Track the Process: NGO involvement in Roma Strategies

3 August 2011

After the endorsement of the EU Roma Framework by the European Council on 24 June, Member States get to work and prepare their so-called “National Roma Integration Strategies”. ERGO Network and the European Roma Policy Coalition emphasized throughout that Roma civil society involvement in the design of the strategies is essential.

ERGO Network wants to track how that process is unfolding: in Bulgaria, the government established a working group with civil society representatives under its National Council for Ethnic and Integration Issues (NCEII). Integro Association’s Lili Makaveeva is present, along with other activists from the National Coalition Integro established. One concrete suggestion she made is to organize regional roundtables: not only to make a pertinent problem analysis but also to mobilize stakeholders at the regional and local level.

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Osn 21 and 22 June, the European Commission organized a High-Level event in Sofia on the Structural Funds contribution to Roma integration. Soon afterwards, on 5 July, the Council of Ministers hosted a meeting of the Commission for Roma Integration, part of the NCEII. As a main result the meeting elected seventeen Roma representatives to become part of the mixed working group – together with government officials – that will be responsible to prepare the Bulgarian Roma Strategy by the end of November.

In addition to the thematic groups dealing with Education, Health, Employment and Social Issues, and Equal Opportunities and Culture, the meeting accepted the suggestion of Makaveeva and Milen Milanov (Diverse and Equal Association), that a separate thematic group on “Coordination Mechanisms” should be established, one of the issues the NGO coalition that is conducting the “Thank you Mayor” campaign in Bulgaria, has consistently stressed. Both Ms Makaveeva and Mr Milanov were selected to this group together with Ilona Tomova of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Other Roma representatives in the thematic groups include Nikolay Kirilov from Roma-Lom Foundation, Spaska Mihaylova from New way Association, Professor Ivaylo Tournev from Minorities health issues foundation, Doctor Stefan Panayotov – general practitioner, Mr. Gancho Iliev of World without Borders Association and Deyan Kolev of Center Amalipe.

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On 22 July, the official assignment of the Council of Ministers was discussed, presenting the working group with the following tasks:

   1. To update the “Framework program for equal integration of Roma into the Bulgarian society 2010 – 2020” and draft an operational document for Roma integration answering the requirements of the EU Frame for National Roma Strategies;
   2. To finalize its work by 28 November 2011, when Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the NCEII, Tsvetan Tsvetanov has to present the updated Roma strategy and the operational document to the Council of Ministers for its approval.

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According to Makaveeva and Milanov, the process has been positive so far. The NCEII, which is coordinating the work of the thematic groups, has been transparent, keeps working group members informed and invites suggestions of civil society representatives. “They shared with us the non-paper of the European Commission, with broad guidelines for Roma integration strategies”, Lili Makaveeva says. “It contains valuable recommendations and helps us focus the work in our thematic group. I stressed that, keeping in mind the paper, the Bulgarian Roma Strategy should not merely repeat the general expressions of previous documents, but be more concrete and pay attention to the real problems in the different regions and at local level”

The NCEII also invited suggestions on how to concretize the offer of the World Bank to assist the government in developing its Roma Integration Strategy. One receommendation was that they  organize a series of workshops at district level. That way the Working Group can make sure that the identification and analysis of problems is grounded in reality. It would also be a opportunity to rally local and regional stakeholders behind the process – something that has been missing in the past.

Milen Milanov, who is the Civil Society contact person in the “Mechanisms thematic group”, met with his counterparts from the government side on 27 July to establish the scope of the group’s activities. It was agreed these include administrative and financial issues, involvement of regional and local authorities, civil society involvement, and regulation mechanisms, including changes in the Law for Regional Development and Local Administration. These issues will be discussed during its first meeting, which will take place on 4 August 2011.

To be continued ….

See also:

Amalipe: The Commission for Roma Integration elected NGO representatives for preparing the National Roma Strategy.

European Commmission: non-paper Roma Integration Strategies

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