Column by Nadir Redzepi: Romani Integration Efforts in Macedonia - Optimism, Pessimism, and Realism

Last week we witnessed a series of significant events in Macedonia, all centered around the theme of Romani integration. These events included the Western Balkans Ministerial Conference on Roma-Related Policies, a consultation meeting between the Council of Europe (CoE) and Roma civil society organizations, and the official launch of Phase 3 of the Roma Integration project. Additionally, the old and new leadership of the European Roma Foundation embarked on a field visit. These gatherings offered a glimpse into the state of Roma affairs in Macedonia and the broader European context.

In assessing the outcomes of these events, we find ourselves at a crossroads between optimism, pessimism, and realism. Each scenario paints a unique picture of the challenges and opportunities facing Romani integration.

The optimistic scenario sees a harmonious continuation of domestic and international stakeholders' efforts to advance Romani integration. It envisions concrete progress, meaningful dialogue, and the genuine inclusion of Roma voices in policymaking. However, this rosy outlook often clashes with the harsh realities on the ground.

On the other hand, the pessimistic scenario envisages institutional promises that remain trapped within the confines of meeting rooms. This scenario perpetuates the status quo, where the Romani community continues to face systemic discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization.

Somewhere in between lies the realistic scenario. Here, we confront the ignorance and misguided attitudes of those in charge of Romani affairs, top-down-designed projects funded by the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), and the recycling of old ideas and plans by the European Roma Foundation. This scenario highlights the gap between rhetoric and action, the disconnect between those in power and those they purport to serve, and the persistence of systemic issues.

It is disheartening to note that state institutions in Macedonia, much like in many other countries, remain impotent when it comes to addressing Romani issues effectively. The European Commission (EC) and the CoE, while well-intentioned, often find themselves writing diagnoses and therapies for the wrong patients. Meanwhile, the European Roma Foundation, tasked with advocating for a marginalized community, sometimes appears to seek power among the powerless.

The events of last week offered several telling impressions. Firstly, the minister of labor and social policies in Macedonia appeared to lack a fundamental understanding of basic notions and key players in Romani policies. This lack of distinction between the EC, CoE, and the Roma Foundation raises concerns about the competency of those entrusted with shaping policies that directly affect the Romani community.

Secondly, Romani non-governmental organizations (NGOs) still seem focused on the project and activity level. The confusion between programs, projects, and policies at the national, local, and international levels is a recurring issue. This confusion hampers the effectiveness of Romani civil society organizations in advocating for meaningful change.

At the end, a symbolic photo appeared of the management of the Roma Foundation and young Avaya activists, all dressed in olive-green T-shirts. While symbolic gestures can carry weight, they must be accompanied by substantive actions and policies to have a lasting impact. Avaja in Romany means We are coming. It is not clear where they are coming from or when they will come, and it is even more unclear what will happen when they arrive. Someone criticizes them for coming slowly, someone else for having strayed or will yet wander through the labyrinths of activism, be it political or civil. Let me just remind you that civil activism spent 20 years to employ Roma in state institutions. Now we have a trend of leaving institutions and employment in international organizations. It turned out that we were naive that the entry of Roma into state bodies would change the state's culture and attitude towards us. Unfortunately, it was not that simple.

In conclusion, last week's events in Macedonia brought with them a cacophony of noise and improvisations, all seemingly motivated by the same underlying current—the allure of financial resources. To truly advance Romani integration, we must move beyond superficial gestures and short-term projects. It is imperative that we address the root causes of systemic discrimination and work toward policies that empower the Romani community and ensure their full participation in society. Only then can we truly replace the "smell of money" with the scent of progress and equality.

The author is the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social Change and also part of the Network for Systemic and Permanent Solutions, and the National Roma Platform

Letter with reaction from the National Roma Platform North Macedonia to the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) European Commission, Commissioner Oliver Varhey

In this reaction by the National Roma Platform North Macedonia and its coordinator Zoran Dimov refers to one topic, namely: Concern regarding the implementation of the visit of DG NEAR and the Roma advisor of North Macedonia The letter states, among other things:

Dear Commissioner Várhelyi,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to express our deep concerns about the recent visit of the Roma Advisor from the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) to North Macedonia. This visit has raised several troubling issues that require your attention and intervention.

As the leader of the National Platform of Roma Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in North Macedonia, I believe it is my responsibility to advocate for the rights and interests of the Roma community in our country. Therefore, I must bring to your attention the continuous, untransparent, and selective behavior exhibited by the Roma Advisor, Ms. Marta Garcia Fidalgo, during their visit. It is important to note that I regularly communicated with Ms. Fidalgo concerning our cooperation and coordination on Roma issues, for which I can provide written evidence.

