From 16 to 22 March 2019, thirty young members of minority group, including Roma, Jews and Armenians, took part in a five-day advocacy seminar in Brussels, entitled “Minority Youth & EU Elections”.
The seminar was organized ahead of the EU elections of May 2019 by TernYpe International Roma Youth Network and Phiren Amenca, in partnership with the Youth of European Nationalities (YEN), the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU Europe). It gathered members of three diaspora communities: the Roma, the Jewish and the Armenian.
The seminar was consistent with these groups’ strategy of cooperation and alliance-building between diaspora or minority groups. It created opportunities for the activists to share experience, talk with members of the European Parliament and help mobilize young people of their respective communities to vote during the upcoming EU elections.
In the course of the seminar, Participants met with numerous members of the European Parliament and discussed with them their concerns, hopes and ideas to fight racist rhetoric and policies. Members of Parliament involved included Soraya Post, Bodil Valero, Peter Niedermüller, Dietmar Köster, Romeo Franz, Cornelia Ernst, Josef Weidenholzer, Tomast Zdechowsky, Barbara Spineli, and Brando Benifei.
The participants of the seminar joined programs of the EU Roma Week 2019 and the breakfast with decision-makers, stakeholders and MEPs. The EU Roma Week 2019 took place at the European Parliament in Brussels between 18-21 March. It managed to bring policy stakeholders: MEPs, European Commission and national officials, civil society organizations’ representatives and young Roma together. ternype International Roma Youth Network was an official co-organizer of the event, on which young Roma had traditionally an ‘advocacy breakfast’ with MEPs and EC-officials (see the Program of the EU Roma Week 2019 here: https://www.ardi-ep.eu/roma-week-2019/).
The breakfast took place on 20 March 2019 from 8.00 am at the Members Saloon of the European Parliament. Present at the breakfast were a number of MEPs as well as representatives of the European Commission from DG Justice and DG NEAR.
At the breakfast young Roma (together with young Armenians and Jews) had the opportunity to ask directly their questions on how to better involve young people from minorities in politics and policy processes but also to speak out for the burning issues in their communities: school segregation, antigypsyism, youth unemployment and others. Before the advocacy breakfast, young participants were familiarized with EU institutions and basic concepts of advocacy.
Participants also attended seminars and lectures on specific issues related to Armenian, Roma and Jewish communities and met with activists engaged in combatting discrimination and prejudice. Among other activities, they also visited the House of European History, Europe’s history museum, noting the level to which their communities were reflected in the narrative of the display.
Participants at the seminar expressed their enthusiasm at the opportunity of communicating directly at European level. “My goal is to not only increase tolerance between communities,” explained participant Lillian Babayan (UK), “but to increase the appreciation communities have of one another.” For Nune Srapian (Poland): “it was such an intensive week, full of so many events, activities, conversations and new acquaintances”.