The Joint Council of Europe and European Union Programme, ROMACTED: Promoting Good Governance and Roma Empowerment at Local Level, was officially launched in Belgrade on 29 May. The signing ceremony of the Protocol of Cooperation between the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, local authorities from 11 participating cities and municipalities and the Council of Europe took place during the event. The Protocol is a tripartite agreement and an official expression of commitment of the national, local and international stakeholders involved in the implementation process. The event also gathered other important national and international organisations from the field of Roma inclusion.
Ms Zorana Mihajlović, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and Head of the Coordination Body for monitoring the implementation of the Strategy for the Social Inclusion of Roma in the Republic of Serbia (2016-2025), said that discrimination exists, but no progress can be made if there is no mutual cooperation between all sides.
"Cooperation with local communities is of crucial importance. The task of the 11 local self-governments involved in the programme that we have launched today with the Council of Europe and the European Union is to demonstrate to other cities and municipalities that it is possible and necessary to involve Roma communities in social life of the self-governments and to empower them to fight for their own rights and interests“, said Mihajlović.
Mr Tim Cartwright, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Serbia, thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for her commitment and support in the process of social inclusion of Roma.
"This process is long, but I believe that by launching the ROMACTED Programme we will contribute to more effective inclusion of Roma communities. Political will is very important and I am grateful to Deputy Prime Minister Mihajlović for helping and supporting this process", Mr Cartwright said.
Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Ms Matea Norčić Stamčar, emphasized that social inclusion of Roma men and Roma women is important for Serbia's accession to the European Union.
"The issue of the position of Roma is an important issue at the level of the whole EU. They are the largest, but also the most marginalized group in Europe. With this programme, we help Serbia and the countries in the region to realize better conditions for the life of the Roma community through concrete activities", said Ms Romčić Stamčar.
Mr Tefik Ramadanović, president of the Roma National Council, pointed out that a coordinated cooperation between the Government of Serbia, local self-governments and the National Council is very important for the better position of Roma and Roma women.
Mr Ivan Bošnjak, State Secretary of Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, emphasised the good cooperation with the Council of Europe and possibilities for good implementation of the programme at the level of local self-governments.
Ms Aleksandra Bojađieva, Policy Expert from Roma Integration 2020 (Regional Cooperation Council), highlighted the complementarities that the two programmes share. She explained that RI2020 works directly with governments at central level on better formulation, implementation, budgeting and monitoring of Roma integration policies. Nevertheless, results will have sustainable only with the proper inclusion and cooperation on the local level, which has been seen through the ROMACTED Programme.
Ms Aurora Ailincai, Head of the Strategic Partnerships Unit in the Roma and Travellers Team, Council of Europe, underlined the consistent support and determination of the Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, for the improvement of the situation of the marginalised Roma. Through its operational work, the Council of Europe brings the European values down to the citizens. The creation or the strengthening of local democratic institutions at local level, built upon effective participation of the citizens is promoted through the joint European Union and the Council of Europe’s ROMACTED Programme.
The mayors and municipal representatives from 11 cities and municipalities, Kragujevac, Niš, Odžaci, Kostolac, Prokuplje, Smederevo, City of Subotica, Vranje, Vrnjačka Banja, Zaječar and Zvezdara (Belgrade), signed the Protocol of Cooperation to express the commitment towards Roma inclusion. The Protocol was countersigned by the Deputy Prime Minister Mihajlović on behalf of the Ministry of Construction, Traffic and Infrastructure and Mr Tim Cartwright on behalf of the Council of Europe.
The Launching Conference was followed by the National Workshop on Participatory Local Strategic Planning. The workshop involved both the representatives of 11 targeted localities and Roma community. Main emphasis was given to ROMACTED methodological steps that will be implemented in the upcoming months, as well as to joint participatory planning.
ROMACTED Programme aims at building up political will and sustained policy engagement of local authorities to enhance democratic local governance and empowerment of local Roma communities. It is implemented by the Council of Europe’s Roma and Travellers Team and the Office of the Directorate General of Programmes and it will target approximately 50 municipalities in seven beneficiaries in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The Programme will be implemented by April 2020.