Message to the Final Conference, CHACHIPEN Project "History, Memory and Justice for #Roma in Europe
Dear organisers, dear colleagues,
Thank you for your invitation to the final event of the CHACHIPEN Project on "History, Memory and Justice for Roma in Europe".
I am honoured to have taken part in the launch of this very important project in March 2021. Back then, I stressed how the CHACHIPEN project constituted a landmark development in the promotion of truth and reconciliation around the serious human rights violations suffered by Roma. I expressed support for the project’s objectives of promoting the setting up of truth and reconciliation commissions, designing new ways of raising public awareness about Roma history, and empowering Roma activists to take part in transitional justice processes.
Today, for the final conference, let me reaffirm my support to these objectives, which are part of the work on the human rights of Roma which remain high on my agenda. Projects like this one are crucial to make sure that the complex and dark history of Roma, from the age of slavery to the Holocaust, from pogroms to forced sterilisations, is never forgotten, but instead understood, valued and taught to society at large.
Throughout my mandate, I have consistently reminded Council of Europe member states of their duty to remember and to prevent serious human rights violations suffered by Roma today and in the past. Recently, for example, I positively noted the undertaking of the Czech authorities of the demolition of the pig farm on the site of the former Nazi concentration camp for Roma of Lety u Pisku, which will make way for a museum dedicated to the remembrance of the victims and survivors of the Roma Holocaust. As I also stressed in 2018, while participating in the ceremony of commemoration of the Roma Holocaust during the Second World War in Auschwitz-Birkenau, remembrance of the Roma Holocaust is essential to keep the memory of the victims alive and to reflect on the legacy of atrocities committed against Roma.
But remembering is also addressing the need to tackle the deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes that fuel the pervasive discrimination Roma people are still facing today in our societies. Although the past can seem far away, Roma continue to face discrimination in virtually every area of life, from segregation and exclusion in housing, employment and education to daily anti-Roma rhetoric, often coming from public figures and the media, as well as in their interaction with the police. I have recently noted this for instance in my visit to the Czech Republic in February this year, where I also met with Roma women victims of forced sterilisation and discussed ongoing problems that many of them still face in effectively accessing the compensation mechanism that is now in place.
I could also see this in my work relating to cases of discrimination against Roma in access to basic services while fleeing the war in Ukraine or throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when hate speech targeting Roma surged.
History teaching is one of the most important tools to prevent the reoccurrence of human rights violations. I believe that teaching the history of Roma can play a unique role in nurturing critical thinking about the past and the present, and in fostering understanding and tolerance. Knowledge about Roma history can help policy makers and society as a whole to better address today’s obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights.
I also believe that Roma contribution to European history and culture must be brought to light and replace old myths and deeply rooted prejudice, in order to build a common narrative based on the respect of our shared heritage and cultural diversity. The European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC) in Berlin, which I visited in 2018, is an excellent example of a forum where Roma arts and culture are cherished and promoted to foster dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.
I am therefore very much looking forward to the outcome of the CHACHIPEN project and I stand ready to share information about the resulting research, capacity building and awareness raising in my exchanges with Council of Europe member states.
I wish you a constructive Conference and an excellent Roma week.