Why a Forum ?
The idea of having a forum representing Roma communities in Europe has been in
the air since the early nineties. It was the Roma themselves who started
thinking of a body that would help them express their concerns at the European
level. The idea took a more concrete form when in 2001 Mrs Tarja Halonen,
President of Finland, in an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe, proposed the setting up of some kind of a consultative assembly for
the Roma on a European level. The purpose, in her own words, is to “give a voice
to the Roma”.
Mrs Halonen’s proposal raised a lot of interest both amongst the Roma and within
the Council of Europe. As a result, an informal exploratory group composed of
Roma leaders and personalities started examining the feasibility of setting up
such a body, or Forum, as those involved began to call it. From 2001 until July
2004 several dozen meetings took place in Strasbourg where Roma and Traveller
representatives negotiated with the Council of Europe the creation of the
European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF). The conclusions were very positive
and the ERTF was registered in July 2004 as an association under French
In November 2004, the Council of Europe
Committee of Ministers agreed to establish close and privileged relations with
the ERTF through a Partnership Agreement which was signed on 15 December 2004 (see
the text of the Partnership Agreement). In virtue of this
Agreement, the ERTF receives assistance in terms of financial and human
resources, and has a privileged access to the various bodies and organs of the
Council of Europe which deal with matters concerning Roma and Travellers.
What is special about the Forum?
The Roma and Travellers have several non-governmental organisations in all
countries where such population exists. There are also a number of international
non-governmental organisations working for the improvement of the situation of
the Roma in the various countries.
The idea behind the initiative, however, was to create for the Roma an
international body having close and privileged links with the Council of Europe.
The Forum will give the Roma and Travellers the possibility to participate in
and influence decision-making processes in issues concerning them, openly and
officially, through a special relationship with the Council of Europe. This will
be the first time that national and European Roma organisations from all over
Europe will be able to discuss together and formulate jointly their hopes and
concerns. These are the unique features of the Forum which distinguish it from
any other international organisation.
What is the nature of the Forum?
The Forum is intended to be an autonomous body, independent of governments and
inter-governmental organisations. It has the status of a non-governmental
organisation. It has, however, have a legal partnership agreement with the
Council of Europe, which, amongst other things provides for the
establishment of relations with the various bodies of the Council of Europe.
According to the case, this relationship could take the form of a hearing,
participation at meetings, providing expert advice.
The Forum may also seek consultative relations with other international
institutions and organisations, and with governments.
Who can join the Forum?
The Forum is open to Roma, Sinti, Kale, Travellers and other related groups.
The members of the Forum are:
- the national umbrella organisations
- the Roma international organisations.
These members nominate delegates to sit in the plenary meetings and in the
National umbrella organisations of the Roma and/or Travellers must cover 75 per
cent of the national structures representing this population in the country
concerned. These national umbrella organisations have to appoint one titular
delegate and three substitutes to the Forum. The substitute delegates may be
given the right to vote if they come from countries with a substantial
population of Roma /Travellers.
International non-governmental organisations must be registered, have been
active for four years, have members in at least ten countries, are financially
independent of government funds and produce an annual audit report of all their
activities. They can send three delegates each.
What happens with those communities which do not have a national umbrella
Where such a national umbrella organisation does not exist the delegate and
substitutes to the Forum will be selected by a gathering of all the structures
representing the Roma/Travellers population in countries. These structures could
include nation-wide non-governmental organisations, political parties with Roma
elected members in the national Parliaments, advisory bodies and self-government
bodies. In this case, the delegate and substitutes will sit in the Forum for the
first term of office (four years). Thereafter, delegates may only be appointed
by a national umbrella organisation.
And what if an international non-governmental organisation does not satisfy all
An international non-governmental organisation representing Roma interests must
satisfy all the requirements to become a member. However, if the organisation is
not registered, but all other requirements are satisfied it shall be allowed to
be represented by delegates for the first term of office only (four years).
Thereafter, delegates may only be appointed if the international organisation is
How is the selection of delegates made?
The national umbrella organisations or gathering of structures and the
international organisations should choose their delegates with great care,
taking into account a number of criteria:
- they should be highly representative of their community, and enjoy the
confidence and trust of the population they represent
- both genders should be represented
- the younger generation of Roma should be represented
What are the responsibilities of the delegates?
The delegates will collectively represent the Roma/Travellers community in
Europe and work together for the promotion of the interests of these
communities. They should attend and participate actively in the meetings of the
Plenary Assembly and of the Executive Committee if they are members of it.
The delegates should keep in touch with the community or organisation which they
represent and keep them fully informed of the activities of the Forum.
Delegates to the Forum will not receive a salary but their travel expenses and
daily allowances when attending the abovementioned meetings will be covered by
the budget of the Forum.
How will the Forum function?
The Forum will function through a Plenary Assembly which will discuss major
issues affecting the Roma/Travellers populations. It will draw up the work
programme and through an Executive Committee carry out the tasks given to it by
the Plenary Assembly. The Forum will oversee the respect of human rights of
Roma/Travellers populations, promote the struggle against racism and
discrimination, facilitate their integration into European societies and make
proposals for the improvement of their social condition. It will make proposals
at both the national and international level and take part in European
cooperation for the promotion of the interests of these populations.
What languages will be used by the delegates to the Forum?
Romani, English and French will be the official languages. Interpretation and
translation costs at meetings of the Plenary Assembly and of the Executive
Committee will be covered by the budget of the Forum. Other languages may be
used but at the expense of the delegation that wishes to use them.
How is the Forum going to be funded?
The Council of Europe will provide a contribution in terms of human, technical
and financial resources. The Council of Europe plans to provide staff, and it
has already provided offices
within the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, service facilities and an
Membership fees -to be fixed by the Plenary Assembly – will also go towards
funding the Forum.
The Forum will be encouraged to look for extra funds from other sources.
May the Forum establish close and privileged relations with other international
organisations and institutions?
Yes, it may, as long as such a relationship does not clash with the principles
and values of the Council of Europe. In fact, it would be very helpful for the
Forum to develop similar relations with the European Commission and the OSCE.
Both organisations have so far shown a manifest interest in the creation of the
For more information, visit
and Travellers Forum Plenary Assembly to be held at Council of Europe from
13 to 15 December: Press release
Final activity report: Document CM
(2004)179, 2 november 2004
Partnership agreement between the
Council of Europe and the European Roma and Travellers Forum
Statement by Terry Davis, Secretary General of the
Council of Europe on the occasion of the European Roma and Travellers Forum
(16.12.2004) de M. Rudko Kawczynski au Conseil de l'Europe: « Nous ne serons
plus les perdants de l'Europe » (only available in French)
Last update: 9 January 2006