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Celebrating Roma Heritage and Culture – International Roma Day marked in Serbia

In commemoration of the International Roma Day, an event was organised at the Roma Cultural Centre in Pirot on the 4th of April 2024, to honour the richness of Roma culture, tradition, and identity. The event gathered distinguished guests, including Vladan Vasic - Mayor of Pirot, Janos Babity - Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, Biljana Markovic - Assistant Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, Elvira Angulo Rodriguez from the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia and Radmila Nesic, president of CSO Ternipe.

In his opening speech, Mr Vasić, welcomed attendees and stressed out the importance of the Roma Cultural Centre for Pirot and the fact that it is completely integrated within the city and wider community.

Mr Babity highlighted the fact that the celebration of International Roma Day is an opportunity for the Council of Europe, as the first international human rights organisation, to confirm its commitment to promoting equality and non-discrimination of Roma communities, as well as to continue its efforts in the fight against antigypsyism in the Council of Europe member states.

Biljana Markovic, representing the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue said that “Because of its methodology and support, programmes such as ROMACTED, a Joint Programme of the Council of Europe and the European Union, are important for improving the position of the Roma community, but also their neighbours, members of other communities. It is precisely by promoting different cultures and traditions that we contribute to their acquaintance and rapprochement, thus strengthening the bonds between people.”

Representing the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, Elvira Angulo Rodriguez reiterated the fact that the EU provides continuous support to Serbia in it’s path to full membership, but also in the promotion of human rights and protection of minorities.

President of the CSO Ternipe, Radmila Nesic, expressed gratitude to the City of Pirot, the Council of Europe, and the European Union for their support in establishing the Roma Cultural Centre, highlighting its role in preserving Roma identity, culture, and art.

Funded under the Second Phase of the ROMACTED Programme, the Roma Cultural Centre serves as a hub for cultural, educational, and artistic activities aimed at empowering the Roma community.

Traditional Roma music, dance, and other artistic expressions were presented highlighting the vibrancy of Roma culture. Further on, a public class on Roma history and culture was delivered to pupils from elementary schools presenting them the origins and migration routes of Roma, but also traditional professions, key holidays, as well as information about the flag, anthem and important dates and Roma heroes.

This event served as a testament to the progress made in recognising and celebrating Roma heritage while acknowledging the challenges that persist in society. Through collaborative efforts supported by the Council of Europe and its Roma and Travellers Team, initiatives like the Roma Cultural Centre in Pirot exemplified a step forward in building a more inclusive and cohesive society.

Pirot, Serbia 4 April 2024
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