April 21-December 31 2003



Roma National Strategy Secretariat (hereinafter RNSS) was established on 21st April 2003 in order to facilitate and oversee the process of consultation, adoption and implementation of the Draft Strategy for Integration and Empowerment of Roma (hereinafter Draft Strategy).
RNSS is functioning as the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights unit and the OSCE, the CoE, the UNHCR and the UNOCHA support it.

Until the December 2003 RNSS:

- Had sent initial letters to all relevant ministries of the Republic of Serbia and to the Republican Commissioner for Refugees, informing them about the Draft Strategy and duties and responsibilities of the RNSS.
As an attachment to this letter we had sent a copy of the Draft Strategy and asked them to send to us their comments and recommendations.

Up mentioned relevant Ministries are: the Ministry of Education and Sport, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Media, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Local Self-government, Ministry of Construction and Urban Planning, Ministry of Labor and Employment, because they are in charge for the decision-making in fields that are enveloped in different sectors of the Draft Strategy.

RNSS got the written response from the Ministry of Culture and Media, Ministry for Internal Affairs, Ministry of Local Self-government, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Work and Employment.

With the Ministry of Education and Sport (MoES) we had specific situation because the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights had established cooperation with the MoES already in the time of drafting the Strategy and in the meantime MoES developed detailed proposal of the Strategy for Improvement of Roma Education in the Republic of Serbia.

And since these two ministries had recognized the same problems in the field of improving the educational position of Roma we already put into effect three measures that were foreseen by the Draft Strategy .

After that we sent to all above mentioned institutions a letter in which we asked them to appoint a representative of their Ministries/Commissioner to be a member of the Inter-ministerial group that will be in charge for Roma related issues in terms of finalizing the Draft Strategy, drafting the Action Plans in all relevant sectors and it’s implementation.

Following ministries appointed representatives to be members of the Inter-ministerial group:

1. Ministry of Culture and Media
2. Ministry of Education and Sport
3. Ministry of Labor and Employment
4. Ministry of Urban Planing and Construction
5. Ministry of Social Affairs
6. Ministry of Internal Affairs
7. Ministry of Health
8. Republican Commissioner for Refugees

Approximately at the same time while we were establishing contacts with mentioned institutions we were also informing all parliamentarian political parties about the Draft Strategy and duties and responsibilities of RNSS. We sent these letters and copy of the Draft Strategy to 18 political parties asking them to send their comments and recommendations as well as to participate in the process of public debate regarding the Strategy.

In order to promote the Draft Strategy and to finalize it we organized 5 round tables:

1. Bujanovac on 27 September 2003
Main topics of this meeting supposed to be role of education and culture in the Roma integration process. As all participants identify education as crucial and complex issue most of the meeting was dedicated to it.
Participants agreed that in three papers prepared and proposed by the Authorities (draft Strategy for Integration and Empowerment of Roma, Draft Strategy for Improvement of Roma Education in the Republic of Serbia and Poverty Reduction Strategy) educational position of Roma is described mostly in proper manner and almost all important measures are mentioned, but that it is necessary to insure that these documents are to be implemented and not to remain as “lists of nice wishes”.
Because of that we have to:
-define at all levels who will carry which activities in which period;
-define monitoring mechanisms;
-insure the draft Strategy for Integration and Empowerment of Roma to be a base for all other sector or local strategies and that authorities should take in account while planing measures that official statistic does not present a real number of Roma;
-insure that professionals of Roma nationality will take part in creation, implementation and monitoring processes.

With regards to education following topics were especially pointed:
- standardization of the Roma language;
- pilot project, that is carried out in Nis and Kragujevac, for involvement of the teachers assistant of Roma nationality in lower grades of the primary schools was presented;
- measure taken by the MoES for supporting projects, proposed by primary schools, for improvement of Roma education was also presented;
- need for organizing activities which aim is reducing stereotypes about the Roma;
- schools in cooperation with social and health institutions and NGOs should organize prevention and stamping of the drug addiction, since beside so called traditional problems of the Roma population we are nowadays facing with drug addiction problems among Roma population.

