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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article18 May 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Winners of the 2022 “Most Roma Friendly Mayor” award in the Western Balkans and Turkey announced

Most Roma Friendly Mayor

Today, the European Commission announced the seven winners of the third edition of the award for “Most Roma Friendly Mayor” in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The award recognises those local authorities who believe in their citizens and treat them equally. It aims to change attitudes towards Roma inclusion and features local authorities who give power to Roma communities and listen to their needs. The award ceremony took place in the framework of Romani Week organised at the European Parliament (16-19 May) in the presence of MEP Romeo Franz with the Acting Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission’s DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement (DG NEAR), Michela Matuella, handing out the awards.

Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said: “I think having the award ceremony during the European Parliament Romani Week is especially important. Not only does this award acknowledge the selected mayors’ outstanding work in breaking barriers between local authorities and Roma communities, but it also shows policymakers, activists and experts that a change is possible. I am truly inspired by this year’s winners’ dedication to empowering and mobilising Roma communities and strengthening their ability to engage in dialogue with public authorities. I am proud of every single one of them, and I hope that this award inspires others to follow their example.

The main purpose of the Romani Week is to consolidate the commitment of the European Parliament and other institutions to fight against antigypsyism and to formulate this commitment into action. Celebrating the winners of the “Most Roma Friendly Mayor” award was an important moment of coming together under the umbrella of the EU Romani Week in person after two years of isolation. The award ceremony is the peak of the campaign in Brussels and aims to create strong synergies with the actions that took place across the Western Balkan and Turkey, but also the EU Member States at local and national level.

Of the estimated 10-12 million Roma living in Europe, about 1 million live in the Western Balkans and 2.8

million in Turkey. The full integration and inclusion of Roma people is a key priority for the EU and starts with boosting the dialogue with public authorities and project partners focused raising awareness in municipal administrations of Roma issues. Roma integration is also one of the conditions enlargement partners have to fulfil to become an EU Member State.

Background

The “Most Roma Friendly Mayor” award is organised as part of the regional project of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance ‘Romani Women Power of Change in the Western Balkans and Turkey’. The project is coordinated by Roma Active Albania  with the ERGO network with financial assistance from the European Union, and it supports the network of Roma civil society organisations in the enlargement region. 

The Power of Change project is implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. It is part of a regional campaign aiming to mobilize Roma communities and strengthen their ability to engage in dialogue with public authorities. The local advocacy took place in all the Western Balkans region and Turkey, and the selection panel selected among the nominated mayors, only one - The Most Roma Friendly Mayor - to receive the award in Brussels.

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