EWL News

Roma Integration - EWL members and NGOs publish open letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria

(Sofia, 08 April 2013) To highlight the stasis of Roma integration in Bulgaria, EWL members and other activist NGOs have published an open letter they sent to the Prime Minister. Twenty years after the discussion of Roma integration started, the situation is worsening, rather than improving.

Read more about their demands here.

OPEN LETTER -Group of NGOs working for Roma integration

Dear Mr. Raykov,
Dear Mrs. Kostadinova,

There has been a discussion on the integration of Roma for almost 20 years and approximately for so time, more or less, different efforts have been taken in this direction. But instead of improving, the situation of Roma goes toward worsening. Moreover not only the social conditions, in which many Roma live, have been affected but the relationships between majority society and Roma people getting worse.

We are really concerned because in addition to the poverty, Roma have been facing unprecedented racism in recent years. There is no way this fact can be overlooked and neglected more because it spells doom many of the political intentions for the integration of Roma. And this is so because every initiative undertaken or intended to be taken to equalize the situation of Roma with that of the rest of the population is considered and interpreted by the public as a privilege and special rights for the Roma. All we can see the response of this: on the one hand increasingly unbridled anti-Roma rhetoric reflected in anti-Roma sentiments and actions, on the other hand - increasingly closing and encapsulation of the Roma themselves.

We all know Roma people do not have special rights and nothing is done about them to make them privileged. We do not deny that there are problems in the Roma community, whose eradication should be handled systematically and consistently but cannot keep silent anymore that the discourse in Bulgaria is based on cultural and even biological racism against Roma. And despite the existence of bodies such as the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD) and the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues (NCCEII), there is a flagrant institutional passivity to this discourse, which for us is inexplicable, unless they do not express tacit agreement with it.

Once the situation is not going to improve, despite many adopted strategies and plans for Roma integration, then something is not working properly and the approach needs to be reviewed. Obviously, only by speaking and writing strategies and plans we have not done our job to finish it.

Therefore, we call for:

  • Council of Ministers should instruct the relevant authorities to monitor the level of racism towards the Roma ethnic group and respond actively and immediately with all eligible legal means in the cases of anti-Roma discourse and events. It is time for everyone to realize that the activities for integration and the combating discrimination are inextricably linked. It is unacceptable the abuse of freedom of speech to lead to violation of a basic human rights - the right to dignity and respect for Roma. It is unacceptable, in the presence of a good legal basis for protection against discrimination, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues and The Council for Electronic Media not to reacting and not even trying to curb widespread racism towards Roma.
  • Council of Ministers should take all necessary steps so that to guarantee all Roma will be threatened as citizens at all levels and all society spheres. It is utmost important as this namely can equalize Roma people to the other citizens in relation both to their rights as well as their responsibilities. It is high time everyone finally accept that integration does not only mean efforts by minorities to learn the language, rules and norms of society. It also means ensuring the fundamental rights and equality before the law for the minorities. It is high time to realize that there are no Roma rights neither Bulgarian rights but that there are only basic human, civil, social and cultural rights which are common to every human being.
  • Council of Ministers should establish a clear institutional and administrative body with an appropriate mandate and capacity to take responsibility for managing the implementation of the National Strategy for Roma Integration (NSIR) 2012-2020. The integrated inter-sectorial approach should be ensured in order to realize the complex aspects of the social inclusion and respect of basic human rights simultaneously at all levels. It is necessary to clarify the accountability of all responsible bodies for the Roma integration strategy as well as to ensure clear decision-making, monitoring, and reporting levels for the Strategy. In this regard, we propose restructuring of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues (NCCEII) because in its present form there is no clear demarcation between consultation process with civil organizations and management and coordination of the Strategy. Now NCCEII lacks sufficient mechanisms and powers to monitor and control the implementation of the National Strategy for integration of the Roma 2012 -2020.
  • We insist on appointing specialists – Roma on a competitive basis in the authority responsible for the implementation of the National Strategy for Roma integration. No excuse not to have appointed even a single expert from Roma origin in the Current Secretariat of NCCEII while there are thousands of Roma experts with appropriate education, abilities and experience.

The severity of the problem and the government objectives, set in the Bulgaria’s National Reform Program 2020, require all of us seriously to rethink our current ways of working, look into the lessons learned and keep going on. We are ready, as always, to contribute with expertise to the realization of our proposals.

April 5th, 2013

Respectfully yours:

Lili Makaveeva, Integro Association, Razgrad; phone: 084 661026, Email: l.makaveeva @ gmail.com

Dr. Stefan Panayotov, the "Health of Roma", Sliven; phone: 0887228985; E-mail: drstefpan@gmail.com

Spaska Mikhailova, Association "New Road" Hayredin municipality; phone: 0896782469, Email: mihajlova_69@abv.bg

Stela Kostova, The "Roma Academy for Culture and Education", Sliven; phone: 0878464401; E-mail: stela_rmo@slivenbg.net

Deyan Kolev TSMEDT "Amalipe", Veliko Tarnovo; phone:0888681134; E-mail: deyan_kolev@yahoo.com

Myuzeyam Salim Ali the "Hayachi" NGO, Novi Pazar; phone: 0896706322; E-mail: hayaci@abv.bgSergi

Sergi Karakashev, Roma Foundation "Iskra", Shumen; phone: 0898624590; E-mail: s_karakashev@abv.bg

Radostin Manov, The "Diverse and Equal", Sofia; phone: 0899 553478; E-mail: diverse_equal@abv.bg

Gancho Iliev, "World without Borders", Stara Zagora; phone:0884762109; E-mail: veselrom@abv.bg

Tsvetanka Marinova Roma women NGO „Carmen", Razgrad; phone: 0898609383; e-mail: simona26@mail.bg

Nikolay Kirilov, the "Roma - Lom" Foundation; phone: 0971 66 751; E-mail: n.kirilov @ kirilovi.com

Bistra Andreeva "Roma Initiative" Foundation – Sofia; phone: 02 980 39 73; e-mail: romin@abv.bg

Rumen Ivanov, "Elite-Center for Roma Culture-2002", Sofia; phone: 0897487757; E-mail: roma_sofia@abv.bg

Published here.

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