“We have the moral duty - as mayors, as councilors and as Greek citizens - to protect the rights of the individuals affected and of the Roma community as a whole,” stated Michail ANGELOPOULOS (Greece, EPP/CCE), Vice-President of the Congress and Mayor of Samos, addressing the participants at a conference on “strengthening Roma networks at local and regional level”, on 12 April 2018.
“In Greece, we have witnessed incidents which indicate that the Roma population is trapped in a situation of exclusion and undignified living. It has been less than one year ago that the Roma community of Menidi got violently attacked after the tragic death of a non-Romani 11-year old boy,” he reminded.
“However, we also witness positive political will and commitment for Roma inclusion in our country: For example in Agia Varvara, where Roma candidates have been regularly elected as municipal councillors regularly since 1975. The presence of Roma councillors as well as strong Roma organisations contribute to a better representation of their claims, and overall, to improve the situation of the local Roma community,” he added.
M. ANGELOPOULOS presented the work of the Congress and, in particular, its report on “The situation of Roma and Travellers in the context of rising extremism, xenophobia and the refugee crisis in Europe” adopted in 2016. The Congress emphasises the need for concrete measures to to facilitate the access of Roma to education, employment, housing and healthcare, and that we should not forget vulnerable groups within the Roma communities, such as young Roma, persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons, Romani migrants and undocumented young people.
M. ANGELOPOULOS also mentioned in his speech the “Integrated Action Plan for the Social Integration of Greek Gypsies 2001-2008”. This strategy is based on action at three different levels: the national coordination is managed by ministries in charge in association with the National Contact Point (inter-ministerial cooperation); the regional authorities are asked to give specific directions to the national policy; and eventually, the local councils are responsible for defining and implementing local interventions in coordination with regional authorities. This program also requires the consultation with social partners and representatives of civil society as well as the Roma population’s participation.
Co-organised by the Congress and the Association of Greek municipalities (KEDE), the conference gathered 69 participants from 22 municipalities. It focused on the specific situation in Greece and on how the Council of Europe Congress could assist with the reconstruction and extension of the current Greek Roma Network.