In her acceptance speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel assured that the German government would continue to take resolute action against all forms of group-specific hostility and would uphold the rights of those affected /Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Chancellor Merkel receives European Civil Rights Prize for supporting Sinti and Roma

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been awarded the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma for her advocacy against antiziganism.

“We must outlaw antiziganism just as we outlaw anti-Semitism,” Romani Rose, chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, said in his address at a ceremony which took place in Mannheim on Wednesday. He pointed to the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which was ratified in 1997 and has now seen progress in practical implementation thanks to the policies of the Chancellor.

The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered under National Socialism, which opened to the public in 2012 near the Reichstag Building, was also an important political signal, he added. This was followed in 2018 by the agreement between the Federal and Länder Governments on the preservation of the graves of the Sinti and Roma persecuted under the National Socialist dictatorship. And finally in 2019 an independent commission of experts was appointed with the mandate, among other things, of identifying the many and diverse form of antigypsyism.

The chancellor had therefore generated an awareness of the inhuman persecution suffered during the National Socialist dictatorship, Mr Rose said. “Angela Merkel has made visible the long history of the Sinti and Roma, which is closely linked to Germany and Europe, not least because of their own cultural influences,” he added. “It was always important to her to incorporate the 600-year history of our presence in Germany in the historical conscience.”

“The fight against antiziganism is everyone’s task,” said Chancellor Merkel who joined the award ceremony, which was broadcast live on the internet, from Berlin. She described the award as a “great honour”. For her, it was both a challenge and an incentive to continue to work for the interests of Sinti and Roma. Overcoming exclusion and prejudice requires many steps, encounters and dialogue. It is not a prize for satisfaction, but one that is intended to “wake people up”.

“We are all called on to stand against every form of antigypsyism, here and throughout Europe. The fundamental rights and values that unite our societies are irreconcilable with antigypsyism,” she added.

Therefore, the German government would continue to take resolute action against all forms of group-specific hostility and would uphold the rights of those affected.

Merkel donated the prize money of 15,000 euros in equal parts to the international youth network Ternype in Brussels and to the neighbourhood project Grünbau in Dortmund.

This year, the European Civil Rights Prize was awarded for the seventh time by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. It is awarded in recognition of special services to preserving and enforcing the civil rights of the Roma and Sinti minorities in their European home countries. Former laureates include Andrej Kiska, former President of the Slovak Republic, Simone Veil, former President of the European Parliament, and Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Vivian Asamoah

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