‘Proud Roma in Free Kosovo’ Campaign Launches To Drive Participation in Census

National civic organisations, Roma Versitas Kosovo and KOSINT Network join forces as part of a Europe-wide campaign to strengthen Roma identity and encourage active citizenship.

Proud Roma in Free Kosovo press conference. Image credits: Majlinda Hoxha

Kosovo-based Roma civic organisations, Roma Versitas Kosovo and KOSINT Network, have combined efforts under the ‘Proud Roma Free Europe’ umbrella initiative, launching the ‘Proud Roma in Free Kosovo’ campaign at a press conference held in Pristina on Tuesday 6 July. The campaign aims to empower Roma to embrace their identity publicly and participate in the Kosovo 2022 census.

Attended by Sebastian Šerifovic from Roma Versitas Kosovo, Vlora Latifi and Violeta Thaçi on behalf of the KOSINT network, and representatives from the Open Society Foundations and Roma Education Fund, the press conference provided the public with an overview of the campaign objectives. Before addressing the campaign, however, attendees held a minute’s silence in tribute to Stanislav Tomáš, the young Czech Roma who died at the hands of police authorities last month and whose death is regarded as the latest symbol of racial injustice and police brutality against Roma communities.

According to the most recent national census in 2011, there are 35,784 Roma in Kosovo, totalling approximately 2% of the entire population, making the community one of the smallest minority groups in the country. However, average estimates suggest that numbers are much higher, with around 50,000 Roma citizens, forming 3% of the population. National authorities and the international community recognise a significant discrepancy between the estimated and the official number of Roma on account of the absence of accurate and complete data. Furthermore, the massive displacement of Roma in the Western Balkans and migration to Western Europe must also be accounted for. Accordingly, the estimated number of Kosovar Roma within and beyond its borders is around 150,000.

According to Sebastian Šerifović, member of Roma Versitas Kosovo:

“The aim of the ‘Proud Roma in Free Kosovo campaign’ is to empower as many Roma to publicly embrace their identity and freely participate in the Kosovo Census 2022. We will use the census as an opportunity to strengthen Roma identity, grow our network of Roma voices and allies, and ultimately, advance our advocacy efforts.”

Censuses are imperative to Roma civic organisations as having accurate and complete data sets will enable them to strengthen their political mandate. Census data will also determine state and local legislative and electoral districts’ boundaries as well as Roma political representation. Scheduled to take place in 2022, the census will be headed by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics and fully monitored by the EU under the leadership of Eurostat. Local civil society organisations are also supporting the process.

Vlora Latifi, project manager of the KOSINT Network, stated, “It is well known that during the 2011 Census, many Roma were not registered due to many factors including lack of information and political pressure. We aim to ensure all Roma can freely access the census to ensure its legitimacy. In doing so, we hope to restore the community’s trust in the process and ensure fair budgeting for Roma initiatives in accordance with accurate population figures.”

Overall, the campaign aims to ensure that Roma in Kosovo are treated equally and with respect, and that Roma’s contributions to Kosovo are recognised and Roma diversity celebrated.

Following the press conference, a campaign kick-off event will take place in Pristina on Tuesday 13 July. Full event details can be found here.

*All references to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.