address by Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of
the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the RAXI Campaign organised by the
Forum of European Roma Young People (FERYP), European Youth Centre
Strasbourg, 6 June 2005
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last January, I participated in
the most heartbreaking ceremony I have ever witnessed: the 60th anniversary of
the liberation of Auschwitz.
It would be impossible for me
to express the emotion of the event. I could hardly describe the many thoughts
and images that crossed my mind when listening to the testimonies of survivors
shivering at the doorsteps of the biggest and saddest cemetery in the world.
Speaking at the ceremony,
Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Romani Rose said that
the name Auschwitz was a synonym of the state-organised genocide perpetrated
also on Roma minority in Nazi-occupied Europe, which claimed the lives of half a
million Sinti and Roma. He remembered the words of former German President Roman
Herzog, who said: “The genocide against the Sinti and Roma was carried out from
the same motive of racial hatred, with the same intent and the same will for
planned and final annihilation as that against the Jews”.
Racism is a violation of human
rights, rooted in the dislike for someone who is different, or contempt for
someone who is deemed inferior. When this dislike or contempt becomes hatred, it
can lead people to commit unspeakable crimes as the horrors of the Second World
War and the more recent wars in the Balkans and the South Caucasus showed to the
whole world. Because hatred begets hatred, leading to a vicious spiral of
violence, when those who hate become hated, and those who are hated begin to
Racial hatred has deep roots
which cannot be weeded out overnight – we need to stop them from growing at an
early stage, in our young generations. We cannot allow ourselves to lessen
efforts, because racism and intolerance are still very much alive and, as
reports show us, are in fact on the rise in Europe.
As we gather here today to mark
the Tenth Anniversary of the RAXI Campaign, let us remember all the young
victims of racism throughout the world, victims of racist violence and racial
discrimination in their everyday lives.
Today, the values and
principles on which the Council of Europe was founded pluralist democracy,
respect for human rights and the rule of law are still far from being
permanently entrenched. We must continually defend them and to do so, we must
have a sound understanding of what threatens them.
Racism and intolerance in all
forms be it anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or prejudice against Roma, or xenophobia
at large strike at the heart of the idea of a democratic society based on
respect for the equal dignity of all human beings.
Prejudice towards Roma is not
the manifestation of a phenomenon which is sporadic, occasional, or limited both
geographically and in time. On the contrary, this is a recurrent phenomenon,
which exists in all European countries in varying degrees and is even on the
increase both in frequency and vehemence.
That is why we must be
constantly mobilised against racist attitudes and behaviour, and campaign
against them not only on one day in the year, but each and every day.
At the Council of Europe, the
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, leads our efforts in
this field. The RAXI Campaign launched in 1995 contributed to actively involve
young generations in anti-discrimination movements. Not only did it launch the
work on minority youth issues at European level, but also contributed to the
establishment of the first European Roma Youth organisation - the Forum of
European Roma Young People, FERYP, which has succeeded in becoming an
internationally recognised partner and whose President Alexandra Raykova is a
founding member of the European Roma and Travellers Forum.
We hope that the voice of young
Roma will be heard within this Forum, whose first meeting is planned for the
autumn this year, as we believe that the younger generation, even more so within
Roma communities, will bring positive change and boost integration and
reconciliation between tradition and modernity.
Young Roma are already actively
involved in the work carried out by both national governments and international
organisations. Seminars and training sessions are well attended such as those
organised in Croatia exclusively for young Roma and Beash, traineeship
programmes funded by Open Society Institute, or the participation of young Roma
leaders in the Decade for Roma Inclusion .
However, we can always do more.
I hope that you will come up with innovative recommendations during your session
on “Roma Youth: Situation and Perspectives, 10 years after the RAXI campaign”.
As young Roma, you have an important role to play to serve as mediators and
promoters of communication channels between your communities, institutions and
the rest of the population, to develop capacity-building of future generations
of young Roma, to boost their drive for higher education, and to change through
your success and personal achievements the negative prejudices still existing
within a large part of our societies.
We at the Council of Europe
count on the support and input of young European Roma to our work on Roma
issues, our work on raising awareness of the roots of discrimination against
your community. You are Council of Europe partners in combating racism and
discrimination, in embedding in the minds of all Europeans the “Never Again”
We owe it to all those who
perished in Auschwitz. A Europe worthy of the slogan “all different - all equal”
would show that their sacrifice has not been in vain.