The idea, underlying the “European Roma and Traveller Forum” (ERTF) when it was founded in 2004, was to compare the diverse experiences, problems and issues of discrimination suffered – on different scales – by each Romani and Traveller community and, especially, to forge unity among the 10-12 million Romani people who live in Europe, to gain political recognition where they live and within European institutions. Romani and Traveller people are present in all countries of Europe and everywhere they are a minority. The Roma do not have a country of origin, unlike the other minority ethnic communities in Europe, which could apply pressure on their behalf and to defend their constantly-abused rights. Everywhere, the stories are similar: hard to find spaces for parking their caravans, exclusion from health care, discrimination in schooling and finding steady work, endemic unemployment, problems in finding lodging for those that have become sedentary, increasingly hard to cross borders, and racism.
The ERTF was established as a ‘voice’ for Romani and Traveller communities, through their elected representatives that sit on the ERTF, to advocate for rights at the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, through the permanent secretariat associated with the ERTF, based in Strasbourg. The ERTF has consultative status at the Council of Europe, through its Special Representative on Roma Issues.