Launching Conference of the ROMACT/ROMED 2 Programmes

Milan, Saturday 18 January 2014

Statement by John Warmisham, Vice-President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Congress Rapporteur on Roma issue

Dear Deputy Secretary General,

Dear Minister and Vice-Minister,

Dear local elected officials,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me thank the organizers for conveying this launching event as well as the City of Milan and other local partners for supporting its organisation.

Policy measures at local and regional level are decisive for bringing about real improvement in the social inclusion of Roma, across the key areas of education, housing, employment and health.

This is why the Strasbourg declaration adopted in October 2010 is insisting on the need to develop action at the local and regional level and, that alongside mediation, it is equally important to create an environment for Roma representatives but also for local authorities representatives, whether elected officials or staff members, that will favor changes and improvements and help to solve complex situations.

It is also for those reasons that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which I represent and is an important Council of Europe institution for reaching out/developing cooperation with local government stakeholders, decided to convey on September 2011 the first European Summit of Mayors on Roma Inclusion. Such Summit was an important step in the process that led to today’s meeting.

Following the first European Summit of Mayors on Roma Inclusion, a call was also launched to set up a European Alliance of cities and regions for Roma inclusion. Such Alliance was established by the Congress in March 2013 and now counts more 121 cities and regions from 27 different countries, the latest local authority having joined being the City of Paris in December 2013. Some Italian local authorities participating in ROMACT belong to the Alliance.

The Alliance is strongly supporting the implementation ROMACT (that aims at enhancing political will and building the capacity of local and regional authorities to develop and implement plans and projects for Roma inclusion), and ROMED2, and is committed to ensure an effective and wide dissemination of its conclusions and expertise throughout its network. It strongly believes that it is also through such promotion of exchanges of experience between local and regional authorities, that improvement of plans and projects on Roma inclusion, can be favoured.

May I mention that the Alliance, as well as ROMACT and ROMED activities, correspond to priorities identified by the European Parliament and the Committee of Regions of the European Union, which have both respectively adopted late 2013, a related Resolution and Opinion focusing on the need to work closely with local and regional authorities when tackling this issue of Roma inclusion.

The European Parliament Resolution on “the progress made in the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies”, adopted on December 2013 urges in particular “the Member States to involve local and regional authorities in reviewing, managing, implementing and monitoring their national strategies.”

The Alliance aims to favour an exchange of good practices on Roma inclusion among its participating cities and regions and to enable them to speak with one voice, by providing a platform for advocating issues concerning Roma inclusion at local and regional level. It organises national and international seminars for its participating cities and regions, in order to better understand their needs and facilitate the exchange of know-how.

To conclude, needless to say that the Congress of local and regional authorities is welcoming the launch of the ROMACT Project. For the Congress, democracy starts at the local level and such local democracy has now become a fundamental European value.

In this regard, the concept of local democracy is not only about the distribution of competences and resources between States and local authorities, a relationship that found its expression in the European Charter for Local Self-Government whose Guardian is the Congress, and in the concept of subsidiarity.

Local democracy is also about the relationship between citizens and local authorities, whose guiding principle is that of good governance, and thus about the quality of local services provided citizens and about the means that those citizens have to participate in local public life. ROMACT project is thus also aimed at promoting so called democratic governance, by which the needs of all citizens are taken into account and quality services are provided to all of them.

Finally, I wish to insist that not only poverty and social exclusion that Roma population is facing can be fought, but it can be anticipated and it can be prevented if we work together. For this, it is essential to rely on the capacities of each stakeholders concerned starting with local elected officials, staff of local authorities but also the Roma people themselves.

The participation of people experiencing poverty and exclusion is indeed essential as much as the accountability of all key stakeholders. Participation and accountability must be the two guidelines of this collective battle. Equality, which is a key pillar of democracy, must be built every day and this fight is not just about people facing difficulties. Everyone in society has an interest in making sure that no citizen is left aside.