Considering the Swedish Commission against Antiziganism 2014-2016
National Research Report by Jan Selling
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.
Webinar: Roma and Memorialization: Advancing Recognition and Remedy for the Dark Chapters of the Past and their Impact on the Present
This international stocktaking roundtable invites us to examine the current state of recognition of the dark chapters of history related to antigypsyism. The event will explore how the legacies of this historically-rooted structural form of racism against Roma are impeding the right to know and the right to truth and justice.
The Chachipen project has produced this State of the Art Report, along with four country reports providing the evidence and baseline for calls for a larger debate on transitional justice with Roma communities, civil society, external scholars and national and EU policy makers, as well as with regional and international human rights bodies.
A new book ‘Dimensions of Antigypsyism in Europe’, edited by Ismael Cortés and Markus End, published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, sheds light on the complex and different dimensions of this specific form of structural racism in Europe.
The Alliance against Antigypsyism has recently published two policy papers, putting forward recommendations to combat antigypsyism in future EU and national policies, as well as concrete measures to combat antigypsyism.
The document ‘Antigypsyism – a reference paper’ proposes a working definition of antigypsyism, that reflects a broad but systematic understanding of the phenomenon. The paper explores characteristics and background of antigypsyism, as well as the dimensions along which it manifests itself.