‘Wall Free Europe!’ Campaign 2014
On November 9th 2014, it is 25 years ago that the Berlin wall fell and we will celebrate unity of East and West Germany. Yet, there are still walls that segregate Roma citizens from their non-Roma neighbours across Europe (see annex: glossary). Therefor ERGO has built its advocacy campaign around this historic moment, asking attention for the removal of both physical and mental walls.
November 9th marks the fall of the Iron Curtain that divided Eastern and Western Europe. But it also sparked a new, enlarged Europe based on fundamental EU values: democracy, human rights and social inclusion. In reality, the position of many Roma worsened –most of them were better off under the socialist regime and resembles more closely resembles the Apartheid South Africa than a modern-day democracy.
Since the fall of the Berlin wall, new walls have been erected in Europe. Alone in Slovakia 14 walls exist to separate Roma from their non-Roma neighbours. Also in Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, France and other European countries, local governments build walls to hide Roma -often motivated to protect children safety. In fact, many mayors have won votes by going along with the non-Roma requests to prevent Roma to enter their streets. In North Ireland walls still separate Protestants and Catholic’s neighbours that are expected to be removed only in 2032!
There is a growing tendency to justify or at least tolerate the anti-Roma walls. While 15 years ago there was a strong reaction to a wall built against Roma in Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic, today we seems to take them for granted.
ERGO will launch its Wall Free Europe! campaign asking for removal of the walls and gaining attention for the increasing anti-Gypsyist and racist sentiments in Europe -which creates ‘walls’ in the heads of the general public to relate to Roma. This result in Roma apartheid: segregation in schools, ghettoization and massive unemployment.
According to polls who predict that at the European elections, extreme-right parties will have a significant share of their representatives in the European Parliament. The current raise of hate-speech by politicians, accelerated by the media, builds new “walls” of ignorance in the minds of the people. The Wall Free Europe campaign aims to aims to monitor, tackle and prevent the hate-speech made by politicians in their electoral campaigns.
In the last decade, Politicians and policy makers failed to address this systemic discrimination of Roma in Europe. The campaign advocates for Roma to be treated as equal stakeholders in policies and programmes targeting them –not treating them as objects, but subjects of the necessary change. The ‘walls’ in the minds of the people in power have to be removed, so that Roma can participate equal in civil and political life. Like Vaclav Havel said 20 years ago: "The Roma problem is a litmus test not of democracy but of a civil society. One means legislation to enable the people to vote and make them the source of power. The civil society is related to human behaviour."
Approach of the ‘Wall Free Europe!’ campaign
The Wall Free Europe! campaign aims to call an end to Roma apartheid by visualising segregation and anti-Gypsyism in Europe. The campaign has a 2 year perspective: the first year (2014) it will explore, map and visualise physical and mental walls in Europe and establish cooperation with different organisations. The second year (2015) the campaign will focus on gaining more in-depth information on segregation of Roma (in ghettos, schools –including the costs & consequences of segregation) and working with communities to explore path-ways out of segregation (by developing local actions plans, including EU funding like CLLD and micro crediting). All activities have a strong capacity building and empowerment component.
In the first year the Wall Free Europe! campaign has the following focus:
· Raising awareness at the general public on the existence of physical and mental walls that segregate Roma citizens from their non-Roma neighboursthrough:
o Mapping of walls and visualise them through stories, pictures and clips on RomaReact.org. and a “Wall free Europe Contest”
o Empowerment activities in a number of segregated communities to strengthen their political and social participation, while pressuring the local authorities to take concrete and immediate actions ( like the removals of physical walls through letters, public events) and involving non-Roma supporters to build relations of trust.
o Gain attention of general public and media by organising public events like concerts, summer camps, flash-mobs and introduce the campaign at existing festivals and events organised by others.
· Fighting anti-Gypsyism and discrimination in today’s Europethrough;
o Monitoring, tackling and preventing hate-speech by politicians in their electoral campaigns (EU and national elections) cooperate with ENAR and NO HATE movement.
o Reaching out to MEPs and EC officials (commissioners) to take a stance against anti-Gypsyism and systemic discrimination (open call EU Roma Summit, hearing EP, letters to new MEPs).