High level Meeting on Roma

Strasbourg , 

Embargo until delivery / check against delivery

In my view, Europe is still divided by a wall. A while ago, a part of this wall was actually physical – brick and mortar and concrete - but most of it is invisible, yet no less effective in maintaining a divide between Roma and the rest of our societies.

We have known this for a very long time and we have been working very hard to do something about it for years, together with our partners, with national and local authorities and with civil society. There have been results, but not yet the critical mass of change we are looking for.

This High Level Meeting is a part of the effort to achieve this critical change, by reaffirming the principles, setting the priorities and charting the way to implement them, through better cooperation with the European Union, the OSCE and other international partners, through more and closer involvement of Roma and Travellers in the process and also through a very practical and concrete measure adopted by the High Level Meeting – namely the training of Roma mediators.

These are the people who can help us to make a difference. They are the most direct link between our standards and the reality on the ground. They may be from Roma or Traveller communities, or professionals working in schools, hospitals, employment offices and police stations in communities where Roma and Travellers live.

Several member states are already using them, with very positive results. But we will now put this activity at a new level. By early 2011, we will start training programmes at our Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest. Our capacity for training is almost 1400 mediators a year, but the actual number, at least in the first year, will of course depend on the available resources and the absorption capacity of the national and local authorities where the mediators will be employed.

I had a very good discussion about this project with the Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reding, and I am very much encouraged by the support she has shown for it, but also other aspects of cooperation on Roma and Travellers between our two organisations.