2. Prokuplje on 3 October 2003
Main subjects of this round table were political participation and discrimination related issues. Same issues with regards to implementation, its structure, monitoring and statistic as described above were pointed on this meeting too.
There were few suggestions:
- Association of Roma should be on municipality level connected with local authorities and one of their aims should be creation and realization of municipality level action plans;
- In accordance with the Act on local self-government, Interethnic councils should be established on local level and participation of certain minorities should be proportional;
- The strong Roma political party should be established;
- It is important to insure political participation of Roma at all decision making levels;
- Election cenzus should be decreased for national minority parties on 2% or it should be natural census;
- Roma lobby should be develop, since the Roma national minority doesn’t have a kin state;
- Possibility for a project of employment of the 120 civil servants in 120 municipalities in Serbia was discussed.

3. Šabac on 17 October 2003
Main subjects of this meeting were social and health issues and specific situation of women and IDPs.
All participants agreed that the Draft Strategy contents are in accordance with the needs in all mentioned fields, pointing some of the measures as priorities. We all agreed that it is necessary to define what exactly each institution or organization is going to do at all levels, as well as time limits for all measures and evaluation methods.
Some participants suggested few ideas for projects in this field like:
-funding specific budget for winter period in order to provide heating for socially vulnerable Roma families;
-Roma National Council to be a renter of one summer house for children of Roma nationality from socially vulnerable families;
-providing 20 apartments from the Project of Building 1100 Apartments organized by the City of Belgrade.
Since some participants had written reports regarding above mentioned topics we asked them to deliver those documents to RNSS.
All participants pointed that these three groups-children, women and IDPs are really the most vulnerable ones and that that is caused also by their position within the Roma community itself.

4. Novi Sad on 24 October 2003
Main topics of this meeting were information and media. It was pointed out that:
- It is not sustainable for commercial televisions to work if their program is based on the issues important for Roma integration and because of that authorities should support the work of Roma media, at least in the following year and to avoid these media to depend on marketing;
- The Ministry of Culture and Media should provide frequencies to existing Roma media
- The network of Roma media should be established and the authorities should enable production of Roma integration related material of these media and to support it’s exchange. The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights should influence all local and state media services to broadcast program of Roma network production; Some of the participants suggested Roma national council to be in charge for this network;
- Education of Roma journalist should be supported;
- The state should support launching of Roma media;
- Program in Roma language should be broadcasting through public and commercial services, because Roma are dispersion minority (media owned by NGOs are only on local level); some of the participants suggested that the National frequency should be provided because of these reasons;
- RTS should established a channel for program in languages of the national minorities;
- Participant from Prokuplje described example of a good practice in terms of cooperation with local media;
- Other activities which aim is promotion of Roma culture should also be supported (publishing in Roma language, making documentary movies…);
- It was also pointed that the RNSS should organize working groups that should analyze the draft strategy and draft the concrete measures.

5. Beograd on 07 November 2003
Main subjects of this round table were adequate housing and employment and economic empowerment. On this meeting several issues were pointed:
- Specific housing needs among Roma population, such as temporary accommodation for season workers and especially difficult situation of Roma IDPs;
- Proposal for employment workers of Roma nationality in projects for building social housing flats;
- Ministry of Urban planing and Construction formed Board for improving life conditions in Roma settlements, which includes members of Roma nationality and should be in charge for supporting initiatives on local levels for solving these problems;
- Project for building 5 000 units for social housing organized by the City of Belgrade, was presented as well as proper legislative that was necessary to established in the field of social housing;
- The process of the legalization of unlegal houses was analyzed;
- The Act on Public Acquisition should predict affirmative action measure in the favor of companies that employed workers of Roma nationality or that are owned by Roma;
- Roma should be include in training programs for leading own business in organization of the national service for employment (Roma could organize factories for recycling);
- A possible model (that includes Fund for reintegration) for economic empowerment of Roma was presented as cooperation of the International community, relevant ministries, Roma national council, independent expert group where experts of Roma nationality should be majority;
- Possible infrastructure of the Roma national council.

