Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, at the founding meeting of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)

16.02.2017 - Speech

Dear friends and colleagues,

Many thanks for the invitation to this ceremony on occasion of the foundation of ERIAC here in Berlin today! This is an important day for all of us, for all those who have always believed in the project of ERIAC and feel committed to improve the situation of the Roma in Europe!

The European Union defines itself as a place of lived diversity and tolerance. We are much more than just a single market and a monetary union. As a union of values we have committed ourselves to defend our fundamental values – for all human beings, unconditionally. We let ourselves be measured against how we deal with minorities in Europe. And the Roma, as Europe’s largest minority, clearly deserve a place in the heart of our European societies.

On behalf of the Federal Government and my dear colleague Hartmut Koschyk from the Ministry of Interior, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on signing the founding act of ERIAC today. And we would like to thank all of you for your hard and dedicated work on this project and for your stamina over the past months! I know, dear friends, it was a long and sometimes bumpy road.

I am delighted that we are finally approaching the finish line for putting ERIAC to work. And I am particularly happy that ERIAC will open its office here in Berlin very soon!

As the next step, it will be important to conclude the official registration of ERIAC without any delay. Getting ERIAC started as soon as possible is the main task at the moment. But we all know that the actual work of ERIAC will begin only once it is established.

On the other hand, it is very simple: No matter what challenges may wait for us, we should do everything we can to make ERIAC a success story! Not for the sake of us personally, but for the sake of the Roma all over Europe. Even in the year 2017 in far too many places Roma still suffer from intolerance, discrimination and bad living conditions.

Arts and Culture in general are a wonderful means for building bridges between people and overcoming stereotypes. One of Europe’s greatest achievements is its cultural diversity – and the Roma culture enriches the European diversity to a large extent.

I am convinced that ERIAC can make a valuable contribution in that sense. We still know far too little about the culture of Roma. Here, ERIAC and its projects will help to change this situation. Better knowledge about Europe’s largest minority is the first step to fight against prejudices and discrimination.

This also means that we need the political and financial support of all member states of the Council of Europe for ERIAC. We need this shared responsibility and common ownership for ERIAC!

For the German government I can assure you of our full support for ERIAC. I would like to stress that the Federal Foreign Office stands ready to contribute financially to future projects of ERIAC. And to be honest I want the money to be spend as soon as possible.

I am very much looking forward to the “real” opening celebration for ERIAC. The German Federal Goverment stands ready to take its role as active and always supportive observer of the Institute! My personal engagement comes from the deepest bottom of my heart. You can count on me.

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