Ten to twelve million Roma live in Europe, more than six million only in the Balkans. Nevertheless in the last ten years all of the implemented EU aid programmes as well as self set goals did not improve the life situation of the Roma. Roma minorities are often marginalized and discriminated; their situation has even been downgraded since 1989. It needs a coordinated, holistic and a long-term concept to solve these problems. From 19th to 21st April 2015 the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung invited in cooperation with eight big social organizations to their conference „Duna Romani Luma – New Paths Towards The Future”.
The main aim of the meeting was to bring together key stakeholders to discuss approaches of policy and project development related to Roma inclusion as well as strengthening partnerships and networks.
In order to smooth the way for the Roma, who are the biggest minority in the Danube Region, to equal access to education, work and living space, it is necessary to work together with them.
With the help of the organizers a wide range of project managers and dedicated people were brought together, Roma and non-Roma, who are bundling important know-how in the concrete work for and with Roma. About one hundred participants from church and civil society groups from 12 nations took an advantage of this opportunity and intensively exchanged information and opinions until late into the night.
The conference started with a church service in the Ulmer Münster and a panel discussion, which included Peter Friedrich, the Minister for the Bundesrat, Europe and International Affairs of Baden-Württemberg. The participants met on April 20th and 21st, to discuss their ideas in the Open Space.
“Building bridges between Roma-initiatives in East and West, strengthening existing partnerships and projects, linking them and building new networks. Those are important components to understand Roma as an integral part of our society, our culture and our history”, said Minister Friedrich in his opening speech, “but the situation of the Roma in their actual home countries need to be sustainably improved. Goals of the conference were to initiate important learning processes for it and to link competences.”
Central opening speeches followed. Nadir Redzepi, Project Manager of EU-Fonds in Hungary, spoke about an artificial dialogue at an international level. The Roma-problem is continually discussed on the highest level, but nothing reaches the people at the basis. From the demographic changes in the year of 1989 the Roma did not gain anything.
The Regional Chairman of the German Sinti and Roma, Daniel Strauß, saw “social antiziganism” and the “racist-marked myth of gypsies” as the major problem.
The Secretary of State in the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Slavia Denic, showed efforts of her country to solve the Roma problem. Different educational and training projects made an impact. However the main existing problem is the problem of accommodations. In the multi-ethnic region Vojvodina success has been noted, but all in all, the entire situation in her country is bad.
The two following days of the event were arranged as an Open Space Conference. This means, there were no classic speeches or presentations. The participants had the opportunity to determine their agenda all by themselves and to bring in the topics they wanted to talk about. The Open Space Method is generating results on the base of demands and commitment of all participants in order to bring in their experiences and ideas. The small groups and their topics and their current themes changed continuously.
Towards the end of the event action groups were build, names and e-mail addresses were exchanged and the first working steps were noted down. The results were summarized in a final résumé and will be an important input in the Participation Day of the Annual Forum of the EUSDR (EU-strategy of the Danube Region), which takes place 28th to 30th of October 2015 in Ulm.
Through the intercultural programme “Perspective Danube: education, culture, and civil society”, the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung promotes sustainable projects within the Danube Region. Roma integration is one of the main aims of the EUSDR.
Author: Carmen Stadelhofer