There were total 156 participants on these 5 round tables and they were: representatives of the National Council of the Roma National Minority (hereinafter Roma National Council), representatives of local self-governments, local social, health and educational institutions, representatives of political parties and relevant ministries, representatives of NGO’s working on Roma issues. Representatives of the RNSS funding organizations were present as our guest.

In December 2003 foreign expert who was involved in Strategy drafting process was asked to write an Assessment Report on the further development of the National Strategy for the Integration and Empowerment of the Roma in Serbia and Montenegro. The assessment was written on the base of meetings with the RNSS, National Council of the Roma National Minority, Interministerial group, several international organizations, local NGOs and participation on the one round table.

Beside these activities that were foreseen by the project RNSS was also involved in the process of constitution of the National Council of the Roma National Minority. Representatives of the RNSS participated in organization of the Roma National Council Electoral Assembly, that was held in May 2003 as well as on the Constitutional meeting, organized by the members of the National Council that was held in June 2003 in Nis.

RNSS was also involved in preparation and implementation of the four affirmative action measures in the field of education.

These affirmative action measures were:

1. Enrolling 39 pupils of Roma nationality in secondary schools.
Criterions for applying this measure were that:
-pupils pasted the school test;
-wrote their wishes in accordance with the regular procedure;
-didn’t have more than 30 points less than average test score of the class;
Pupils who fulfilled these criterions were enrolled in school majors that were among first 3 on their lists.
We carried out this action in cooperation with the MoES, Roma National Council, several primary and secondary schools and NGOs working in this field.

2. Enrolling 42 students in Universities funded by the Republic of Serbia.
Criterion for applying this measure was that candidates passed the enrolling test (all of our candidates pasted the test, but they were on the list of self-financed students or they were under the enrolling quota line). All the students are enrolled on the budget of the Republic of Serbia.
This action was organized in cooperation with the MoES, Roma National Council, several secondary schools and with NGOs working in this field.

3. Procurement of 5886 free textbook sets for primary school pupils of Roma nationality from socially vulnerable families.
This project was financially supported by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Ministry of Education and Sport, Ministry of Social Affairs, several domestic firms, Open Society Fund and by the Embassy of the United States of America.
All books were donated to Roma National Council who carried out the distribution in 6 regions of the Republic of Serbia. Several NGOs were also our partners in this project in terms of collecting data of Roma pupils in primary schools.

4. Procurement of scholarships for secondary school pupils of Roma nationality.
Ministry of Human and Minority Rights approved scholarships to 42 pupils from total 99 pupils who had applied for this scholarship on the base of announcement that was published in the daily newspapers “Danas”.
Criterions for applying this measure were:
- pupils school success
- monthly income of the family.
Total amount of the scholarships will be paid in 3 equal installments. First installment was paid in November 2003 and the rest two are to be paid until the end of school year 2003/2004.

Beside these measures foreseen by the draft strategy RNSS was involved in action organized by the publishing house “Politika” for publishing comics in Roma language in the children newspaper “Politik Zabavnik”. These publications will be donated to Roma National Council in order to distribute to children of Roma nationality these newspapers for free.

For the further implementation of the Strategy RNSS prepared some projects:

1.Employment of Roma in Local Government Bodies

Aims of this project (that was discussed on the Round Table in Prokuplje) are:
- increasing the rate of Roma employment, their economic power, as well as provision of the access to health, social and pension insurance, by getting permanent employment;
- training the representatives of local government through seminars where there would be a talk about the about the anti-discriminatory methods and minority rights, which would bring forth great respect and knowledge of the rights of Roma as national minority;
- members of the Roma national minority would be in position to get an insight into functioning of the state system and administration;
- Roma employed in local government bodies would be able to use knowledge about thestate system functioning in their environment for better implementation of the state of the state regulations;
- Roma population and the state would be brought closer by means of informing Roma population and getting knowledge about the way of realization of their rights as well as obligations;
- Putting into effect this project the network of civil servants in 120 municipalities will be established in order to cooperate with the ministry of Human and minority Rights and the national Council of the Roma national minority regarding data base forming and updating as well as on the Strategy implementation.
Minimum duration of this project should be one year and it should be realized in two phases, where in the first period is necessary to prepare all potential participants in terms of consultations, training and passing the relevant administrative exams and the second phase should be concrete implementation as described in project aims section.

