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24.07.2019Young people from Bulgaria will participate in the Roma Genocide Remembrance initiative in Krakow, Poland

A group of active youths and volunteers to the Amalipe Center will take part in this year's Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative, which will take place in Krakow (Poland) from 29 July to 4 August. The event is organized within the DIKH HE NA BISTER campaign - "Look and don't forget". It will include over 400 Roma and Non - Roma volunteers from 25 national groups across Europe.

Participants will have the opportunity to enrich their knowledge of the Holocaust by visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. The initiative aims to raise awareness among young Europeans, civil society and politicians about the Roma Genocide during the Second World War. It will also focus on the rise of anti-gypsysm and anti-semitism in the context of growing racism, hate speech and extremism in Europe. In addition, the campaign aims to stimulate more tolerant learning, to learn from history lessons. In this way, young Europeans will become a reliable foothold against hatred and intolerance, that undermine the foundations of the European idea.

Dikh He Na Bister is a campaign of the TernYpe International Youth Roma Network, which brings together Roma youth organizations from Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Amalipe Center participates in the campaign for the second time after organizing a visit of young people from Bulgaria to Krakow in 2014 - see here. This year, the Bulgarian group participation was provided with the financial assistance of the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation. The campaign recalls that on the night of August 2, 1944, a total of 2,897 men, women and children of Roma origin who were imprisoned in the so-called "Zigeunerlager" in Auschwitz-Birkenau were taken to a gas chamber five and killed. Their bodies were burned in pits near the crematorium.

Museums dedicated to the Roma, killed in the death camps have been set up in various European countries and ceremonies for the memory of the Roma are already part of the historical memory of the Second World War. Bulgaria is still memorizing the most afflicted ethnic group of Nazi Germany, the Jewish, as the rescue of Bulgarian Jews is a cause for national pride. The general public in Bulgaria are not familiar with the persecutions of the Roma by the Third German Reich and the Roma Holocaust. Amalipe has been working to promote this theme for years. Information about the Roma Holocaust has been included in the Roma folklore and intercultural education books, issued by the organization. For the second year, Amalipe is a co-organizer of a Holocaust Teaching Seminar for secondary teachers in History, which takes place annually in July at the American University in Blagoevgrad.

For more information: Atanas Atanasov, 0894-94-44-13, cor.amalipe.vt@abv.bg

24.07.2019What happens to Karakachanov's (anti) Roma concept?

"Concept for Changes in the Policies for Gipsy (Roma) Integration and Measures for Their Implementation" was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Karakachanov in early February. It followed the events, and the protests in the village of Voyvodinovo, where the deputy prime minister expressed his view that "Gypsies in Bulgaria were extremely rude ..." and promised changes in the integration policy. It followed the decision of the United Patriot Coalition to appear divided in the European Parliament elections and the efforts of VMRO to consolidate the nationalist vote.

The draft document met rapid and serious opposition from a number of quite different factors: from Roma and human rights organizations, intellectuals and even other nationalist parties in the United Patriots coalition. 

The position of the Amalipe Center see here.

However, in February, Karakachanov announced his ambition to have the Concept adopted by the Council of Ministers. He even threatened to leave the Government and cause a parliamentary crisis if this did not happen within a short notice.

Amalipe Center together with another 14 Roma and pro-Roma organizations immediately send an open letter to Prime Minister Borisov and Deputy Prime Minister Donchev with arguments why the Council of Ministers should not approve the Concept of Karakachanov. The letter see here.

On March 26, the Concept was discussed "publicly" in the Granite Hall by VMRO-related intellectuals. The event was attended by representatives of the government (except Karakachanov himself) and the Roma community (except Milen Milanov, former co-ordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, co-founder of Intellect and Roma Versitsas coalition, and Zlatko Mladenov of ROS "Kupate"). 

In a letter dated April 11, Deputy Prime Minister Karakachanov submitted to the Council of Ministers a revised version of the "Roma Concept". A day later, the document was uploaded for public discussion at the public consultation portal - strategy.bg. 

Karakachanov's goal was to have the Concept adopted by a decision of the Council of Ministers until the end of April. All opinions of citizens and civil organizations sent to the public consultation portal were negative. Despite the requirement to respond to the suggestions made, such has not yet been published.

At the beginning of July, Deputy Prime Minister Karakachanov raised the issue of the adoption of the Concept by the Council of Ministers. According to the rules for drafting documents concerning integration policy, determined by the Council of Ministers itself, the document was submitted for an opinion to the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues and to the Council for Tripartite Cooperation to MLSP. 

On July 25, the Concept will be voted in the NCCEII. Presently, the structure is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Donchev. Since the Roma organizations left the council once in 2013 and then in 2017, because it did not make important decisions and did not have the functions of actually managing the integration processes, there are currently few Roma organizations involved.

However, organizations such as Shalom, that have repeatedly oppose to the hatred speech, used by Karakachanov and other politicians of the extreme nationalist spectrum, are still members of the Council. We are going to see what the result of the voting in the National Council and in the Council for Tripartite Cooperation will be.

Why the Council of Ministers should NOT accept the Concept?

One of the many anecdotes about Einstein tells that a young woman offered him a marriage, claiming that their children would be as clever as he was and beautiful as her. But Einstein refused the proposal with the words "I'm afraid that from the mathematic point view the opposite is as likely to happen, namely - the children to be ugly like me and ...

If Deputy Prime Minister Karakachanov had Einstein's foresight, he would probably never insist to have the Concept accepted. Because it in practice denies everything positive in the current integration documents, which undoubtedly have a lot of weaknesses, but the proposed concept does not suggest any solutions to them, and even the opposite - seriously deepens them.

Bulgaria has a tradition of adopting good documents for Roma integration. The latter is the National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria for Roma Integration, adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on March 1, 2012. It was followed by the adoption of municipal plans for Roma integration in 194 municipalities - by decision of the respective Municipal Councils. The problem with the current Roma integration documents is not the goals and measures they envisage. They are very consensual and can not be challenged. In fact, they were developed by tens of thousands of Roma and Non-Roma people at national and local levels, experts, professionals, informal leaders, politicians and others.

The problem is the lack of appropriate institutional mechanisms for their implementation as well as a supportive social environment.The "Concept" lapses from the main merits of the existing integration documents, as the proposed objectives and measures are too controversial and the consensus on them is virtually impossible. 

It is far from creating any supportive environment, even on the contrary - it threatens to destroy the few existing ones.

The Concept threatens to replace the basic approach of integration policy (focusing on raising education and accompanying measures for social inclusion) with a command-administrative sanctioning approach. Calls for Barrack integration may sound attractive, but their effectiveness would be minimal, as most of the proposed measures already exist, and the others violate basic democratic principles and can not be implemented in a democratic, European country.

It is extremely important that the existing integration documents were developed after extensive discussions and adopted by consensus. In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Karakachanov's Concept is not and can not be consensual. This is particularly important in view of the need for a broad public consensus on integration policy. The true consensus should be supported by all parties and not enforced by one. 

One more thing: the elaboration of the new National Strategy for the Integration of the Roma is to be worked out. There is hardly any doubt that it should be done with the participation of civil society and with the participation of the Roma themselves. If the Council of Ministers accepts the non-consensual and anti-Roma concept proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, it will close the door for real civic participation in the elaboration of the new National Strategy. Are there reasonable arguments to do this?

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