One of the fundamental principles that underpin EU policies related to Roma inclusion is the imperative need for genuine consultation with Roma organizations. It is disheartening to note that the recent meetings held by the Roma Advisor did not fully uphold this principle. Instead, it appeared that the Advisor met on a regular basis with only a few CSO leaders, leaving out numerous experienced Roma organizations. This selective approach raises serious concerns about transparency, accountability, and impartiality in the interactions between DG NEAR officials and the Roma civil society.

The consequences of such actions are significant. By failing to engage with a broad spectrum of Roma CSOs, the Roma Advisor risks excluding the voices and perspectives of those who have been working tirelessly on Roma inclusion and empowerment for years. This not only undermines the credibility of the European Commission but also weakens the effectiveness of our efforts to address the challenges facing the Roma community in Macedonia.

Moreover, this selective approach also has a detrimental impact on coordination and communication channels with the EU Delegation officers in Macedonia. Effective communication and cooperation between the EU institutions and local stakeholders are essential to achieving our shared objectives. When a few CSO leaders are prioritized over others, it creates divisions and disrupts the collaborative spirit needed to make progress.

In light of these concerns, I kindly request that you address this issue internally within the respective DG. It is crucial to ensure that a transparent and accountable culture is upheld among all EC officials, including the Roma Advisor, when engaging with civil society organizations. DG NEAR should work towards a more inclusive and equitable approach to consultations with Roma CSOs, respecting the diversity of voices within the community.

I understand that the European Commission is committed to promoting Roma inclusion and improving the living conditions of the Roma population in the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia. To achieve these goals, it is imperative that our interactions are characterized by openness, fairness, and inclusivity. I trust that you will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation and uphold the principles that guide our shared efforts.

Please be advised that in order to maintain openness and accountability in our lobbying, this letter will be published as an open letter to the EU Commissioner for Enlargement on media news channels in North Macedonia.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to a constructive resolution that strengthens our partnership in advancing the rights and well-being of the Roma community in North Macedonia.


Zoran Dimov


National Roma Platform North Macedonia

26 September 2023


Varheji: We need to provide young Roma with full access to education, health, housing, and employment

The host of the annual ministerial meeting, the fourth in a row after the adoption of the "Declaration of the partners from the Western Balkans for the integration of the Roma within the EU enlargement process" - Poznań Declaration, is the Republic of North Macedonia. At the meeting, ministers from North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo highlighted the good practices from their countries as well as their views on future steps.

The ministerial meeting was opened with welcoming speeches by Jovana Trenčevska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy, Oliver Varhei, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Relations from the European Commission, Anna Liermann, Minister of State for Europe and Climate in Germany, David Geer, Ambassador of the European Union in Republic of North Macedonia and Željko Jovanović, the director of the Roma Initiative at the Open Society Foundations.

"We should strive to provide the young Roma with full access to education, health, housing, employment and participation in the green agenda," said Varheyi.

He pointed out that there are a number of successful projects that involve the Roma and contribute to the improvement of their standard of living, but he also expressed his conviction that the countries in the region can do even more. But the Director of the Roma Foundation, Željko Jovanović, mentioned to those present that "How many more such meetings will there be, to repeat the same words, as in the past twenty years"?

UN: Over 300 million children live in extreme poverty

The information published on the Digi24.ro website can be retrieved, in accordance with the applicable legislation, only within the limit of 120 characters. More than 300 million children around the world live in extreme poverty, according to a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank. Although the number of children living on less than $2.15 a day decreased between 2013 and 2022, the effects of the pandemic on the economy interrupted this progress, according to the report, writes Agerpres, taking over EFE. Approximately 30 million children would have come out of the situation of extreme poverty in the last three years if it were not for the disruptions caused by COVID-19, UNICEF and WB analysis estimates. By region, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected. Not only do 40% of children live in extreme poverty there, but the region represents an increasing share of the global child poverty figure, an evolution determined by the rapid population growth, environmental disasters and the effects of the pandemic. In fact, only Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East have seen an increase in the level of extreme child poverty in recent years

FaLang translation system by Faboba

Од 5 Ноември 2022 достапен документарниот филм на СП БТР „Небо, Точак, Земја„ на Max TV и Max TV GO со пребарување –Видеотека


6-to Romano Čhavorikanoo muzikakoro festivali 
„Čhavorikano Suno 2022“ – SP BTR

6-ти Ромски Детски музички фестивал
„Детски Сон 2022„ – СП БТР

6th Romani Children's Music Festival
"Children's Dream 2022" - SP BTR

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