2. Roma Helping Roma in Education
This project envisages that 100 Roma secondary school pupils would be awarded scholarship for helping Roma primary school pupils in learning. Each secondary school pupil would be assigned to help one elementary school pupil. This project should be carried out in 12 municipalities.

Aims of this project are:
- improvement of education and success of the Roma primary school pupils;
- tutor work of Roma secondary school pupils with the primary school pupils would give a right example for younger Roma;
- successful Roma secondary school pupils would be awarded scholarship, which would bring forth more positive attitude towards education values;
- Roma secondary school pupils would get experience in tutor work;
- Roma pupils of higher degrees of the primary school would be prepared for the secondary school enrolment.

3. Readmission Center
Serbia and Montenegro is a Party Signatory to over 13 readmision agreements, mostly with the countries of the European Union and fulfilling obligations of these agreements is considered to be one of the State Union’s most important international commitments. Coming back to state returnees (especially those who had a status of the refugees and IDPs in the FRY, before they left) are facing different problems, like how to obtain personal documents, how to have their certificates and diplomas recognized, how to reposes their property, enter the educational system, get information on job opportunities…
In accordance with the situation described above the aim of this project is providing a guide to take this people through the legislation in force and the practices in place as well as to grant them legal aid. This aim could be achieved by:
- opening a readmission and aid office within the Ministry of human and minority Rights, that should receive returnees and give them concrete advise and instructions
- setting a permanent working body to monitor the readmission process and to set settle concrete problems that will emerge in different departments;
- provide guide through laws and regulations by publishing a publication and providing concrete advises from experts employed on this project.

RNSS collected projects from different municipalities regarding the improvement of life conditions in Roma settlements.

We are forming data basis of:
-Roma related projects that were or are carried on, in the Serbia by different domestic or international organizations;
-persons belonging to Roma national minority in legislative and law enforcement bodies;
-court cases in front of domestic or international courts.

We established contacts with International organizations and embassies in order to promote Strategy and to prepare the Donor Conference for the financial support for the Strategy implementation.

Representatives of the RNSS participated on three international conferences/round tables (in Skopje and in Budapest) and on several domestic conferences and seminars.

These international conferences/round tables were:

1. Round Table on “Displaced Roma, Ashkalie and Egyptians of Kosovo- perspectives on Local Integration in Host Countries and Sustainable Return”.

This round table was initiated by the problems of the Roma refugees from SM on the Macedonian- Greek border Medziklija.

Main topics of this round table were:
- Legal developments for a durable solution for Kosovar Roma, Ashkalie and Egyptians who are refugees or IDPs
- Socioeconomic rights under the European Social Charter and the European Convention of Human Rights
- Current situation of Kosovar RAE in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia; Concrete proposals for a better implementation of refugee rights from the Roma refugees and international Organizations
- Case analysis of RAE currently at Medzitlija; elements of a “crisis situation” and prospects for its resolution.

Conclusions from this Round Table were:
- The group of refugees to be respected, and Roma National Congress (RNC), the Council of Europe, OSCE, ODIHR, the Goverment of Republic of Macedonia, UNHCR to work together in solving the situation.
- In a very short time period to find a space for living where the refugees will be returning. To provide guarantee that no refugee will be subject to criminal charges or be detained. The place of the collective accommodation to be in Skopje. The group of refugees to be given the right to see the facility accommodation and give its consent.
- After they return, the process of fulfilling applications for submitting request for asylum may begin and the RNC can provide legal assistance in fulfilling the application through its own legal advisor. The refugees can not be forced to fill out the application.
- The RNC, The CoE, OSCE, UNHCR to work on finding a possibility of refugees leaving in third countries or returning to Kosovo for refugees who will not wish to fill out applications for getting asylum in Macedonia, i.e. to go into procedure.
- Immediately to send humanitarian and medical assistance for the refugees at the Medzitlija.

