MINELRES: Romania: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities - 18 (101)/2004

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Tue May 25 13:43:20 2004


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Divers Bulletin no. 18 (101) / May 24, 2004
News

MEETING OF INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON HOLOCAUST STUDY

ROMA PARTIES STILL NEXT TO PSD

UDMR TO PROMOTE CONFESSIONAL EDUCATION

CONFERENCE SIGNALS THE REUNIFICATION OF THE HUNGARIAN LITERARY TRADITION

Focus

NEW BEGINNINGS FOR ROMANIA’S ROMA


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News

MEETING OF INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON HOLOCAUST STUDY

BUCHAREST – On Thursday May 13 there was a meeting at Cotroceni Palace
of Head of the State with the members of the international Commission on
studying Holocaust in Romania. According to a release of Presidency,
within the meeting there was presented information about the condition
of preparations over the reunion in Washington on May 16-22, attended by
all the members of the commission abroad, as well as about the calendar
of its future activities. Alexandru Florian, PhD in philosophy and
political sciences, said that the meeting is part of the series to be
held for concluding the document for which this Holocaust commission was
made up. In November in Bucharest it is to be presented the final report
when the activity of Holocaust Commission is also finished. Alexandru
Florian also said that this final report will consists of the
conclusions of the studies and research of the commission referring to
the Holocaust matter in Romania during 1938-1944. Eventually, the final
report would to become also the official point of view of the Romanian
authorities about Holocaust, thus putting an end to the controversies on
the politics led by the Romanian authorities to exterminate the Jews
during World War 2. 
Author: DIVERS
summary


ROMA PARTIES STILL NEXT TO PSD

BUCHAREST – Political protocols signed in 2003 and 2004 by the ruling
Social Democracy Party – PSD and many organizations of Roma minority
were observed at large, had good results and will further activate, as
indicates a recent seminar. The four main political parties of Roma (of
which Roma Party is represented in Parliament), as well as the
non-governmental organizations of this ethnicity will further back the
candidates of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) over the election campaign
for general elections, as indicated the seminar “Political protocols
between the Social Democrat Party and the organizations of the national
minority organizations in 2003 and 2004 – practical consequences for
Roma community”. The seminar was organized by Project on Ethnic
Relations (PER) organization, Romanian subsidiary and gathered both
leaders of Roma community and officials of the Government,
representatives of political parties or of the organizations for human
rights protection. In the opinion of Roma leaders, the protocols to be
concluded this year during the pre-election period are meant to
strengthen anti-discriminating policy promoted by the authorities but
also to mostly promote the public politics to solve the problems this
ethnicity is facing with.
Author: DIVERS
summary


UDMR TO PROMOTE CONFESSIONAL EDUCATION

CLUJ – Chairman of the Democrat Union of Hungarians from Romania
announced on May 15 that talks with Ministry of Education and Research
and the representatives of the Hungarian traditional churches had
already been announced in order to establish confessional education in
Romania. Marko Bela indicated that in this respect the Union would
present Romanian Parliament on this summer session a law draft to amend
the education Law in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution
reviewed. UDMR chairman explained that confessional schools will have to
be in accordance with the education plan, will have to abide by
curricula, thus the churches following to be granted the right to
supervise the education process and the appointment of education bodies.
Author: DIVERS
summary


CONFERENCE SIGNALS THE REUNIFICATION OF THE HUNGARIAN LITERARY TRADITION

CLUJ-NAPOCA - The annual commemoration of an Hungarian speaking poet
held in Transylvania recently gave the opportunity to re-examine the
unity of Hungarian-language literature both in and outside of Hungary,
Eurolang reported. Laszlo Szabedi, a poet and university teacher at the
Hungarian-language Bolyai University in Kolozsvar/Cluj, committed
suicide in 1959 in protest against the forced merging of the Bolyai
University with the Romanian-language Babes University.
He had been harassed by the Communist political police, the Securitate,
following his protest speech held in Hungarian at a meeting deciding the
unification of the universities. Tragically he ended his protest by
committing suicide.
The death of Szabedi is commemorated every year by Hungarian language
NGOs such as the Hungarian Language and Culture International Society -
the Mother Tongue Conference, the Transylvanian Hungarian Cultural
Association and the Korunk Studio.
This time, a round table talk held at Szabedi's commemoration in Cluj on
7th and 8th May came to the conclusion that there was an even bigger
need for the unity of Hungarian-language literature, both with writers
in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries. 
Before World War I, Hungarian literature was considered as a unitary
whole with some slight regional differences. After several territories
inhabited by ethnic Hungarians were taken over by other states, these
states, such as Romania, the present Serbia and Slovakia, encouraged the
ideology of a "totally different" Hungarian-language literature than in
Hungary. 
Communism increased this rupture, even the selling of books published in
Hungary were stopped in Romania and vice-versa. However, the European
revolutionary atmosphere and the events in Prague in 1968 lead to a
relative upsurge, when literary critics were allowed to suggest that the
Hungarian-language literature produced in Romania was both part of
Romanian and Hungarian literary tradition. The reunification of
Hungarian literature continued after 1989. The conference held in Cluj
in 2004 found that the melting away of borders was already a literary
fact long before EU enlargement. 
Literary critics and historians agreed that boundaries still meant
limitations in people's mind, but that a view on Hungarian literature,
as a synthesis of one, written in a majority and minority state, was
possible. Most scholars agreed that the moment had arrived to abandon
unnatural divisions and return to mutual development.
Author: DIVERS
summary


