This serious tone was, however partly derailed by the French government 1965, however, forcibly dissolving the CMG on 26 February 1965, because it had too many non-French citizens in its leadership. A new grouping was almost immediately formed, with those from the CMG who had French citizenship, led by Vanko Rouda, Rotaru’s former deputy. From 1967 it was calling itself the Comité International Tzigane. Its leaders were often taken into local police stations for interrogation on suspicion of activities against state security.
This group at first had Rotaru’s blessing; but as he travelled more widely without direct involvement in the French organisation, the inconsistent elements of utopian fantasy became more pronounced. Sometimes it was not a town, but a country to be called Romanestan, that Rotaru demanded. In 1967 ‘Vajda Voevod III, the king of the Gitans gave a press conference where he announced “The United Nations must take charge to ensure the 14 million Gitans scattered and persecuted across the world survive”‘. The Gitans... should ask the United Nations for the right to return to the land of their distant ancestors in Somalia. But just two months earlier he had spoken of establishing a constitutional monarchy on the shores of the Red Sea.
The CIT carried on many of the goals of the CMG, especially the demand for German war reparations. It continued close ties with the Pentecostal Tsigane evangelical church, which helped the CIT compile the papers necessary to get individuals compensation. The CIT also suggested there should be collective reparations and an international body should be created to administer these.
Vanko Rouda, the President of the CIT, had been editor of La Voix Mondiale Tsigane since it started in 1962, and its politics of giving a voice to the Roma, Gitanes and Tziganes in a peaceful world with freedom of travel continued seamlessly. In 1967 we find the same themes in the reported speeches by Vanko Rouda, Matéo Maximoff, and Juan Fernandez at a gala of Third World Solidarity attended also by the Dahomien writer, Roger Hazoume, Michel Domlevo, Secretary of the African Cultural Union in Paris, and Miriam Novitch, Director of the Ghetto Museum in Israel. Vanko Rouda held advice surgeries in various town halls, to give advice and information to Roma.
We can see from La Voix Mondiale Tsigane the merry-go-round of meetings with local authorities, film shows and discussions in Youth Centres, Cultural Centres, Young Workers’ Hostels and other organisations. A Romani section of the international writers’ association PEN was formed, prelude to lasting PEN support for Roma Civil Rights, and an armed forces veterans’ organisation was created, based in England led by the Irish Traveller Labour politician George Marriott, named Regimental Old Members (R.O.M.).
Action to protest municipal or prefectural bans on camping, and lobbying parliamentarians and the press was undertaken not only in France but internationally. The British government responded to correspondence about the preparation of the 1968 UK Caravan Sites Act, and the Vatican added its endorsement of the idea of Roma organising for themselves to that of the Paris office of UNESCO.
A sustained campaign of reports, films and meetings was directed at the Council of Europe. On 18th September 1969 the CoE Consultative Assembly unanimously adopted a report which recommended to the Council of Ministers that programmes devised to improve the situation of Tsiganes/Gypsies should be worked out in consultation and collaboration with their representatives; they recommended member governments should create national organisations including representatives of the government and Gypsy and nomadic communities as well as of benevolent organisations supporting the interests of Gypsies and other nomads, and to consult such organisations when forming policy. In discussion of these recommendations it notes that only recently has there been created a form of Intereational co-operation through the Comité International Tsigane, which is based in Paris, and which ‘actively seeks recognition of the civil rights of nomadic families, bringing acts of segregation against Gypsies to the attention of national and international organisations dedicated to the defence of human rights.’
As the remit of the CIT thus became definitively international, more local organisations appeared in France. Already in 1962 in Marseilles Juan Fernandez, a Catalan Gitano, had founded l'Association des Gitans et Tziganes de France to improve public knowledge and lobby the authorities. It supported the CMG, and then the CIT. In 1968 a Manouche, Archange Stenegri, founded l’Association nationale des Tsiganes de France. He was President, and was supported by Stévo Demeter, Matéo Maximoff and Charles Reinhardt. On 17th September 1969 Zivan Vasič founded a new, explicitly pro-Romanestan organisation called “GIPSAR” which identified the immigrant Yugoslav Roma in France as the most educated section of the Roma population, but strongly dissociated themselves from the man they called “Vaïva III”.
Meanwhile, Ionel Rotaru continued to act independently. In 1971 some former CMG members who were holding membership booklets that Rotaru had printed, which looked very much like French Passports, except that where the French passport had the words "République Française", these had the words "Déclaration des droits de l’Homme". Roma succeeded in crossing frontiers waving these cards, but they were hardly legal. A group of Lovari Roma who arrived from Poland tried to enter France with these documents were arrested at the beginning of 1971. Then there was a flood of French press reports that “Vaida Voevod III, King of the Gitans” had gone to Vannes to defend four of his subjects, and he gave interviews claiming that these permits to travel were special passports recognised by 45 nations. Arrested himself, he started a hunger strike and was hospitalised in Vannes, and then in Rennes.
