As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Madame la Représentante de la Maire de Strasbourg, Madame l’Adjointe Véronique Bertholle
Ms Ioana Spataru, representative of the TernYpe - International Roma Youth Network,
Professors and students,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The International Roma Day gives us a unique opportunity to recognise and celebrate Romani culture.
The beautiful traditions of song, dance and story-telling –
Of arts, crafts, and skills.
And of language, beliefs and faiths.
These and other qualities have deep roots in history –
And it is important to lift and make visible such important traditions for Europe, on the International Roma Day –
In gratitude for the rich contribution that Roma and Travellers make to European life.
Roma culture is more widely recognised and celebrated than ever before –
And I am pleased that the Council of Europe has been part of this change –
Not least through our founding role in ERIAC, the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture –
Based in Berlin –
And which is doing excellent work in supporting artistic talent –
And opening the eyes of non-Roma people to the extraordinary creativity of this community.
But everything is not as it should be. Far from it. Many Roma are still confronted with long-standing exclusion and discrimination.
Something that we saw all too clearly during the COVID-19 lockdowns when Roma and Travellers were scapegoated and sometimes subjected to violence on the basis of pure prejudice.
We need to confront these challenges head-on.
That’s why all our 46 members states have adopted yesterday a recommendation on Roma Youth Participation.
And more importantly, another is coming that will guide governments across Europe on how to ensure the active political participation of national minority youth at every level of government –
Local, national and international –
This will enable young Roma to become more active, visible and represented in a whole range of ways, including in shaping the decisions that will determine their future, as well as in the media.
We are also at work on a new legal instrument to help governments achieve equality for Roma and Traveller women and girls.
Often, stark inequalities hurt them most –
In health and education –
Employment and housing –
And participation in public and political life.
Domestic violence too.
Often, these women and girls are unaware of the help that is available.
So, we need specific measures to tackle these specific problems.
And that is what we are working towards.
We must also aim to ensure a future in which every young Roma can grow up knowing that their rights will be upheld and respected –
That the institutions of their country have their interests at heart –
And that they can celebrate their identity and culture with pride.
That’s what we are doing here today.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you and to mark this day with you.
And thank you for your attention.