Seven mayors from six Western Balkan countries and Turkey were awarded the second Award to the most Roma-friendly mayors. The award acknowledges their successful work in support of fellow Roma citizens, empowering Roma to participate in local authority structures and promoting cross-sectoral, integrated approaches. Local Action Plans focus on Roma socio-economic integration and provide for access to education, employment, health, social entrepreneurship, infrastructure (roads, lighting, sewage and water supply) and housing.
At the ceremony, hosted by the European Parliament, the seven winners were welcomed by MEP Romeo Franz; Marta Garcia Fidalgo, the European Commission DG NEAR Coordinator of Roma policy; Adriatik Hasantari, the Director of Roma Active Albania; and Gabriela Hrabanova, the Director of the ERGO Network.
The seven winning mayors, selected from fourty-nine competing municipalities, are: Majlinda Bufi, Municipality of Roskovec, Albania; Aldin Sljivo, Municipality of Kakanj, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Kurto Dudush, Municipality of Shuto Orizari, North Macedonia; Imri Ahmeti, Municipality of Lipjan, Kosovo*; Petar Smolovic, Municipality of Bijelo Polje, Montenegro; Vladan Glisic, City of Belgrade, Serbia; Abdül Batur, Municipality of Konak, Turkey.
The Municipality of Bijelo Polje has had a wide range of commendable activities in the previous period which recommended Mr Smolovic and the Municipality of Bijelo Polje for the award ‘Most Roma friendly Mayor’.
For the first time in Montenegro, a specialized Office for Roma issues in the municipal Secretariat for Local Self-Government was established with 2 persons employed, one of whom is a Roma woman who is employed by the Municipality for the first time in history of Montenegro.
The Municipality of Bijelo Polje secured funds in the amount of €200 000 for the construction of housing units for 10 Roma families, in cooperation with international NGO ‘Help’ Montenegro;
The Municipality involved Roma community in the strategic planning and creation and adoption of the second Local Action Plan for Roma Integration in Municipality Bijelo Polje for the period 2018-2022;
The Municipality also provided support for 2 Roma NGOs through allocation of funds for implementation of 2 projects which directly target Roma and their inclusion at local level.
The campaign “The Most Roma-Friendly Mayor” is part of the IPA funded project ‘Joint Initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey’ that is led by Roma Active Albania and ERGO Network and aims to mobilize Roma communities and strengthen their existing capacities to engage in a dialogue with public authorities.