Distinguished guests, ministers, ambassadors, dear colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen, please accept warm greetings from Novi Sad in Serbia.
Twenty years ago, when ITF, later IHRA, started its work, it would have been hardly possible to imagine that one and a half-decade later, over 30 member countries would agree around one text, one document, a “non-legally binding working definition” that describes Antisemitism, and officially adopt it.
Getting together around this document, a milestone in IHRA’s work, was just a beginning. Governments, parliaments, international and national institutions, one after the other officially adopted the working definition of Antisemitism, and are still using it as the most relevant reference for identifying, monitoring, countering, preventing, combating, and educating about Antisemitism.
Countries, from Greece to the USA, from Argentina to North Macedonia, from Serbia to Austria, and many more, as well as organizations such as United Nations, European Council, and European Union, in various ways and formats, embraced, acknowledged, and recognized this definition, paving the path for this document to become the most important international reference for defining antisemitism, and IHRA’s flagship achievement.
Could the WD of Antigypsyism reach the same success as the WD of Antisemitism?
Until just a couple of years ago, even more, unlikely were the prospects that we will be able to produce, and officially adopted by the IHRA member countries, another, similar, but also very much different document – a working definition of Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. But we did! Now, could it become another great success?
The reason I first mention the working definition of Antisemitism is that we have such a good experience with this document, and obviously, we can see similar opportunities and prospects for the working definition of Antigypsyism, too.
At the same time, the IHRA document about Antigypsyism is as different as the reality of the Roma communities around Europe are different and unique in comparison with any other group, even those that also are vulnerable, excluded, discriminated, and exposed to violence.
Antigypsyism has existed for centuries
I believe that one of the tasks the IHRA, and the IHRA Committee for the Genocide of the Roma, will need to deal with in the nearest future is to communicate and explain what this document is, and what it is not, in order to put it in use in the best possible way.
The most distinctive feature of the IHRA’s working definition of Antigypsyism is that it is addressing the neglect of the genocide and persecution of the Roma during the Second World War, its causes, and even more, its consequences, as one of the most important sources and causes of the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities still experience today.
While we might hope that the document will contribute to the strengthening of research, commemoration, and education about the history of the persecution of the Roma, and further recognition of the importance of this history by the governments and international bodies.
I believe that one of the most important accomplishments when formulating the working definition, is the fact that we, may I say finally, acknowledged not only that Antigypsyism has existed for centuries, and not only that it was an essential element in the persecution of the Roma by Nazi Germany, but also, and I quote: “those fascist and extreme nationalist partners and other collaborators who participated in these crimes”.
Important tool for countering a whole range of injustices
In other words, Roma were not only victims of the Nazis, but in many places around Europe, during the Second World War, the Roma were persecuted, imprisoned, put in forced labor, deported, expelled, and killed, and at some places, this killing constituted genocide, by local regimes, groups or collaborators, and many times these crimes were committed independently or without the involvement of German Nazis.
This is, in my opinion, where the working definition of Antigypsyism should be used by the Roma communities around Europe to seek further recognition of this history within the societies they live in today.
This way, the document could become an important tool for countering a whole range of injustices that were the result of this persecution, and the lack of its recognition.
Working definition of Antigypsyism can, and I am certain, it will serve, as the main reference for identifying, monitoring, countering, preventing, combating, and educating about Antigypsyism – within the context of the persecution of the Roma during the Second World War, its causes, and consequences.