MINELRES: Romania: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities - 4 (132)/2005

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Divers Bulletin no. 4 (132) / February 7, 2005

News
EX-COMMUNIST COUNTRIES PLEDGE TO IMPROVE PLIGHT OF ROMA PEOPLE
CONSCIOUS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE HOLOCAUST REMAINS A CURRENT PROBLEM
UDMR WANTS A STATE UNIVERSITY IN HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE IN CLUJ
UDMR WANTS REORGANIZATION OF DEVELOPMENT REGIONS, EU RETICENT
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News

EX-COMMUNIST COUNTRIES PLEDGE TO IMPROVE PLIGHT OF ROMA PEOPLE

SOFIA - Eight former communist countries in central and eastern Europe
pledged to improve the plight of gypsies, or Roma, the continent's
youngest, biggest and poorest minority, within 10 years, AFP reports. In
a declaration signed by five heads of government and three deputy prime
ministers, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro,
Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic promised to work to "abolish
discrimination and heal the rift that separates the Roma from the rest
of the population."
The statement followed a one-day meeting in Sofia organized by the World
Bank with the help of international financier and philanthropist George
Soros. After the politicians signed it, the statement was handed to a
seven-year-old gypsy girl named Bojidara, who plans to keep a diary of
the main events in her life until 2015 to gauge whether they keep their
promises.
The meeting, called "The Decade of Roma Inclusion", was "the first
cooperative international effort to change the lives of the Roma, many
of whom live in devastating poverty in the heart of Europe," the World
Bank said in a statement. The Roma minorities in Bulgaria, Hungary,
Romania and Serbia-Montenegro are four to 10 times poorer than the rest
of the population, according to World Bank figures.
The bank found that the Roma are also one of the fastest-growing
minorities in Europe, as half of the roughly 10 million Roma on the
continent are younger than 20 years old.
Still, World Bank director James D. Wolfensohn noted that "poverty is
not just a lack of money or a lack of opportunity" but results from a
variety of causes. "We have within the framework of the Roma community
an absolutely identifiable condition of bias and intolerance by those
who have against those who have not," he said.
But Soros, the director of the Open Society Institute, praised the
emergence of "a new Roma intelligentsia, an elite that is well-educated
and can speak for itself and for the Roma," saying this would help
efforts to overcome "the worst case of ethnic discrimination in this
region."
Soros pledged to contribute 30 million dollars (23 million euros) to the
Roma Education Fund, which was created following a conference on Roma
held in Budapest in 2003.
The fund now has 43 million dollars in pledges, the Open Society
Institute said. Soros said the meeting in Sofia marked "the first time
that the governments are showing real politcal will to see that Roma are
equal citizens in a growing Europe."
Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg called on both Roma and
non-Roma to abandon their prejudices, saying that "10 years will not be
enough to change the life of the Roma but the union of our countries
around this cause represents an effort which will definitely have its
impact around Europe."
The Roma make up roughly two percent of the 450 million people who live
in the 25-nation bloc. About five million Roma live in the 10 mainly
central and eastern European states which joined the union last year.
The UN Development Programme last week painted a bleak picture of the
conditions they endure in what it says is the most extensive set of data
ever gathered on the Roma.
The results cover issues such as unemployment, housing, school
enrollment, literacy, access to essential drugs, running water, and
modern communications, where the Roma fall far behind the majority
populations on all counts.
In Bulgaria and Serbia, for instance, five times more Roma live below
the poverty line than do the majority populations surveyed. In Macedonia
and Romania it is 75%.
In Romania, 7 out of 10 Roma do not have access to running water and 8
out of 10 Roma cannot afford essential prescription drugs.
In every country, except the Czech Republic, fewer than 2 out of 10 Roma
have completed primary education. In Kosovo, only 1 out of 10 Roma aged
12 and above has finished primary school.
In Romania, only 2 out of 10 Roma households have a telephone compared
with 7 out of 10 for the majority population living in close proximity.
According to the survey, in Hungary; 8% of Roma live below the poverty
line, 90% of Roma above the age of 12 have not finished primary school,
46% of Roma households are without plumbing, 74% can not afford
prescription drugs, and Romani renters owe an average of 129% of their
monthly income in over due rent. (Interestingly enough, in the case of
unpaid electricity bills, the Hungarian majority population owes 60% of
their monthly income to unpaid electrical charges as opposed to 41% that
Roma owe). 
The survey offers the most accurate picture of the Roma ever compiled.
It follows UNDP's 2002 research report Avoiding the Dependency Trap: The
Roma in Central and Eastern Europe, which surveyed over 5,000 families
in five countries and found that one out of every two Romani people goes
hungry at least a few days every year and one out of six is 'constantly
starving'. 
The data for the survey was collected through face-to-face interviews in
all 10 countries and Kosovo. A total of 36,428 individuals (a total of
9,346 households) were interviewed (4,345 non Roma households and 5,001
Roma households). In order to overcome the possible distrust of
pollsters, Roma interviewers were used for fieldwork where possible.
Author: DIVERS