His release soon after was perhaps an indication that his courage and imagination no longer seemed a threat to the state, and were no longer even much of an embarrassment to his old comrades in the CIT, now renamed the CIR (Comité International Rom) who were preparing their most significant event yet, the First World Romani Congress which took place near London in April 1971, which is described in the section on the International Roma Civil Rights movement. That Congress charged the CIR with organising the next two congresses in 1973 and 1975, and the CIR re-organised itself as a federal body bring together full or associate affiliated organisations from 22 states, with a central office headed by Vanko Rouda as President, Stévo Demeter, Leuléa Rouda and Jean Montoya as joint secretaries, and Jarko Jovanovic as Cultural Secretary, (a different set of officers to those elected for the Congress itself.) This lasted until 1978, when the, tired of the failure of the CIR to organise a Coingress the leadership from the 2nd World Romani Congress in Geneva registered a body called “The International Romani Union” as an NGO at the United Nations, as though it was the true successor of the IRU. The residual CIR, under Vanko Rouda, protested, but henceforward it was just one among many French Roma Civil Rights organisations.
These in fact had multiplied while the CIR had busied itself internationally. In 1973 a federal body was formed bringing together both gajo-led and Roma-led organisations in the Comité National d’Entente des Gens du Voyage, with Nicolas Lorier as President, and as secretary Dany Peto-Manso, who declared in 1974 ‘I do not want to exclude Gaje or their organisations, but we do not wish them to take responsibility in our place. We will take the decisions ourselves’. This organisations then formed an even broader coalition, the Bureau des affaires tsiganes which after a meeting issued a press release which declared:
‘The Associations of Tsiganes and itinerants of all origins have decided on 28th October 1973 to create a common office to co-ordinate their action, and in particular, their interactions with the public authorities.’
This Bureau met for the first time on 28th November 1973 and on 20th December in Paris elected a committee of ten including:
President: Stevo Demeter (Comité Rom de Paris)
Vice-Presidents, Nicolas Lorier (Comité National d’Entente des Gens du Voyage), Honoré Martin, (Action Sociale Evangélique Tsigane); Emile Duville (Amicale Tsigane).
Secretary: Charles Welty (Centre missionnaire Tsigane de Paris).
They asked for a meeting with the French Prime Minister. This was perhaps the first group to involve civil rights leaders with traditional leaders like Stevo Demeter in concrete political activity.
Since then many other organisations have emerged and become active. In 1979, the Union nationale des Gens du Voyage français en Europe unie, (National Union for French Travellers in a United Europe) was founded and in 1982 the Comité national pour la promotion des Tsiganes et Gens du voyage, (National Committe for the Advancement of Tsiganes and Travellers) and the Centre culturel tzigane, (Tzigane Cultural Centre). In 1983 there followed the Office National des Affaires Tsiganes. By 2017 there have arisen numerous local, regional and national organisations such as France Liberté Voyage, the Association Française des Gens du Voyage d’Ile de France, the Association Nationale des Gens du Voyage Citoyens, Les Gitans de France, La Voix des Rroms and many others.
There were also many attempts to produce organisations grouping other organisations as the 1973 Bureau des affaires tsiganes. These included the Union des Tsiganes et Voyageurs de France in 1980, the Fédération tsigane de France in 1981, and the Mouvement confédéral tsigane in 1992.
All of these suffered from a lack of resources, just as had CMG, CIT and CIR, in comparison with the state-sponsored NGOs led by Gaje, whose governing bodies contained state representatives who were deeply suspicious of the Roma-led organisations. These included the Journal Études Tsiganes, founded in 1954 and still continuing, and with it, always reported in its pages, an account of the government’s National Committee on Social Information and Action (C.N.I.N.). The latter has gradually recruited more philanthropic NGOs and individual Roma to its ranks, and has mutated and broadened its identity several times, to take the title U.N.I.S.A.T. (National Union of Social Action Organizations for Gypsies) and finally, together with the Association Études Tsiganes and UNAGEV (National Union for Action on Travelers) formed FNSAT-Gens du voyage (National Federation of Solidarity Associations for Action with Gypsies and Travelers) in December 2004. This Federation is administered by a board of directors, elected by representatives of more than 80 mainly gajo-led member organisations, and has a team of 10 employees, which is ten more than most Roma-led organisations in France.
Another relatively well-financed body supported by major and local humanitarian NGOs is the Collectif National Droits de l’Homme Romeurope (C.N.D.H.R) which was founded in 2000 to support immigrant Roma and is certainly more critical and oppositional than FNSAT, resisting the evictions and deportations carried out by the French government; on the other hand they still include the Gajo organisations formed by and for social workers, organisations for help, friendship and community relations, rather than any Roma-led organisations. For better or worse this perpetuates the fact that although FNSAT and CNDHR offer a political choice between them, they remain the partners of local, regional and national administrations in policy discussions, and are seen as the experts by journalists and even academics. In 2008, deeply aware of this, some 45 organisations describing their members as Roma, Manouches, Sintis, Gitans and Yenish, came together to form UFAT (Union française des associations tsiganes) under the presidency of Eugène Alain Daumas and with Ricardo Lorier (son of Nicolas) as one of the national delegates.
In 2012 at its general assembly UFAT declared that ‘the interested parties, the Travellers and Gitans themselves, are far from being really involved in decisions concerning them. We are frequently invited, but the decisions have already been taken and they only want us there for our presence to legitimate actions which are often inadequate!’ They continue to protest the exclusion of Roma not just from policy-making but from history itself, as in their 2015 protest that French President François Hollande had abjectly failed to make any mention of Roma among the victims at a holocaust commemoration.