With Hungary taking the lead, the Fraternal Association of European Roma Law Enforcement Officers was set up in Budapest on 24 November 2006 with the support of Open Society Institue, Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement of Hungary and the British and US National Black Police Association. The establishment of the association was initiated by Hungarian police officers of Roma and non Roma origin, however its actual foundation was actively supported by the law enforcement representatives of six European countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, United Kingdom).
After the foundation of this association it is expected that member organisations will be set up in other European countries, too. This means the commencement of a process of solving a problem extending to several countries, since the gypsy ethnicity makes up the largest minority in Europe. The Romas’ situation is characterised by serious social problems in several countries, such as unemployment, bad housing conditions, healthcare problems or discrimination.
At European level there are still only very few initiatives that highlight how important it is to support cooperation between the police and the gypsy communities, to support law enforcement professionals of Roma origin and to increase their headcount. This issue has been raised neither at European Council, nor at European Union forums.
Yet, the establishment of the association was largely fostered by the fact that the senior officials of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior and of the law enforcement agencies have been committed to the cause of cooperation with the Romas since the very beginning. This is why this initiative, which is unique in Europe, can be launched especially by Hungary.
Within its scope of activities the association directly helps combat discrimination, but it also fosters the education and employment of the Romas, the improvement of their housing conditions, and it also provides an opportunity to break out of poverty. Both international and national experiences show that for young people – who would otherwise be unable to study due to the bad financial standing of their families – law enforcement professions provide an excellent opportunity to break out of deprivation, improve living standards and have a career.
The Fraternal Public Benefit Association of European Roma Law Enforcement Officers aims to implement national and European level objectives, including the following major ones: promotion of equal opportunities in the law enforcement agencies of Hungary and other EU member states; reduction of mutual prejudices between the law enforcement agencies and the Roma communities; increasing the number of staff of Roma origin at the law enforcement agencies; improvement of the life and service conditions of the current Roma staff members. The following objectives are of equal weight for the association: provision of assistance in overcoming the identity problems of Roma staff members; mediation in Roma-police conflicts; reduction of prejudice against the Romas in majority societies, and thereby fostering the national and European integration of the Roma minority, supporting the participation of the Romas in national and international law enforcement training courses; and cooperation with national and international partner organisations.
The Association would like to support the diversity programmes, initiatives of the law enforcement agencies of the participant countries with the advantages of the NGO position of this organisation.
Pol. Brigadier General Dr. József Boda