German Chancellor Angela Merkel awarded with the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma

On Wednesday, April 28, 2021 the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma was awarded for the seventh time in memory of Vinzenz and Oskar Rose. The laureate is German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. The Civil Rights Prize is awarded by the Documentation and Cultural Center and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma as well as the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation and is endowed with 15,000 euros. The laudation for the Chancellor was held by the former President of Slovakia and laureate of the year 2019 Andrej Kiska.

Romani Rose and Manfred Lautenschläger with Angela Merkel in the background.
Award ceremony of the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma 2021, Laureate: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo: Susanne Lencinas)

Important milestones of the civil rights work of the Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma were implemented under her chancellorship and with her personal support. Her presentation of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism in Berlin in 2012 in the immediate vicinity of the Reichstag building was an important political statement, also for the member states of the European Union. Through the presentation of the memorial Angela Merkel has set a globally noted example on how important it is to boycott Antigypsyism in the same way as Antisemitism. The “Federal- States-Agreement Concerning the Preservation of the Graves of Sinti and Roma Persecuted under National Socialist Tyranny” signed by the Federal Government and its states in December 2018 also came about thanks to her great support, and it was thanks to her intervention that the Federal Government entered into a constructive dialogue with its states on a regulation for the permanent preservation of the gravesites of Holocaust survivors.

Particularly noteworthy is the appointment of the Independent Expert Commission on Antigypsyism by the Federal Government under her leadership in 2019, which was another success in the fight against Antigypsyism that is unique in the world and will remain closely associated with her name.

In her acceptance speech, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel called for decisive action against all forms of Antigypsyism:

„The European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma is much more than a personal tribute. The prize is linked to a clear message. We are all called upon to stand up for civil rights and equal opportunities for Sinti and Roma. We are all called upon to oppose all forms of Antigypsyism – in this country and all over Europe. “

The laudatory speech for the German Chancellor was given by the laureate of 2019, former President of the Republic of Slovakia Andrej Kiska. In it, he said:

„We all know how much determination and energy you have invested over the last years in your efforts to help the German society remember the tragic past and to care about a better future for Roma. And not only in your home country, because as you rightly say, it is both ‘a German and a European task’. Yes, indeed, Roma Lives Matter. “

Statuette of the European Civil Rights Award
The European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma (Photo: Documentation and Cultural Centrer of German Sinti and Roma)

In a roundtable discussion, Romani Rose praised the German Chancellor`s commitment to the minority of German Sinti and Roma:

„It was always a concern of the Chancellor to also include the 600-year history of our minority in Germany in the historical commemoration. In 2012, she joined me in handing over the memorial to the Sinti and Roma murdered under National Socialism to the public and also made it clear that combating Antigypsyism is a common task for us. In 2019, your government appointed a commission to address Antigypsyism and make recommendations to the federal government to counter this Antigypsyism – which for many Sinti and Roma is the cause of pogroms, of assaults, of racism that has historically excluded us. “

The prize donor Manfred Lautenschläger highlighted Angela Merkel’s work for the Sinti and Roma minority and her commitment to a united Europe:

„ After the crimes committed by the Nazis, Germany has a special responsibility from history towards this minority as well. It therefore has the duty to exert its influence when people are discriminated against and racially excluded, as is the case, for example, in the countries of Southeastern and Central Europe. The award of the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma to such a great and true European and democrat as Angela Merkel is an important sign that will certainly be welcomed by many people in Germany and in Europe. The Chancellor is being honored because of her special commitment to the minority of Sinti and Roma, to human rights and to the unity of the European community of values. “

The ceremony was accompanied by by soprano Scarlett Rani Adler, joined by pianist Aureliano Zatoni. The prize money of 15,000 euros was donated by German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel to the organizations Grünbau gGmbH and ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network.

Founded in 2010, the international youth network ternYpe aims to build trust and mutual respect among young Roma and non-Roma. For this purpose, ternYpe unites various youth organizations from all over Europe to encourage young people to actively participate in civil society and to support them in doing so.

Grünbau gGmbH is committed to social urban renewal in Dortmund’s Nordstadt district. People from over 13 nations, including many Roma, participate in the diverse, neighborhood-based help on site. Grünbau has developed several transnational projects from this, including one in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city.