Mr. Jovan Damjanovic held several important positions in past, he was the President of Federation of Roma Association of Serbia; Minister without Portfolio, Government of Republic of Serbia, Director, Roma TV, Amaro Drom, Vice-President, International Roma Union, . He has been awarded letters of thanks and charters by Slobodan Berberski for political participation of Roma in Serbia. He is actively working for the welfare and upliftment of Roma people all over the world. Presently he is President of World Roma Organization, Rromanipen. email: wrorromanipen@gmail.com


 
 

Speech by the President of the World Roma Organization Jovan Damjanovic at the opening of the International Conference Roma, New Delhi, 12. February 2016.
Political, Social and Economic Challenges for Roma


 

Respected participators of International conference, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, as a President of World Roma Organization, as a Roma minister without portfolio in the Government of Republic of Serbia, Parliamentary deputy and member of the Serbian Radical Party, it’s my honor to send you the most sincere greetings from the state of Serbia and its citizens, traditionally friendly country of India and its people. Let me greet you on behalf of the President of the Serbian Radical Party, Dr. Vojislav Seselj to all the participants and guests of the International Roma Conference.

I am happy that I am able to greet from this place Prime-minister of Indian government Sh. Narendra Modi, Minister of foreign affairs, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, President of Indian National Congress Party, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Parliamentary deputy Harisingh Rathod, who wants to set the Roma issue on the agenda of Indian Parliament for last couple of years, Mr. Shyam paranda, Secretary General of Indian Council for International Cooperation, who is among those most credited for organization of this international conference, prominent academician, sociologist, literate, journalist, Commissioner for education in World Roma Organization, Dr. Shyam Singh Shashi, who also gave great contribution in realization of this conference, Mr. Dev Bhardwaj, Commissioner for diaspora contacts with India, long standing contributor of Roma in diaspora, by whose merits the greatest number of Roma intellectuals have introduced themselves with the motherland of Roma Punjab and Chandigarh on well-known International Writers Festivals, as well as many other political representatives, representatives of diplomatic corps, representatives of political parties, ministers and parliamentary deputies, representatives of civil sector, doctors, masters, anthropologists, ethnologists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, experts, activists from Indian community, journalists – correspondents of agencies, magazines and radio-televisions, as well as all others.... I would like to greet with special pleasure academician Shyam Singh Shashi, who is known for writing about Roma in his books (50) and he pointed from anthropologic aspect that Roma are lingual, historical and cultural minority of India.

We, members of Roma nation (Roma, Sinti and Kale, who count around 15 millions) are dedicated to never again be exposed to sufferings and pains, to save further generations from the terror of war, which caused twice during our lives indescribable pains to the mankind, to re-confirm the faith to fundamental human rights, to dignity and values of human personality, to equality of man and woman, great and small nations;

In wish,
To improve and realize principles from the UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights, Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other relevant international instrument that are adopted on general or regional level and those concluded between individual countries members of United Nations, as well to create on our own our future and confirm that we are equal people, regardless religion, gender, race and nation, determined to provide to our nation better future, we established in Belgrade on 20th April 2012 Roma organization called World Roma Organization – Rromanipen.

Confident,
That fundamental rights of every person will be realized and that dignity and values of human personality represent the greatest democratic achievements and by that confident that it will be also related to the members of Roma nation around the world with applying of UN’s Charter and decisions of all other European and international organizations in the area of human rights and freedoms;


That proclaimed goals will contribute to the total progress of Roma nation in all integrative processes, and by taking into consideration all our peculiarities in the area of language, culture, religion and habits, and that all international and other relevant factors will help us in that, we’ve decided to unify our powers and to realize proclaimed goals of Roma nation through activity of World Roma Organization – Rromanipen.

With Draft of Charter of World Roma Organization, we’ve set fundamental goals by adjusting them with UN’s Strategy and proposed EU’s policy from the Summit about Roma integration that was held in Brussels in 2012. Moreover, with Draft of Charter of World Roma Organization is regulated to the Roma nation the way of realization of individual and collective rights in country in which they are living by its highest act – Constitution and all related laws and by-laws, or international covenants that are obligatory for all nations.


