Close to 100 participants gathered together during the First Regional Steering Committee Meeting of the Joint European Union and Council of Europe ROMACTED Programme Phase II on “Promoting good governance and Roma empowerment at local level”, which was held in Skopje on 23 May 2022.
The purpose of this meeting was to take stock of the implementation of the ROMACTED II Programme to date, present the findings from the Phase I external evaluation, and plan the next steps in the implementation and synergies with stakeholders.
In his welcoming address, Mr Evis Memeti, National Roma Contact Point at the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, highlighted governmental support to ROMACTED Phase II in North Macedonia in order to strengthen co-operation between national and local levels for the empowerment of Roma. “The Government of North Macedonia has adopted the new National Roma Strategy 2022-2030. Roma in North Macedonia have the potential to lead the issue of their own integration and to be an example in the region”, said Mr Memeti.
Mr Steffen Hudolin, Head of Co-operation in the European Union Delegation in North Macedonia noted: “An important part of success in achieving real progress on the ground also depends on the fact that Roma themselves are directly involved at all levels of policy development, decision-making and program implementation. The municipalities involved in the ROMACTED Programme are committed to working along these lines, enabling the participation of Roma in all processes that will lead to improving their involvement in their municipalities”.
Ms Natasa Dimeska, Chief of Cabinet in the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, on behalf of the Minister, reaffirmed the commitment of the Ministry to support the implementation of the ROMACTED Programme in North Macedonia, including co-operation between different partners both nationally and locally. “Inclusive society cannot be achieved without full integration of all marginalised groups, providing employment measures, housing and social protection are priorities. North Macedonia has adopted the first National Action Plan for Roma Women and Girls, following the National Roma Strategy”, she emphasised.
Ms Mabera Kamberi, Head of Department in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, informed that the government regularly monitors the implementation of the programme through information prepared by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.
Ms Marta Garcia Fidalgo, Advisor for Roma Integration in Directorate-General Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) joined the opening panel via video connection. Ms Garcia Fidalgo repeated the commitment of DG NEAR to Roma inclusion and gave importance to co-operation of local, central and international levels in order to create dialogue for the improvement of Roma situation in the region.
“The joint co-operation and synergies of different Council of Europe programmes and projects is very important, having in consideration that Roma issues are cross-cutting and need to be addressed in many issues”, was noted by Ms Lejla Dervisagic, Head of Operations in the Council of Europe Programme Office in Skopje. She also gave examples of such joint activities with the ROMACTED Programme Phase II within the CoE office in Skopje.
After the opening panel, the meeting was followed by the following two sessions:
- Brief presentation of the ROMACTED Programme’s approach and progress to date at regional level and presentation of the ROMACTEDII workplan on three thematic components – Roma Responsive Budgeting, post-COVID recovery measures and Re-integration of Roma Returnees;
- ROMACTED Phase I Programme – external evaluation findings, case studies and recommendations, prepared and presented by independent evaluators.
Two working groups were organised to discuss two Phase II thematic components:
- Re-integration of Roma Returnees: National and Local Programmes, followed by the presentations of Mr Nenad Petkovic, Portfolio Manager – Local Democracy and Social Inclusion, United Nations Development Programme; Ms Valerie Morrica, Senior Social Development Specialist, World Bank; and Mr Serdzo Krstanoski, Mayor of Kostolac, Serbia;
- Post-COVID recovery measures, followed by the presentations of Mr Orhan Usein, Team leader, Roma Integration Office/ Regional Cooperation Council; Mr Redjepali Cupi, Executive Director, Roma Education Fund; and Ms Cristina Marian, Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative – REDI.
Both working groups were accompanied by a moderator and a rapporteur, who came together at the plenary to present the conclusions and recommendations.
The event was chaired by Mr Marcos Andrade, Deputy Head of Division of the Roma and Travellers Team at the Council of Europe.
The meeting was followed by the joint event with the Regional Cooperation Council/Roma Integration Office on the third ROMACTED phase II component on Roma Responsive Budgeting.