The second Advisory Group meeting of the European Union and Council of Europe Joint Programme ROMACTED Phase II - Promotion of good governance and empowerment of Roma at the local level was held in Podgorica, Montenegro, on 24 October 2023.
Close to 50 representatives from the partner municipalities gathered together, as well as central-level institutions, international organisations, and ROMACTED Support Team. The meeting aimed to discuss the progress to date and planned activities within the ROMACTED II Programme, as well as to jointly analyse the prerequisites for improving cooperation for better social inclusion of Roma and Egyptians in Montenegro.
The opening panel was chaired by Ms Marina Vasić, ROMACTED II Programme Manager, and the welcome speeches were given by Sokolj Beganaj, Head of the Department for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Roma and Egyptians, Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Mladenka Tešić, Programme Manager for Human Rights and Democratisation, Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro and Lejla Dervišagić, Head of the Council of Europe Programme Office in Podgorica.
Mr Beganaj reminded that the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights actively and continuously works to improve the position of Roma and Egyptians in Montenegro. He emphasized the importance of the support of the Council of Europe in this process, which will be intensified at both local and central levels, through the joint action of the ROMACTED II and Roma Integration III programmes.
Ms Tešić emphasized the importance of capacity-building within the Roma and Egyptian communities and the need for joint work to eliminate the gap between Roma and non-Roma population, remains essential in a number of different areas, as it is pointed out by numerous studies. She recalled the importance of the implementation of the EU Roma Strategic Framework, as well as the commitment under the Poznan Declaration.
"Only through multi-sectoral action and cooperation, which includes issues of education, employment, housing, and many others, can we improve the situation in which the Roma and Egyptian community members live," said Ms Dervišagić. She emphasized that the Council of Europe, through its working bodies, adopts numerous recommendations and defines standards to support Roma and Egyptians inclusion and access to all human and civil rights.
A particular topic of the meeting and discussion was the development of local action plans for the social inclusion of Roma and Egyptians and their responsive and sustainable budgeting. On that occasion, consultants hired by the Council of Europe within the ROMACTED Programme presented guidelines aiming to help municipalities to create realistic local action plans based on community needs, as well as to prepare local budgets that are sensitive towards Roma and Egyptians needs and include necessary items for the implementation of measures and activities for their social inclusion. These guidelines, as the entire work of the ROMACTED Programme, follow the priorities set out by the Council of Europe in its Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion (2020-2025). They target more particularly the implementation of Priority area n°2: Support democratic participation and promote public trust and accountability.
This ROMACTED Advisory Group Meeting was also an opportunity for the presentation of the Roma Integration Phase III project, which the Council of Europe is implementing with the support of the European Union. Its main goal is to work on strengthening the capacity of governments in the Western Balkans and Türkiye to effectively respond to multiple challenges faced by the Roma and Egyptian communities through the implementation of comprehensive public policies.
To learn more about Roma Integration III, click here.