Respected ladies and gentlemen,
Eternal question – what we are, who we are and where we’re going? – is being set to our generation and culture indirectly in existential form, even today in this conference. Newly found documents like, for instance, one record from 1422 that was found amongst archive documents in Italian Forli, confirm that Roma knew that India was the country of their origin, i.e. that they were aware of its historical and cultural origin.
Roma are today one of the largest, but also one of the most jeopardized ethnical communities in Europe. It’s assessed that there are between 12 and 15 million of them, and half of them live in central and southeastern part of the continent. Poverty, high unemployment level, discrimination supported with stereotypes, low education levels and poor health protection bring them to dramatic position.


Roma issue isn’t only issue of one ethnic community and its position, it’s, at the same time, I would say, an issue of our civilization and issue of humanity. There’s a freedom for all or that’s not a freedom. We can ascertain that those horizons of freedom are spreading towards many marginalized groups, that many forms of discrimination are repressed in principle in various charters or laws, both racial discrimination and every other form of it. However, reality is a lot tougher than it looks. In any case, European conscience can’t remain calm. Just to mention World War II, where it’s talked a lot about it and where many monuments are raised in that regard. By not wanting to minimize the tragedy and greatness of crime over Jewish nation, I have to say that there’s in some way completely left in second plan and almost totally forgotten the second genocide, which was systematically performed against Roma.


Roma political participation
Today in Europe, we’re for the first time in history in unique situation, truly unique, in which it will be decided about our collective destiny. Roma aren’t adequately represented in the social and political life of Europe. I believe that the issue of socialization and participation of Roma in all forms of public life is one of the crucial issues of our mutual future here. I believe that Roma in Europe should organize themselves not only politically, but they should organize themselves both culturally and economically.


Therefore, I am using this opportunity to appeal to our compatriots – this is a real opportunity for us in Europe to establish one unique political party and to fight within that party or together with other democratic parties for the rights of all citizens of all nations, therefore, of course, to fight also for their own human rights, civil and national rights, and to give its representatives on elections for European Parliament.
Politics has a crucial role. Roma must be given opportunities to become political subject, because no-one can solve someone other’s problems. Just to be clear, I’m not asking for any privileges for Roma, but nor more or less than it’s the case with all other national minorities in the countries of Southeastern Europe. However, I do believe, as it was indicated with international experience, that the key move is the move made by state. When it’s about national minorities, state measures and programs of state institutions are absolutely needed.


It’s justified, even necessarily, to have Roma representatives in the ministries of education, culture, police, ecology and spatial planning, state governance, work and social policy. Well, it could be said that it’s the current practice in Hungary and Romania in ministries of foreign affairs and diaspora. If truth is on the side of those who are the least protected, who are the least privileged, just like Sarte was speaking with full right, then countries of Southeastern Europe, democratic countries to whose constitution Roma contributed, have to show by their own examples that they do care about progress of this national minority and that they’re ready to broaden the field of opportunities just for them. For me, that’s the key issue. From those reasons, as well owing to the strengthening of democratic and European road of countries of Southeastern Europe, I pledge for the fast establishment of inter-cultural council. That’s an institution that already exists in almost all European countries, because representatives of all national minorities and various other institutions could, under the same roof, be a bridge between those who are without voice and those who got the power to make significant decisions in Southeastern Europe, owing to the votes of voters. I believe that World Roma Organization – Rromanipen could have precious role in realization of this idea and such proposal.


For sake of economic strengthening of Roma community, World Roma Organization proposes that it should be established as a special advisory body UNION OF ROMA EMPLOYERS, which will be authorized to endeavor to acquire some privileges for Roma employers in the area of tax and other areas with IMF, World Bank, UN and EU bodies, because in that way they would be released of tax and customs duties, especially in cases when they employ greater number of members of Roma nation.


This body will be authorized to negotiate and determine conditions that are more favorable for employers of Roma population with chambers of commerce in countries members of European Union and all other countries, especially in the area of loans to small and medium companies, negotiating so-called grace periods of at least one year period, tax and customs exemptions.


Because of early exclusion from educational system, non-integration of Roma in social community is being continued. I believe that solution for the key Roma issue is improvement of children’s education, because it is a road towards vertical social progress. Also, every form of inequalities, including the social inequality, have its base in education.


