Interview with Selvia Mustafi, part of the AVAJA core team: "Avaja is in an evolutionary phase in which changes are taking place in many aspects, which is an absolutely healthy process."

Roma Times: Avaja has recently added an addition - Roma for Democracy? How much did this addition affect the transition from the previous management to this current one?

Selvia Mustafi: The Roma Foundation for Democracy is the new entity and source of new hope in order to strengthen the democratic participation of the Roma in society, and Avaya is the initiative that is a constituent part of the foundation. One of the goals of the foundation will be to support individuals, informal groups, movements as well as media portals that promote the contribution of the Roma in the development of democracy.

The establishment of the foundation did not affect the change of the previous leadership, on the contrary, it opened up space for a broader perspective and joint work through the inclusion of people from other regions of the country that have great potential in strengthening the power of the community.

R.T.: Who is now in the management of Avaja, and are there any in the management from the previous composition?

SM: Avaja is in an evolutionary phase in which changes are taking place in many aspects, which is an absolutely healthy process. In the management we have people from the previous composition, but also reinforcement with activists who during these 4 years had the opportunity to lead at the local level and grow in the whole process to now reach the management level.

What is crucial in the whole process of working is our will to work regardless of who leads, because the goal at the end of the day is the same, but only the focus is different. On the one hand, we have the rapid progress in the Roma neighborhoods in many municipalities, and from Dr. political organization and influence.

RT: What is the current focus of Avaja's activities?

SM: As before, Avaja will focus on 3 main elements, namely:

political education, political participation as well as representation.

In the past, we had the opportunity to experience all kinds of manipulations, especially when it comes to elections. From all of this, the main lesson is that we need strengthening of the voice of the community, political education (how to vote correctly), participation (why it is important for everyone to participate and vote) as well as representation - for greater influence in the creation of state policies.

RT: What is the main motive for Avaja to grow into a Roma political movement?

SM: I think it is high time to realize that we must be politically strongly organized and be part of higher political processes and involved in positions that will make changes for our community.

The motive is simple, we do not have our own home country and (military) force to demonstrate such strength, economically we are the poorest community in Europe, but what we can do is organize ourselves politically and act by building power in the community. Thanks to our forefathers and leaders like Faik Abdi, we are enabled not only to think about politics, but to actively engage in it.

Avaya has a generation of young leaders with the capacity to imagine a better future through common ideas and the will to improve the status of the Roma community.

Varheyi from Tirana: Membership is coming to the Western Balkans

The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varheji, from Tirana emphasized that Albania is about to become a member of the European Union, and the same applies to all countries in the region. He announced that the Union will soon announce a growth plan for the countries of the region.

"Membership is coming to Albania. Membership comes to the Western Balkans. You are yet to hear what we are planning in this direction, and that will be the growth plan for the Western Balkans, which we will announce. It will immediately speed up enlargement from the first of January next year, so that we can host the new member states as soon as possible when they are ready. We are ready," Varheyi said.

Varheyi announced the plan before the ministers of foreign affairs of the countries of the Western Balkans. They met within the framework of the Berlin Process in Tirana, where the Summit of this process at the level of prime ministers and presidents will be held in ten days. Head of diplomacy Bujar Osmani also addressed today's meeting, according to whom the announcement of the new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans should enable access to the common European market and financial aid for the region.

IRU congratulates the current MEP Petar Polak, who won the six Roma parliamentary seats in the early elections in Slovakia

Following the record number of parliamentary mandates won by Roma representatives in this year's early elections of the unicameral legislature of Slovakia in 2023, the International Roma Union - IRU and its president Zoran Dimov, sent congratulations to the current MEP Petar Polak for his new mandate of Petar Polak Junior as a member of the Slovak Legislature and at the same time five other Roma members of parliament: Irena Bihariova, Ladislav Bužo, Anežka Škopova, William Tanko and Ingrid Kosova.

This is a historic success of the Roma community in the Slovak Republic, which demonstrated its unity and cohesion in action.

Also, the desire of the Roma candidates for parliament came to the fore and the energy given during the election campaign and success was only a small part of the overall mosaic of the efforts they gave to bring a brighter future to the Roma community in Slovakia.

Let the example of these Roma MPs in the Slovak Parliament be a roadmap and an example of how the Roma community should act in other countries when it comes to the collective interest of the Roma and their contribution to a social and state system.

Let's wish all six Roma MPs in the Slovak Parliament much success in their parliamentary mandates

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

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


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