicycle
Statement by John Warmisham, Thematic Rapporteur of the Congress on Roma/Travellers
Thank you, Mr President.
As we have just heard the President remind us, at our previous session we adopted a comprehensive resolution on the situation of Roma, proposing local and regional action in a number of areas to bring about improvement at the grassroots level.
The Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion, which the Core Group is in the process of putting together, will be a practical vehicle to drive the implementation of this resolution. This will be therefore a concrete follow-up not only to the Summit of Mayors on Roma, but also to our own proposals. The work in the Core Group also represents an excellent example of transversal co-operation, as we are working together with the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Roma issues, with representatives of cities and regions themselves, with experts on the subjects, as well as with institutional partners – in particular the Assembly of European Regions, Open Society Foundations – as we have just heard from Mr Kenneth Davey – and the European Commission, with which we had a discussion during the first meeting of the Group. The modalities for the participation of Roma organisations and other civil society partners are also being discussed.
Since its inception following the Summit of Mayors, the Core Group held two meetings, on 9 December and on 22 February, and marked considerable progress in defining the concept and mandate of the future Alliance, its structures and the scope of membership, as well as the range and type of activities that it will carry out.
The Alliance will be a flexible framework for exchanges of experiences and provision of specific services, a kind of “umbrella framework” serving as a platform not only for individual cities and regions but also for existing networks and initiatives in the field of Roma inclusion. It will be based on a peer-to-peer approach focusing on responses to specific needs of each community in a manner which could be described as “a la carte” rather than “one fits all”. We have just sent out a questionnaire to cities and regions to assess their concrete needs and priorities and to establish their preferences in the type of activities the Alliance could carry out. It is already clear that these activities will be both thematic, focusing on specific areas, and transversal, mainstreaming specific issues into those areas.
The main objectives of the Alliance will be to improve local and regional capacity for project implementation and to help secure funding for these projects, in particular from EU and international donors. We have already received a strong expression of support for the Alliance project from several Council of Europe member States. The European Commission, which received during the last months the National Strategies for Roma Inclusion of its member States, had also expressed interest. The Alliance is particularly timely as the new programming period of the European Social Fund will start next year, with a particular emphasis on the involvement of local and regional authorities in Roma inclusion.
Another important boost to this project is the Committee of Ministers’ reply to our October recommendation on the situation of Roma, that was adopted exactly a week ago, on 14 March. This is a very positive reply, in which the Committee of Ministers welcomes our proposal to launch the Alliance, and also notes with interest our proposal to national governments to set up a European programme for capacity-building at local and regional level, to complement the Roma mediators training programme, ROMED.
In its reply, the Committee of Ministers agrees that local and regional authorities have important role to play in supporting Roma inclusion and that they should be given the capacity to effectively implement policies at their level. The Committee has therefore invited member states to give “due consideration” to the various suggestions made by the Congress.
Dear colleagues, this shows that our initiative to establish the Alliance is timely indeed. It is timely because the situation of Roma, the last single marginalised group in Europe, remains an affront to our democratic ideals and values. It is timely because national strategies for Roma inclusion, requested by the European Union, will have to be implemented in our local and regional communities. Finally, it is timely because there is an “awakening” at European, national and grassroots levels that something has to be done to improve the situation, and numerous activities are already underway.
We have just heard testimonies from the City of Nis and from Open Society Foundations about the action taken at the grassroots. I can add to these the experience of my hometown of Salford.
[In Salford, we … EXAMPLE OF PROJECTS IN SALFORD – 3 min maximum]
I would like to conclude by encouraging those municipalities and regions represented in the Congress that are dealing with the Roma situation, to come forward and express your interest in participating in the Alliance, whose launch is being planned for September this year. Together, we can move this project forward and make it a success.