On March 17, 2017, eight housing units constructed within the EU-funded project “Roma Action II” were handed over to Roma families in Varda settlement in Kakanj. The project aims at supporting the implementation of the revised Roma Action Plans in BiH 2013-2016 by improving living conditions and social inclusion of the marginalised Roma population with a proactive involvement of the local authorities at all levels and other local stakeholders. The EU provided EUR 2.5 million for the second phase of the project and the local authorities (beneficiary municipalities/cities/District) are co-funding it in the amount of EUR 327,227. The project is implemented by Hilfswerk Austria International (HWA) in cooperation with Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB) and the BiH Association Kali Sara – Roma Information Centre.
Suzana Jašarević, Hilfswerk Austria International Country Director for BiH opened the ceremony with greetings to the beneficiaries and all the distinguished guests, emphasizing the importance of the project that changes lives and promotes active participation of all project participants. "Since the appointment of Mr Mandra as the Mayor successful cooperation with the municipality of Kakanj has been achieved on the issue of Roma housing. Besides the key contribution of the EU Delegation through IPA funds, Kakanj municipality actively participates in co-financing of this project, as well as by providing the land for construction, issuing of all necessary permits, the infrastructure connections and exterior works. The Federal Ministry of Displaced Persons and Refugees also participates in the project realisation, as well as the Ministry of Labour, Social Policy and Refugees of ZDC. I am very pleased that today their new home received eight families with total of 41 family members, of which 21 child", Jašarević said.
Massimo Mina, Head of Operations Section for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross Border Co-operation at the EU Delegation to BiH commended the successful and efficient completion of the housing units. “Seven months ago we were laying the foundation stone at this location, and it is my great pleasure to be here today and see these concrete results, the new homes for Roma families as well as the new access road and the children playground”, Mina said.
Mina also underlined the importance of Roma inclusion in the society. “Although, the housing issue is one of the greatest priorities, it is necessary to take other measures in order to improve the situation of the Roma population, including education, health protection and employment which this Roma Action project addresses through its integrated approach”.
H.E. Mr. Jonathan Moore, Head of OSCE Mission in BiH, whished all the best to the beneficiaries in their new homes and emphasized strong support to the Major and the municipality in their good planning and provided support to Roma inclusion.
Nermin Mandra, Mayor of Kakanj, used the opportunity to commend all the efforts made during the project together with the understanding of the donors. “A few years ago, we adopted the Regulatory Plan for Varda settlement, but without the generous assistance of BiH institutions and the European Union this all would be useless. Thanks to the donors, we are marking a significant milestone today and Kakanj municipality will continue working on improving living conditions of Roma people”, Mayor Mandra concluded.
Mr. Dervo Sejdić, Vice-President of the Partner Association Kali Sara - RIC said that housing problems of Roma need to be addresses in the future projects, as well as other needs in health, education and employment sectors that need to be planned.
The ceremony was also attended by representatives of the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, the Federal Ministry of Displaced Persons and Refugees and ZE-DO Canton Ministry of Labour, Social Policy and Refugees, as well as representatives of the partner organisations Arbeiter Samariter Bund and the Kali Sara Association - RIC.
In total 140 housing units will be (re)constructed in 9 municipalities/cities across BiH (Tuzla, Gračanica, Banovići, Kakanj, Zavidovići, Zenica, Bijeljina, Modriča, Brčko District BiH).