Considering the Swedish Commission against Antiziganism 2014-2016

National Research Report by Jan Selling
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Experiences, lessons learned and recommendations considering the Swedish Commission against Antiziganism 2014-2016. Chachipen has produced four country reports that provide the evidence and baseline for the calls for a larger debate on transitional justice.

At the European level, the Swedish Commission against Antiziganism (the Commission) has frequently been cited as a promising example in discussions around truth and reconciliation processes (TRPs) concerning Roma and policies against antigypsyism . Jan Selling, the author of this report, puts the Commission into context and analyses its impacts and limitations, based on desk research and interviews with key Romani and non-Romani actors.

In the authors view, the Commission was successful in agenda-setting during its mandate, and it evidently contributed to establishing the concept of antigypsyism in official language. Other impacts were that the process leading to the ongoing Sami truth commission was inspired by – and learned from – the mistakes of the corresponding Roma process. Also, the German Bundestag Commission on antigypsyism benefited from the Swedish experience. Yet, there is widespread frustration that the Swedish Commission did not have a lasting effect due to lack of time, resources and political will. Several interviewees also stressed that lack of independence was a major weakness.

The Commission came to suffer from the same problems as many other Roma policy measures: the impact weakens if projects are short-lived and without a clear successor. In this case, the Commission leant too heavily on the goodwill of one individual minister, and a change in political leadership left its results hanging in the air.

The Commission’s recommendations have not been followed up in a comprehensive way. For example, Roma are still waiting for an official apology from the state; there is still no comprehensive strategy against antigypsyism; and the idea of empowering Roma through a permanent secretariat has been dropped.

As Roma in Sweden have no non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of comparable strength to the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, for instance, the power disadvantage identified by the Delegation persists. This report also confirms the conclusions of international studies, which state that the Swedish model of consultation with Roma representatives is not functioning well: Roma are rarely involved in decisions, but rather cited as alibis.

Antigypsyism in Sweden is still less questioned and seen as more acceptable than other forms of racism, in terms of both hate crime and structural racism. Up to now, Sweden has ignored demands to upgrade the national Roma inclusion strategy in accordance with the new EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS), which prescribes a paradigmatic shift in focus: from a one-sided focus on Roma as the problem towards a holistic approach to antigypsyism.

Jan Selling offers an important conclusion, that Roma ownership of a TRP presupposes powerful, dedicated and knowledgeable allies in the state who are dedicated to ensuring meaningful participation, but also careful planning of Roma civil society structures.

You can access the report here.

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This project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).  The content of the project’s outputs represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.