2. Conferences held in Budapest:

2.1. Preparatory meeting for the Budapest Roma Conference, May 22, 2003

2.2. Budapest Roma Conference “Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future”, June 30-July 1, 2003

The World Bank and the Open Society Institute organized a conference supporting Roma integration and addressing Roma poverty in Central and Eastern Europe, with the support of the European Commission. The conference took place in Budapest on June 30-July 1, 2003 and was hosted by the Government of Hungary. Prime Ministers from a number of Central and Eastern European countries were invited and other participants included NGOs (both Roma and non-Roma), civic groups and international organizations. The event was designed to raise public awareness about the unique economic development challenges facing Roma in the region and to identify policies and programs that can effectively address poverty and discrimination. Generous support for the conference was provided by UNDP, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Governments of Finland and Sweden.

A central part of the conference was contributions by Roma organizations. The event discussed what kinds of policy innovations were needed to address Roma issues, as well as how to incorporate lessons from existing projects into future policies. There were panel discussions on key themes, such as education, the role of NGOs and local governments, employment and health care. There was also a Marketplace running parallel to the event which provided NGOs, donors and others involved in Roma projects and initiatives an opportunity to present their activities and network with others in the field.

More specifically, the objectives of the conference were:
Raising awareness of policies to address Roma poverty and other human development outcomes;

Garnering long-term commitment by governments and international organizations to improve Roma education and employment opportunities as well as living conditions, pre and post EU accession;

Discussing strategies that national governments, Roma organizations, NGOs and others can take to reduce poverty and improve welfare outcomes, including education, labor market status, housing and health;

Exchanging experience of projects and programs targeted at Roma over the past decade, as well as lessons learned by new institutions charged with addressing Roma and ethnicity issues;

Involving Roma leaders in the economic development process;

 Providing networking opportunities for Roma leaders and space for them to interact with policy makers.

2.3. Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, First Meeting of the Roma Decade Steering Committee, Budapest, December 11-12, 2003

The objective of the meeting was to discuss and accept the Terms of Reference of participating countries in preparation of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015.
In accordance with the above, the Decade Steering Committee accepted and designated priority areas of the Decade of Roma Inclusion; the structure and terms of reference of the different operational bodies and levels; defined the various tasks to be undertaken at national levels; and appointed provisional agenda and timing for the next meetings.

It was confirmed at the meeting that the Hungarian Government would administer the preparation during the lead-up to the launch of the Decade in 2004, and will set up the Decade Secretariat, which will operate within the cabinet of the minister for equal opportunities.

The International Steering Committee designated priority areas, which cover the fundamental goals of the Decade to accelerate the process of social and economic integration of the Roma and would bring positive changes and improvements to their lives.

The first and main step of launching the Program and putting it into practice is to sign the document “Terms of Reference for Preparatory Work “and make it accepted at national level. Following that, the major task will be to convene Country (Specific) Working Groups, which will develop Decade Action Plans (DAP) based on the manifesto of the International Steering Committee. These Action Plans will have to include the most urgent and important tasks to be fulfilled in accordance with the priority areas, in order to accelerate and advance the process of Roma communities’ integration in the given country.

Being a part of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights RNSS is involved in solving every day problems of persons belonging to Roma National Minority and Roma NGOs regarding mostly housing, education and employment issues. During the period May-December 2003 RNSS got around 200 applications.

RNSS sent a letter to the Open Society Fund, Budapest asking for special consideration for approving scholarships for the students of Roma nationality who didn’t manage to submit their application on time, due to different technical reasons.

In order to find solutions for some of the housing related issues representatives of the RNSS visited 6 Roma settlements in the Belgrade area (Čukaričaka padina, Tošin bunar, Blok 61, two settlements in Obrenovac and Grmeč) and contacted all relevant institutions- municipality and/or city of Belgrade authorities, centers for social work, Ministry of Social Affairs, Commissariat for Refugees, several international or domestic organizations.

In cooperation with the City/ municipality authorities we thwarted dislodging of the Roma settlement “Grmeč” and provided possibility for inhabitants of the illegal Roma settlement to move on the near location in the same municipality.
Representative of the RNSS visited also Roma settlements in Knjaževac and Nis.