Sunday, 8 April 2012
International Roma Day
In celebration of 8 April, International Roma Day, the National Assembly House hosted the event on “Cooperation between the National Councils of National Minorities of the Republic of Serbia and the competent authorities of the Republic of Serbia, autonomous provinces, municipalities, towns and the City of Belgrade”.
In her opening address, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gordana Comic reminded the participants of 1971, the year that saw the first celebration of International Roma Day. Today, we celebrate 8 April so as to remember that we must work together to improve the position of the Roma national community in Serbia, stressed the Deputy Speaker. The Roma community is the object of much prejudice, stereotypes, intolerance and discrimination. However, if you ask people why they are intolerant of the Roma they have no answer. I have learned long ago that all communities have militant groups which demonstrate intolerance, but I have not seen any in the Roma community, added Deputy Speaker Comic. She stated that in this house we have to agree that we cannot ban prejudice and stereotypes, because they will remain in the heads of the narrow-minded, but we have to and can ban behaviour based on prejudice through the use laws. We have to ban insults, violations of others’ rights and denigration which is considered permissible. The adopted legislation, its implementation and the decision to implement the Decade of Roma passed in 2005 help combat all of the above. Only by educating and organising support campaigns can we make the life of the Roma community easier and more bearable, concluded the Deputy Speaker. She expressed hope that next year’s 8 April would provide the opportunity for the gathering at the National Assembly to demonstrate better results, to show that the position of Roma has improved in Serbia, that more children have been enrolled in high-schools and universities, that housing conditions have got better for a great many Roma families and that we will be able to call it progress. Summing up her address, she reminded the gathering that the Council of Europe has obliged all its member states to do all in their power to make sure that there are no “invisible ones” among us and to employ legislation to prevent discrimination against them. That is the only way we can all say that we are Roma, that we are people, concluded the National Assembly Deputy Speaker.
Minister of Minority and Human Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government Milan Markovic spoke of the cooperation between the Ministry and national minority councils, projects the Ministry is realising in cooperation with international organisations aimed at improving the life and position of Roma and progress in educating the Roma community. He said that this year will be the year the issue of legally invisible persons will be resolved and the position of the Roma ethnic community in Serbia will be improved.
The citizens and representatives of the Roma ethnic community present were also addressed by Bozidar Djelic who spoke about the realisation of the Decade of Roma, National Strategy and action plans, a representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy who spoke of the results of the Ministry’s activities on the improvement of the position of Roma and Graeame Tyndall, manager of PROGRES - European Partnership with Municipalities Programme, who spoke of the realisation of projects aimed at improving the position of the Roma community.
MP and President of the National Council of the Bulgarian National Minority Zoran Petrov and MP and President of the National Council of the Roma National Minority Vitomir Mihajlovic addressed the gathering in closing speeches.
The celebration of the International Roma Day continued at the National Theatre with a programme organised by the National Council of the Roma National Minority in Serbia.