A community that is fully aware of its history and culture is more likely to look at the present and the future with confidence. From my work so far as Secretary General, I am impressed by the commitment of Roma youth to establish national and international organisations and networks, taking leadership to connect with others across our member states, and commendably steering all of us to recognise and remember Roma victims of the Holocaust and the Roma resistance.
Roma and Travellers were targeted for extermination in the 1930s and 1940s. Fascist forces from the Baltic to the Balkans executed hundreds of thousands. In Germany, only a few thousand Sinti and Roma survived the Holocaust and the concentration camps. Yet the mass killing of Roma people was not even raised at the Nuremberg trials.
Our Council of Europe 7-9 April online conference – “Roma Youth: Together for Emancipation and Empowerment, The Role of history in the participation and inclusion of Roma young people” – contributes to our collective memory. Indeed, teaching Roma and Traveller history and Roma Holocaust Remembrance are priorities of the current Council of Europe Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion (2020-2025). Organised, among others, by the Youth Department and the Roma and Travellers Team of the Council of Europe within the framework of the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, the goals of the three-day conference in English, French and Romani are as ambitious as they are essential.
As we celebrate International Roma Day, let us commit ourselves to acknowledging history and addressing current problems. In doing both, we can look forward to a brighter future for Europe’s Roma and Travellers and thus for Europe as a whole.