Activity report of the Coordinator for Roma and Travellers: 2004

1. Coordination between the major intergovernmental organisations and institutions 

- has taken up education, and more particularly, the desegregation of schools as the priority issue for joint action.

- agreed on a Task Force to meet crisis situations. In this context it was agreed to prepare a joint report on internally displaced persons in Serbia who find themselves in a juridical no man’s land and deprived of all social services2.

2 The establishment of the European Roma and Travellers Forum 

The Coordinator has dedicated a considerable amount of time to the establishment of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) and has been responsible, inter alia, for chairing the meetings of Roma experts preparing the statute of the Forum, drawing up information documents, and supervising the preparations for the ceremony for the signature of the Partnership Agreement.

The ERTF is now registered as a non-governmental organisation and has started functioning through an acting executive committee. The Coordinator attends the meetings of this committee and is currently following the adoption of rules of procedure and the preparations for the selection of delegates in the various member states. The OSCE/ODIHR has made a grant of 20,000 euros to the Forum to help in the selection procedure (meetings of national NGOs, information sessions).

In preparation of its future work the Coordinator has requested all interested steering committees or other bodies involved directly or indirectly in Roma and Travellers issues to discuss the relations which they would like to establish with the Forum. Most bodies have manifested a deep interest in the future work of the Forum and the acting chairman of the Forum, Mr Rudko Kawczynski, was invited on 8 December 2004 to address the Commission on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Coordinator was invited to address the plenary meeting of the ECRI on 17 December 2004.

The Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities have both invited the acting chairman of the Forum to a hearing at their respective Spring sessions.

Once the delegates of the various countries have been selected and the first plenary meeting is held it will be important for the Forum to get down to work. For this purpose, the Coordinator is now drawing up a draft strategy for the Forum, together with an outline of the structures and working methods to be followed.

In conformity with the provisions appended to the Partnership Agreement he will be liaising between the Forum and the Council of Europe bodies to ensure that the relations which the Forum will have with the various Council of Europe bodies are of mutual benefit.

3. Coordination within the Council of Europe 

4. Relations with member states 

5. Alerting crisis situations 

6. The role of Coordinator in the future 

maintain contacts with and between the various services working on Roma/Gypsies questions so as to ensure that these different activities are seen in relation to one another and presented to the outside world as a comprehensive Council of Europe response to the situation of a particularly vulnerable group;

develop working relations with different Roma/Gypsies organisations, to respond to their requests and advise the Secretary General in this connection;

promote dialogue on policies and problems relating to Roma/Gypsies;

cooperate with international organisations concerned (e.g. OSCE (ODIHR), OSCE High Commissioner on Minorities, Commission of the European Communities) with a view to developing the appropriate synergies while avoiding duplication of activities.”

General conclusions 

1 “The strengthening and upgrading of this informal body will be agreed and implemented in cooperation with all the relevant partners.

2 n 14 December, 2004 I attended a seminar on Roma IDPs, Refugees and Returnees in Belgrade, organised jointly by the Council of Europe and the UNHCR. On this occasion I visited two settlements, both illegal and aimed for destruction. One of them is a shanty town built on a rubbish dump. Tuberculosis and skin diseases are rampant

3 The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged European Union, 2004, p.46

4 The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged European Union, 2004, pp.10, 47.