Roma integration across the Danube – best practices in administrative and social entrepreneurship

coperta-1Policy Memo 70, Authors: Alexandra Toderita, Alexandru Damian. The vast majority of Roma population in Europe (80%) lives in the 14 countries of the Danube Region, the population percentage of Roma varying greatly from country to county, – with the strongest concentrations in poor and peripheral regions.Although only estimates of the exact population exist, Romania and Bulgaria, alongside Hungary and Slovakia have the highest shares of Roma within the overall population in the entire European Union. While National Roma Integration Strategies have been in place in these countries in the last few years, their effective implementation and success has been limited to this day.

Nevertheless, it is the approach of this report to emphasize the fact that there have been certain projects and initiatives from both the public and private spheres that have been implemented in Romania and Bulgaria with a noteworthy degree of success, to put them forth and create the context for relevant Roma stakeholders (NGOs, local administration representatives, Roma entrepreneurs) from both countries to mutually gain a complex understanding of the contexts and workings of the best practice examples, to experience them first hand, understand the factors that led to their success and replicate them in their own country.

Kavarna, a small town in the North East region of Bulgaria has become in between 2004 and 2014 an EU-wide recognized model for municipal involvement in furthering significant development and integration of its Roma community. In the 2004-2014 period, through a comprehensive set of measures and initiatives the municipality of Kavarna created the premises for improved infrastructure, housing and living conditions, reduction of poverty,  improved access for Roma children to quality early-childhood  and reduction of crime rates in its Roma neighborhood.

On the other hand, Romania has experienced noteworthy positive examples in the field of economic integration of marginalized Roma through the use of the social economy instrument, by capitalizing the potential of the work of traditional Roma craftsmen.

European Roma integration practice shows that consulting and knowledge transfer has an increased impact when done across regions and organizations, when people – NGOs, local authorities representatives come together and are able to communicate their respective successful experiences in a more complex manner, explaining their local contexts and the details of their endeavours to those facing similar problems and who could benefit from similar solutions.

As such, the project ”Roma integration across the Danube: Best practices and social entrepreneurship models exchange between Romania and Bulgaria”, aimed at facilitating reciprocally useful exchange of experience between municipalities, civil society and Roma entrepreneurs from the two countries on the topic of Roma administrative integration (as experienced in Kavarna) and social entrepreneurship (as experienced in Romania),  but also documenting the process and the findings, encouraging potential common projects and informing about financing opportunities, disseminating the findings and approaches with the occasion of an exchanged visit organized on 17-19 May 2016. The current report presents the experience of this visit and sets the basis for further cooperation mechanisms on the regional level on the topic of social entrepreneurship and Roma administrative integration models.

The full report, in English, is available here.

The project is part of START – Danube Region Project Fund, part-financed by the European Union and the City of Vienna and co-financed by the Open Society Institute.