Roma Inclusion in BiH is a European Issue

Members of the Roma community remain among the most marginalised in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In an effort to improve the economic condition and social inclusion of Roma, the European Commission organised a comprehensive one-day workshop entitled „Roma Inclusion Seminar: Way Forward for Bosnia and Herzegovina“. The aim of the workshop, which brought together over 80 representatives from the local authorities, NGOs and International Organisations, was to discuss and propose measures to the many challenges faced by the Roma community in the country. Special attention was devoted to the issues of civil registration, education, employment, social issues, health care and housing.

The workshop was co-chaired by Ms Saliha Dzuderija, Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of BiH, and Mr Pierre Mirel, Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission. Opening remarks were also delivered by Mr Nedzad Jusic, Chair of the BiH Council of National Minorities, Ms Sanela Besic, President of the Roma Decade Watch, and Mr Andrzej Mirga, Senior Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues at the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The key purpose of the workshop were not only to identify the main policy gaps in this area but also to find realistic solutions for addressing concrete obstacles in the social inclusion of Roma. This included discussions on how to involve closely Roma associations and the local authorities in the design and implementation of policies, coordination and evaluation of projects and their sustainability. A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of education and the crucial role of Roma parents in this respect.

Mr Mirel underlined that:Social inclusion of the Roma is a European issue. The difficult conditions the Roma face need to be improved in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in all countries aspiring for EU membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made efforts to foster Roma inclusion. However, many challenges remain to be tackled. Civil registration, inclusive education and the issue of illegally built settlements are some of them. These policies should be explicitly but not exclusively targeting Roma, as other social groups need to be assisted. Furthermore, experience proves that the effectiveness of these policies are enhanced if the Roma community itself is involved from the very beginning of the process, with a particular emphasis on the role given to women“.

Assistant Minister Ms Saliha Dzuderija stressed not only the need to speed up the implementation of the relevant Action Plans but also to ensure their sustainability. In particular she highlighted the need to revise the Action Plans and plan further activities and to include Roma issues in all other programmes of social inclusions covering other sectors and other categories of vulnerable people. Ms Dzuderija further pointed out that close cooperation between all relevant stakeholders is key to advance in this field and to fight against the stigma the Roma community faces.

Background: This workshop is part of a series of meeting held by the European Commission on the integration of the Roma in the Western Balkans. It follows the Commission Communication on „An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020“ of 5 April 2011, which calls for more efforts from the EU Member States. Similar events already took place in Podgorica in April, Pristina and Belgrade in June. Other meetings will be held in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia in the forthcoming months.