Focus

NEW BEGINNINGS FOR ROMANIA’S ROMA

GIURGIU - Word has gone out that UNICEF is in town, and it's standing
room only in the parents' common room at School No 3 in Giurgiu.
Conversation is largely restricted to formal pleasantries as we go
around the room talking to each parent in turn, but when we get to one
mother, the mood changes somewhat when the interpreter translates my
question.
„She says she's not Roma,” he explains apologetically. „Her skin's just
dark because she's been working outside in the sun.” This is as much
news to the interpreter as it is to me; it was he who had briefed me
beforehand that this woman was Roma. It also seemed to be news to the
other Romanian parents and teachers in the room, but they stayed silent.
It's OK to be poor and Romanian, but it's not OK to be poor and Roma.
And if you have to deny your ethnicity in the process, then so be it. 
The Roma have been everyone's fallguys ever since their migration to
Europe more than 600 years ago, but their fight against persecution,
slavery and genocide has been largely ignored. No questions were asked
about the estimated one million Roma victims of the Holocaust at the
Nuremberg trials, and not a cent of the hundreds of millions of dollars
given by the U.N. in war crimes reparations found its way to the 5,000
Roma Holocaust survivors. 
Their struggle continues. They are demonised in Western Europe and
discriminated against in Eastern Europe. Roughly 10 per cent of
Romania's 21 million population are Roma, but they are largely
marginalised from mainstream society. A 2003 IPP/Gallup survey revealed
that 93 per cent of Romanians would not accept Roma as members of their
own family, 46 per cent do not accept the presence of Roma in their
communities, 36 per cent believe Roma should be forced to live
separately from the rest of society and 49 per cent want the state to
take measures to stop the increase of the Roma population. 
This is the background to UNICEF's education programme for the Roma in
Romania. „Education is one of the main ways to integrate the Roma into
society,” says Eugen Crai, UNICEF's education officer. „Improving
literacy provides a gateway into the mainstream workforce. At the moment
only 61 per cent of Roma children are in compulsory education, compared
with an overall figure of 95 per cent. And in those primary schools
where there are Roma children, nearly 70 per cent of the teachers are
unqualified.”
The nuts and bolts of the programme are relatively straightforward:
improve the infrastructure of the school, train the teachers and
establish parallel classes within the school for those who are out of
sync with the system. Under present Romanian law, any child who misses
two consecutive years of schooling is not permitted to return. Given
that many Roma children do miss a couple of years due to poor health,
work or being used as unpaid childcare for siblings, a change in the
system is well overdue. 
There are political hazards to negotiate at national and local levels,
and the hearts and minds of everyone in the community to win. Positive
discrimination is not everyone's idea of how best to even up the odds —
not least among those who have little enough in the first place, and
fear they might be about to get even less. On the day we visit, there is
a non-stop procession of parents, teachers, community leaders and local
government officials, who all need to be schmoozed. No one must be seen
to be getting more attention than someone else, and no one should be
missed out. By the end of the day we're more than two hours behind
schedule — purely in the interests of local diplomacy. 
But the slowly, slowly tactics seem to be paying off. The pilot
educational priority area (EPA) scheme, which was funded by a ?100,000
donation from Inter-Continental Hotels, kicked off little more than a
year ago. The first stage was to tackle the school facilities, where
everything was falling apart and the boys' toilets were frequently under
water - and worse - with the result that many of the kids had chlorine
burns on their legs. 
Now the classrooms have new desks and blackboards, the toilets have been
refurbished and there's a slick computer suite; it's the ideal platform
from which to build a new school ethos, but it also serves another
purpose. „Yes, we want to create the right atmosphere for the programme
and yes, we believe every school should ideally have these facilities
anyway. But there is the knock-on benefit that those parents who do not
understand, or are suspicious of the scheme, recognise that their
children are also getting something from the scheme.” 
With just 40 places on the EPA scheme and 500-plus kids in the school,
this is vital. Ask parents about the scheme and they will all mention
the improvements to the fabric of the school and the free snack on offer
to all children; not one person mentions the benefits to the Roma.
Author: DIVERS
summary


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