German Independent Commission on Antigypsyism 2019 – 2021

National Research Report by Anja Reuss
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Experiences, lessons learned and recommendations regarding the Independent Commission on Antigypsyism in Germany [Unabhängige Kommission Antiziganismus]. Chachipen has produced four country reports that provide the evidence and baseline for the calls for a larger debate on transitional justice.

The establishment of a commission on antigypsyism in the German context is the result of a long political process that has been driven mainly by the demands and advocacy of the Sinti and Roma civil society. The key player is the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, which has been working for more than 40 years for the civil rights of this national minority, and consequently has acquired a status as a politically recognised representative of their interests.

In this report, Dr. Anja Reuss analyses the process and impact of the Independent Commission on Antigypsyism in Germany [Unabhängige Kommission Antiziganismus]. It is based on desk research and semi-structured interviews with key actors from politics and civil society.

The Commission’s assignment was to submit a report by the end of the legislative term and to make recommendations for action by the German Government. However, the Commission was fully independent in determining its work programme, which all interviewees deemed particularly important.

Six central demands were formulated in the Commission’s report. The first was that a Federal Government Commissioner against Antigypsyism was appointed. One of the Commissioner’s tasks is to coordinate interministerial measures based on the Commission’s recommendations.

The swift appointment of a commissioner indicates that the new German government is seriously committed to paying more attention to the issue of antigypsyism.

The under-representation of Sinti and Roma appointees to the Commission was strongly criticised. The Commission has compensated for this lack of Romani scholars and perspectives by specifically contracting Sinti and Roma expert opinions and external studies.

The Commission’s independence was considered crucial, but an adequate budget for its work was also essential. All the interviewees noted the short timeframe for implementation of the Commission’s work and the ill-timed submission of its report, shortly before the end of the legislative term. An earlier start in the legislative period rather than halfway through would have been ideal.

The Commission’s work saw both gains and limitations. Its independence meant it could set its own agenda and not be dictated to in terms of content, but the limited timescale meant that it also had to restrict itself. This resulted in a lot of gaps in the required research and actions. Topics have fallen off the agenda because there was not enough time, such as a more detailed look at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The tight timeframe also meant the commissioned expertise was often limited to essentials.

The German government should have considered, when appointing the Commission, how to handle the findings and recommendations of the report, and how to incorporate them into other policy processes (e.g. the German National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) and national anti-racism and anti-discrimination policies).

The Commission contributed substantially to a broader and deeper understanding of structural and institutional antigypsyism. However, the phenomenon of antigypsyism is still largely unknown to the general public. To this day, hatred and discrimination against Sinti and Roma is largely socially accepted or disregarded. The Commission was appointed exclusively for the compilation of the report, but not for transmitting the results to the public sphere and the political arena. Unfortunately, there was little effort on the part of the German government to communicate the findings of the report. The opportunity to use the Commission’s consolidated expertise to reflect on the results politically and socially, to discuss them and to deal with them further in the various expert committees in consultation with the members of the Commission, has been missed.

Recommendations

  • The results of the Commission’s report must be included in the NIRS as well as in other national anti-racism and anti-discrimination policy processes.
  • The political representation of Sinti and Roma in decision-making processes must be ensured, both in the appointment of relevant bodies and in the context of a broader socio-political discourse. In this context, autochthonous (or domestic) as well as allochthonous (or those who arrived later on) Sinti and Roma of both genders must be equally included.
  • Self-organisations as well as broader civil society should be included in political processes at an early stage.
  • The independence, the mandate, the appropriate timeframe and the financial and structural resources of the Commission are basic preconditions for such a commission to work successfully.
  • The appointment of a Commission should reflect the broad parliamentary spectrum’s political will and determine at the outset how the findings will be communicated and incorporated into the political process.

You can access the report here

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