Back 4th edition of the International Conference Safeguarding Our Romani Language

Online 6 November 2023
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As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.


Executive Director of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, ERIAC, dear Timea,

Chairwoman of the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament,

Head of Unit for Non-discrimination and Roma Coordination in the European Commission,

Distinguished guests,

Dear friends,

A very good morning to all of you.

It is a great pleasure to join you for the opening of this important conference.

Three years ago, ERIAC launched its Romani Language Initiative.

The agenda before you today shows the confidence, progress and momentum that it has developed since then.

With your help –

And the inspiring leadership of Mihaela Zitreanu –

“Safeguarding our Romani Language” will now look to harmonise the Romani language –

Based on international co-operation –

And pave the way to further teaching initiatives and materials that will extend the cultural reach of a language that is central to Romani identity –

And to cultural understanding throughout all of Europe.

The Council of Europe is proud to support these aims –

As we have always put strong emphasis on supporting linguistic and educational inclusion –

Within our broader aim to help uphold Roma rights.

For this, we have concrete and useful tools at our disposal.

First and foremost, the European Convention on Human Rights –

Interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights –

But also the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages –

The only specific and legally-binding international treaty in its field –

And whose Committee of Experts’ monitoring group helps member states to implement it.

One key aim has been to support national authorities in providing access to Romani language as an integral part of curricula –

At all levels of education –

With proper teacher training and relevant teaching materials –

And in a way that supports integration.

We have also provided guidance on the use of Romani in different fields of public life, in cultural activities, and even in the use of social media.

Over recent years, we have also developed specific new tools on language and education for Romani people.

These include our recommendation from the year 2000 to all our 46 European governments –

Making it clear that Romani children should have the opportunity to learn at school in their mother tongue –

As well as our landmark Strasbourg Declaration on Roma from 2010 –

Which established as a priority, and I quote, “measures to foster knowledge of the culture, history and languages of Roma” at the national level –

I also want to mention here our Curriculum Framework for Romani –

Which comes with a range of resources –

All aimed at widening access to good teaching in Romani, for Romani.

Last but not least, the Council of Europe’s strong support for the establishment of ERIAC in 2017.

Yes, indeed, language is one of the many areas on which we have co-operated since.

For example, on promoting Romani teaching material –

Developed jointly with ERIAC and Ukraine’s Ministry of Education –

And implemented as part of the Council of Europe’s current Action Plan for Ukraine.

More broadly, ERIAC’s valuable input on language and other issues has been central to our Action Plans on Roma and Traveller Inclusion.

We try to help in as many areas as possible.

Today, our Roma and Travellers Team is working closely with local authorities in the Western Balkans and Türkiye –

To help support the official use of Romani to promote identity, culture and tolerance.

Further joint programmes are also planned.

Dear friends,

Things are of course far from perfect. We all know that.

There is so much more to do across Europe to ensure that Romani can learn in their own language –

And that this language is also fully recognised and celebrated for its significant contribution to European cultural life.

But overall, the trajectory is positive.

We want to work with you.

Learn from your valuable experience.

Alongside the many talented people at this conference, with ERIAC itself.

Which is doing so much good in fostering and promoting every aspect of Romani Arts and Culture.

I can only express my deep admiration for its work –

And congratulate the German authorities for their steadfast and valuable support for it.

I wish you all a successful conference.

Thank you for your attention.