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Based on the latest census, more than 6,000 Roma live in Montenegro. Although they represent an important minority, the Roma people have no political representatives in the local or national Parliament. The EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, has drawn attention to this fact at the marking of the Roma Day in the Parliament of Montenegro.
"Roma are excluded from the political decision-making processes, which negatively affects their participation in other spheres of life. The electoral legislation provides a lower threshold applied to electoral lists representing some minority groups. However, this provision does not apply to the Roma community. We urge the national authorities to find a legal solution, which would enable the Roma community to have their representatives in the national and local parliaments," Orav said.
The marking of the Roma Day at the Parliament of Montenegro was organised within the framework of the project "United We Can Do More – Voice for Students, Support for Workers," implemented by the NGO "Young Roma" and the Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro, funded by the European Union. The aim of the project is to increase the participation of Roma students in the political and public life, as well as to improve the Roma work rights.
"The project has an added value because it has a mixed group within the project itself. Beneficiaries are members of the majority community and the Roma community. This is something we, as an organisation, advocate for, and we think that it affects the reduction of prejudice and potential discrimination," said the executive director of the NGO "Young Roma," Samir Jaha.
On the Roma Day, this mixed group held a simulation of parliamentary debate in the parliament, after which they received certificates for participation in the project. When it comes to workers, the project helped the Roma organise syndicates in public communal companies, where they also took lead positions for the first time. Proud of the results of the project, Jaha said that the Roma are part of the Montenegrin society and that this population considers Montenegro as their homeland.
"In Montenegro, at this moment, there is a new generation of Roma community able to influence decision-making processes equally with others, and to participate in making decisions that will benefit the entire society," Jaha said.
On the occasion of Roma Day, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, in cooperation with the Centre for the Preservation and Development of the Culture of Minorities and the Roma Council, organised the event "Let's Break Prejudices." Ambassador Orav opened the event and reiterated that the Roma are still discriminated and marginalised, which prevents them from exercising their fundamental rights, such as the right to education, work, housing, and health care.
"The EU stands for a society where equal treatment is the reality for all minorities, and in which the same rights and opportunities are afforded to Roma communities as to anyone else. This is who we are. The EU encourages Montenegro to uphold the commitments, to strengthen the fight against discrimination, and to support the Roma community's participation and representation in all spheres of life," Orav said.
The European Union in Montenegro continually finances projects to improve the status of the Roma. In addition to the project realised by the "Young Roma" NGO, the European Union has also funded a project worth €1 million called "The Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of the Roma, Egyptians, and other vulnerable Groups." The project, which lasted two years, was devoted to increasing the participation of the Roma population in the fields of employment, education, health, and social protection in Podgorica, Niksic, and Berane.
As part of the project, which was completed at the end of last year, the participants had the opportunity to work as trainees for half a year at different employers, and to get equipment and get trained for starting their own business. Roma children were enrolled in kindergartens and elementary schools, and teachers also attended certified trainings.
The International Roma Day was first celebrated on 8 April 1990, when the song "Djelem, Djelem" was proclaimed a Roma Anthem at the Fourth World Romani Congress of the International Romani Union. A blue-green dichromatic flag was been chosen with a red wheel in the middle, symbolising progress and movement, but also the Roma migration. This day is devoted to the promotion of the Roma culture and raising awareness about Roma issues around the world.