Open Letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Mr Thorbjørn Jagland
Secretary General
Council of Europe
March 2016

Thematic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion

Dear Sir,

The Council of Europe has recently announced its new four-year thematic plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion ( At the very top of the list of planned activities the statement mentions “awareness raising activities at a local level to help curb early or forced marriages, domestic violence, trafficking and forced begging in Roma communities by addressing negative consequences of such activities.”

We are members of the European Academic Network on Romani Studies, and are writing in individual capacity to express our concern over this communication. For many centuries Roma have been the subject of suspicion, hostile depiction, and criminalisation. Your statement can be interpreted as suggesting that Roma have a pre-disposition to early marriage, violence, organised crime, and begging. While there is no doubt that many Roma in Europe suffer from various consequences of marginalisation, we believe that generalisations of the kind made in your statement risk strengthening prejudice rather than alleviating it. We are also concerned that the phrase in your statement that alludes to “addressing the consequences” might be interpreted not just as patronising but as placing the blame for the effects of marginalisation on the Roma themselves.

We therefore write to you to request that you issue a correction, clarifying that the causes of exploitation and victimisation are universal and not inherently linked to Romani society or culture, and that they should therefore be addressed globally rather than with specific reference to Roma. We also ask that you instruct Council of Europe officials to avoid wordings in the future that may contribute to, rather than confront stigmatisation and prejudice.

The Council of Europe has been at the forefront of advocacy in support of Romani rights for many years, and we would not like to see its reputation tarnished as a result of ambiguous public communications.

Yours sincerely,

  • Dr Kai Åberg, University of Eastern Finland
  • Dr Yasar Abu Ghosh, Charles University Prague
  • Professor Evangelia Adamou, CNRS
  • Dr Timofey Agarin, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Dr Riccardo Armillei, Deakin University, Melbourne
  • Professor Henriette Asséo, Fondation Maison des Sciences Humaines
  • Professor Sam Beck, Cornell University
  • Andrej Belak, University of Groningen
  • Dr Giuseppe Beluschi Fabeni, Universidad de Granada
  • Dr Peter Berta, University College London
  • Dr Sara Bigazzi, University of Pécs
  • Marija Bingulac, University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Dr Micol Brazzabeni, University Institute of Lisbon
  • Professor Phillip Brown, University of Salford
  • Christian Brüggemann, Humboldt University Berlin
  • Dr Maria José Casa-Nova, University of Minho
  • Janie Codona MBE, University of Leicester
  • Professor Laura Corradi, Università della Calabria
  • Dr Eva Davidová,  South Bohemian University
  • Dr Ulderico Daniele, University Roma Tre
  • Dr Jean-Luc Demonsant, CEPS/INSTEAD, Luxemburg
  • Dr Radosveta Dimitrova, Tilburg University
  • Dr Celia Donert, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Jean-Baptiste Duez, EHESS Paris
  • Dr Judit Durst, University College London
  • Professor Ada Engebrigtsen, Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
  • Csaba Fényes, University of Pécs
  • Dr László Fosztó, Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities
  • Dr Eben Friedman, independent researcher
  • Professor Victor Friedman, University of Chicago
  • Nadezhda Georgieva-Stankova, Trakia University
  • Professor Kimmo Granqvist, Södertörn University
  • Professor Margaret Greenfields, Buckinghamshire New University
  • Dr Jan Grill, University of Manchester
  • Dr Will Guy, University of Bristol
  • Professor Ian Hancock, University of Texas, Austin
  • Dr Iulia Hasdeu, Université de Genève
  • Dr. Gernot Haupt, Institut für Sozialarbeit
  • Dr Jana Horváthová, Museum of Romani Culture, Brno
  • Dr Ana Ivasiuc, Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Dr. Iren Kertesz Wilkinson, independent researcher
  • Rosamaria Kostic Cisneros, independent researcher
  • Dr Martin Kovats, independent researcher
  • Charlotte Kühlbrandt, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr David Lagunas Arias, Universidad de Sevilla
  • José Luis Lalueza, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • Dr Pauline Lane, Anglia Ruskin University
  • Dr Daniele Viktor Leggio, University of Manchester
  • Professor Alaina Lemon, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Dr Martin Levinson, University of Exeter
  • Sebastian Lotto-Kusche, Europa-Universität Flensburg
  • Olga Magano, Open University Portugal
  • Dr Nathalie Manrique, Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale, Paris
  • Dr. Chiara Manzoni, University of Milan-Bicocca
  • Dr Oana Marcu, Università Cattolica del Sacro-Cuore, Milan
  • Dr Aleksandar G. Marinov, Swansea University
  • Mayte Martín, University College Dublin
  • Professor Yaron Matras, University of Manchester
  • Professor David Mayall
  • Dr Aidan McGarry, University of Brighton
  • Dr Lamia Missaoui, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-En-Yvelines
  • Dr Norma Montesino, Lunds universitet
  • Dr. Alexander Musinka, University of Presov
  • Dr Martin Olivera, Université Paris 8
  • Dr Helen O’Nions, Nottingham Trent University
  • Dr Lois Orton, University of Liverpool
  • Greta Persico, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
  • Andrea Pócsik, Pázmány Péter Catholic University
  • Dr Jean Luc Poueyto, Université de Pau
  • Dr Niko Rergo, Romology Institute of Ukraine
  • Dr Eugenio Restrepo, Universidad de Malaga
  • Professor Alain Reyniers, Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Dr. Stepan Ripka, University of Ostrava
  • Raluca Bianca Roman, University of St Andrews
  • Rumyan Russinov, Public Policy Advocacy Centre
  • Professor Carol Silverman, University of Oregon
  • Dr Alice Sophie Sarcinelli, Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS
  • Professor David Z. Scheffel, Thompson Rivers University
  • Santino Spinelli, Università degli Studi di Chieti
  • Professor Michael Stewart, University College London
  • Dr Laura Surdu, independent researcher
  • Dr Loizos Symeou, European University Cyprus
  • Dr Marcin Szewczyk, University of Information Technology and Management, Rzeszow
  • Dr Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
  • Professor Elisabeth Tauber, Free University of Bolzano
  • Nóra Teller, Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest
  • Dr Spyros Themelis, University of East Anglia
  • Stefania Toma, Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities
  • Dr Paula Trevisan, Free University of Bolzano
  • Dr Tomasso Vitale, Sciences Po (CEE)
  • Elisabeta Vivaldi, Buckinghamshire New University
  • Dr Ioana Vrabiescu, Roma Initiative Office Fellow 2015
  • Dr Julia M. White, Syracuse University

You can download the letter as a pdf here.

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