On the occasion of the International Roma Day, attention was drawn to challenges affecting the Roma minority, calling for the human rights of all to be respected and observed. The International Roma Day is also an opportunity to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues faced by Roma people and promote cultural diversity as a European value at local level.
In this context, the Municipality of Fier in partnership with the Council of Europe Office in Tirana, the EU Delegation to Albania, UNDP in Albania and Institute of Romani Culture in Albania, organised a Municipal Task Force Group Meeting and a cultural event.
In the focus of the first event were the implementation of the Local Action Plan on the Integration of Roma and Egyptian Minorities 2019-2022 and the plan of re-integration of returnees, including the responsiveness and accountability of local authorities towards the Roma minority.
Addressing the event, the Head of Council of Europe Office in Tirana, Ms Jutta Gützkow, highlighted the importance of the contextualisation of these events as part of the Roma Week 2022 in Albania where all partners have joined efforts under the slogan “History and culture in the spotlight for a better present“. “This brings to our attention two important messages: Historical and cultural heritage need to be celebrated, promoted and preserved and Roma empowerment needs to continue to ensure a direct voice in the local decision-making“- she added.
The Resident Representative of UNDP in Albania, Ms Monica Merino, emphasised that “the International Roma Day conveys a powerful message: it calls for Roma social inclusion, anti-discrimination and most of all for acceptance. Only by working together and through a strong commitment, we ensure that Roma are empowered in all aspects and part of an inclusive Albanian society“.
The Programme Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to Albania, Ms. Valerie Covic, underlined that “Additional efforts and resources are really needed to accelerate the integration of Roma and reduce the gap with the rest of the population at local level. This is why EU support on Roma integration at local level is part of the strategic EU support to Albania. Roma inclusion is a key EU priority in the pre-accession context”.
The meeting was followed by the thematic drama staged at Bylis Theatre titled “A beginning without an end” which put the emphasis on the social inclusion of the Roma minority and the re-integration of Roma returnees. The drama, written and directed by the young Roma activist, Mr Marjus Veizi, was staged by a cast of young actors consisting of Roma and non-Roma Albanian youth supported by Institute of Romani Culture in Albania. It shed light on the root causes of emigration and asylum-seeking of Roma minority, calling for more effective involvement of relevant local and central authorities with regards to social and re-integration policies.
The events were organised in the framework of the two EU funded projects: ROMACTED II Programme, co-funded and implemented by Council of Europe “Promoting good governance and Roma empowerment at the local level” and the UNDP regional project of “Strengthening national and local systems to support the effective socio-economic integration of returnees in the Western Balkans”.