CONSCIOUS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE HOLOCAUST REMAINS A CURRENT PROBLEM

BUCHAREST– Last week, on January 28, returning from Krakow, where he
attended the commemoration of 60 years from releasing the prisoners in
Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, president Traian Basescu declared he
approached the issue of Holocaust during talks with Israeli president,
Moshe Katzav.
"Romania acknowledged, since July last year, the reality of the
Holocaust under Romanian administration, although the phenomenon did not
take place on the territory of the present borders of Romania",
president Basescu said. "At the same time, the issue of Holocaust must
be accepted by the Romanian people, but this will happen by means of a
rather long education process, by including the historical realities
into the next generations’ history schoolbooks. We owe to place our
history into real parameters. Knowing our history correctly is, at the
same time, a warrant that no Romanian administration will ever accept
discrimination on ethnical criteria in Romania", stated the Romanian
president.
The declaration of president Basescu is certainly a generous one, as he
approaches several important issues: Romania admits it participated to
the European Holocaust and people should acknowledge their past. 
Still, after reading more carefully, one can notice that the president’s
speech includes a trap, more exactly a subtle form of Holocaust denial. 
By acknowledging the participation of Romania to the Holocaust but at
the same time by trying to spread responsibility when saying that it
happened outside the current borders of Romania, Traian Basescu – most
likely, without any intention–denies even the Shoah. 
Professor Alexandru Florian, member of the International Commission on
Studying the Holocaust in Romania, shares a similar opinion: "President
Traian Basescu, after two extraordinary points of view as regards
Holocaust in Romania, returns from Auschwitz and resumes, most likely
unaware of it, the same message from the summer of 2003, namely that
Romanian authorities participated to the Holocaust, but not on the
territory of today’s Romania. He also expressed another idea that I
consider very harmful, namely that the Romanian culture has nothing to
do with the Holocaust". Florian considers that the only way to avoid
such errors would be to know the past better. "We need many educational
programs in Romania, for the young and older generations coexisting at
present, as well as for the politicians". 
However, the presidential administration’s point of view is subtler.
Considering that the message of president Basescu has obviously stressed
the acknowledging of Romania’s role in the Holocaust, presidential
counselor Andrei Plesu stated: “The declaration might be partial and
hasty, given its context (a press conference on Otopeni Airport) but I
guarantee that President Traian Basescu did not aim to contradict the
conclusions of the International Commission. I am sure that the
president thought mainly about what happened in Transdniester, but this
does not mean that he excluded the pogroms in Iasi or Bucharest, for
example”. 
Author: DIVERS


UDMR WANTS A STATE UNIVERSITY IN HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE IN CLUJ

BUCHAREST - The representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation
of Romania (UDMR) have been insisting lately to found a state university
in Hungarian language, within Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj (central
Transylvania). 
Romanian authorities do not agree with this idea, due to the damaging of
the multicultural character of the high-education institution in Cluj,
observed in its history, from the beginning. 
On Thursday, January 27, during a press conference, Hungarian deputy,
Antal Arpad Andras declared that UDMR would not give up the idea of
founding at least two faculties in Hungarian language in Cluj. “Although
the government program does not stipulate the founding of new faculties
in Hungarian language, we will not give up. We consider it is necessary
to found two or three new faculties, so we will exert pressure on UDMR
central leadership and coalition partners”, Antal declared. He added
that Government was not entitled to get involved in the development
universities, but unfortunately, in the university’s autonomy, the
multicultural character hides unilateral decisions of the Romanian
party. 
The UDMR president, Marko Bela, declared in his turn, on January 28,
that the Union started talks with the Minister of Education for
"extending the university education system" and for creating a
decisional structure within state universities. UDMR has been trying for
a long time to found a faculty of natural sciences and a faculty of
social sciences in Hungarian language. 
Last week, UDMR senator in Cluj, Eckstein Kovacs Peter, announced he
would support the idea of founding two or three faculties in Hungarian
language within "Babes-Bolyai" University (UBB) Cluj-Napoca. 
"It is not a matter of splitting UBB, but a matter of internal
reorganization, where the education lines in Hungarian language should
be grouped in faculties. This is our intention at present ", declared
Eckstein during a press conference. Referring to the Hungarian Private
University "Sapientia", Eckstein said it was complementary to UBB and
that in the future, it might even be financed by the Romanian
Government. 
During his first press conference organized after his appointment,
secretary of state for minorities within Ministry of Education, Joszef
Koto, stated he did not want the splitting of Babes-Bolyai University
(UBB) in Cluj, "which is a high education institution well-known in the
entire Europe", but the founding of faculties in the language of
Hungarian and even German ethnics, within UBB. Asked about his opinion
on the viewpoint expressed by Koto, minister Miclea replied during the
same press conference. 
"I have repeatedly said that I will never accept the founding of
faculties in the language of ethnic Hungarians, within Babes Bolyai
University", declared minister Mircea Miclea.
Author: DIVERS


UDMR WANTS REORGANIZATION OF DEVELOPMENT REGIONS, EU RETICENT

BUCHAREST – Last week, UDMR president Marko Bela announced that this
year his party would propose the taking of the necessary steps on the
reorganization of economic development regions, as he supports the idea
of creating "smaller and more functional" regions than the existing
ones.
On Saturday, January 22, UDMR president Marko Bela declared that the
eight current development regions were “artificially” created. "For the
good functioning of joint economic structures, we have to create smaller
and more functional economic regions, complying with European Union
criteria", declared Marko Bela. According to him, the joint ruling
program stipulates the change of the current structure of economic
development regions.
Marko Bela says that it is not normal to include two counties, Vrancea
and Constanta, in the same development region, as the former is placed
in the sub-Carpathian zone and the latter, on the coast of the Black
Sea. "Development regions must have economic importance, they are not
administrative territorial units", added UDMR president. 
The European Commission Delegation in Romania replied in a press release
that it appreciated the fact that the current organization structure
based on eight development regions was compatible to European Union
rules. “Romania has already engaged, during accession negotiations 1, to
maintain this structure after 2007 as well, in order to provide a good
implementation of Structural Funds available after the accession to the
European Union; if Romania wants to change this structure after 2007,
this would be a complex process, requiring the consultation of all
institutions involved, including the European Commission”, informs the
press release.
Author: DIVERS

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