European Union members must adopt Action plans for improvement of Roma health, which are composed of: research about condition of Roma health, assurance of implementation of system laws, improvement of health protection of Roma population and living environment in Roma settlements.


Racial violence as an obstacle to the full implementation of rights.
Discriminatory violence against Roma from side of countries of Southeastern and Central Europe is the manifestation of broader framework of anti-Roma discrimination. This spreads to the full extent of civil, political, social and cultural rights. Right to education, housing, health protection and to the judicial processing are most often a dead letter on paper. Violations of other fundamental rights often derive from the denial of permanent residence to Roma, even when Roma communities were present in some areas for hundreds of years.


By rejecting to provide Roma with personal documentation needed for the free functioning in societies (starting from the birth certificate to the housing permits), local authorities may effectively separate Roma children from attending public schools, exclude Roma families from possibility to get a public housing opportunities, health protection and other social services, and make formal employment impossible.


In one example of international attention about this problem, in its report about Ukraine from February 2007, United Nations’ Committee for elimination of racial discrimination (CERD) recorded that “lack of personal and other required documents is effectively depriving many Roma of their rights to equal access to courts, legal assistance, employment, housing, health protection, social security and education”. We, as World Roma Organization, have supported CERD’s efforts to overpass this reality by “undertaking immediate steps, i.e. by removing administrative obstacles, so that all Roma could get personal or other identification documents, in effort to improve their access to courts, employment, housing, health protection, social security and education”.


Roma issue is a democratic issue. There isn’t even one human right that is in conflict with the living interest of Roma nation as a whole. Roma issue is deliberation and affirmation of national identity. Roma issue is civilization issue. It’s maybe the most important issue in European area today for development of human and natural potentials and improvement of life quality.


However, minority rights shouldn’t ever be established in a way which jeopardize basic principles of equality. State should be a mutual home for all ethnical groups that are located in it and that enjoy equality, so that no-one can be felt as a 2nd class citizen. Apartheid in South Africa has shown how one intolerant and irreconcilable minority can prevent members of majority to enjoy right to equality.


Conclusion
Even today, at the beginning of third millenium, Roma aren’t even at the beginning of their emancipation. Bare existence is still very actual issue with them. Roma community live for more than a thousand years in conditions of diaspora that can hardly be compared with diaspora situation of some other nations. Roma in Europe and world almost without any exception live on margins of society, on margins of cities, on margins of economies and work share, on cultural margins, and not rarely even in completely archaic life, independent from the life of surrounding societies. Roma are still, in almost all areas of the world, subjected to the processes of distinct marginalization. Their suppression towards the periphery of society is often close to open or hidden oppression.


Today, after 1000 years of delay, India is setting on its agenda Roma history, culture, habits, etc. We are today for the first time in this century in one such situation, truly historical situation, in which it’s decided about our collective destiny. Actually, we’re for the first time in this century located in such historical situation when we can influence to our destiny in small scale because practically we can’t freely decide about our destiny. Instead of getting higher historical sense and shape, our life was slowly but decisively pushed downwards, towards the lower sense and form of historical life. We ask from our motherland India to influence through various political activities on EU and its countries members, all other non-EU countries and international institutions to work on realization of human rights standards and human progress, to guarantee required and effective social-economic and political integration of Roma national community in Europe.


To achieve this vision, Roma nation addresses Indian government for support. It should call EU and its countries members to support and open access to Roma nation – required to raise from its current status, stigmatization, marginalization and exclusion into the nation that can contribute to self-development and society as a part of it – the new Roma nation of perspectives, aspirations and support.


This vision is consisted of aspirations of around 15 million Roma people, who are ready to make all efforts to make those aspirations a reality. Therefore, our action plan is an Action Plan of Development of Roma National Community.


At the end, please allow me to express my belief that speeches and scientific works that are prepared for this International conference will enlighten complex questions of establishment of unique Roma corps regarding the recognition of Roma nation from side of Indian government and give significant contribution to general endeavors for cultural homogenization and Roma national emancipation in all countries in which due seriousness they live as “citizens of world”.


Let me finish with one quote of Max Fisher: “Why does racists and fascists quickly win? Well, because they have animals on their side. We are humans.”

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© Author
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental - Spring 2016)