Chancellor receives European Civil Rights Prize

Advocacy for the rights of the Sinti and Roma Chancellor receives European Civil Rights Prize

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been awarded the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma. The prize was awarded by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation.

Civil Rights Prize

In her acceptance speech Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed for society as a whole to engage in order to uphold human rights and civil rights.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma on Wednesday, with the award ceremony held online. The Chancellor received the prize from Manfred Lautenschläger, who donated the prise, and Romani Rose, Chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma. Andrej Kiska, former President of the Slovak Republic, and 2019 laureate, paid tribute to the Chancellor.

Recognition of engagement for civil rights

Andrej Kiska said, addressing the laureate, “I am happy to admit that I, like many others, have looked to you as an example to follow, as a leader with realistic solutions, arguments and patience.” The Chancellor sees this award also as an incentive to continue her engagement. “The prize is far more than an honour for me as a person – it comes with a clear message. All of us are called on to stand up for civil rights and for equal opportunities for Sinti and Roma.”

Romani Rose, Chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, explained the choice of this year’s laureate by pointing to the Chancellor’s long-standing and intensive advocacy for the rights of the Roma and Sinti. Firstly, she has generated an awareness of the inhuman persecution suffered during the National Socialist dictatorship. Secondly, 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. “It was always important to her to incorporate the 600-year history of our minority in Germany in the historical conscience,” said Romani Rose, praising the Chancellor’s engagement.

Strengthening the rights of the Sinti and Roma

In his address, Romani Rose 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, is also an important political signal.

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.

European Civil Rights Prize represents special recognition

This year, the European Civil Rights Prize was awarded for the seventh time. 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 Simone Veil, former President of the European Parliament, and Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Resolutely countering inhumanity

Antigypsyism is a social problem that still exists today and needs to be addressed. In her speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “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.” In this spirit, the German government will continue to take appropriate social-policy action in future on the basis of the findings of the Commission of Experts on Antigypsyism. It will continue to take resolute action against all forms of group-specific enmity and will uphold the rights of those affected.

The funding for preventive programmes has been topped up significantly over the last five years to 160 million euros. To fight right-wing extremism and racism, a list of 89 measures are to be implemented over the next three years. A total of one billion euros is available for the implementation of these activities.