MINELRES: Romania: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities - 8 (136)/2005

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Tue Mar 8 08:02:08 2005

Original sender: Edivers Buletin <edivers_buletin-admin@mediafax.ro>

Divers Bulletin no. 8 (136) / March 7, 2005




WASHINGTON - According to the US Human Rights Report for Romania, there
are 50 members of minorities in the 469-seat Parliament. The
Constitution and law grant each recognized ethnic minority one
representative in the Chamber of Deputies if the minority's political
organization cannot obtain 5 percent of the votes needed to elect a
deputy outright. Organizations representing 18 minority groups qualified
for deputies under this provision in November.

Ethnic Hungarians, represented by the UDMR, obtained parliamentary
representation through the normal electoral process. Roma were
underrepresented in Parliament, having only one representative; low
Romani voter turnout and internal divisions within the Romani community
worked against the consolidation of votes for any single candidate,
organization, or party. There were two Romani parliamentarians. During
the year, the PSD had protocols of cooperation in effect with the
German, Hungarian, and Romani minorities.

According to Section 5 (Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking
in Persons), the Constitution forbids discrimination based on race,
nationality, ethnic origin, language, sex, opinion and political
allegiance, wealth, or social background; however, in practice, the
Government did not enforce these provisions effectively, and women,
Roma, and other minorities were subject to various forms of
discrimination. The Department for Interethnic Relations and the
National Office for Roma were responsible for monitoring the problems of
ethnic minorities, maintaining contacts with minority groups, submitting
proposals for draft legislation and administrative measures, maintaining
links with local authorities, and investigating complaints. The
Constitution authorizes citizens belonging to national minorities to
express themselves in their mother tongue before courts of law.

In March last year, Parliament passed a law on local elections that
potentially discriminated against some minority organizations by
defining "national minorities" as only the ethnic groups represented in
the Council of National Minorities and requiring that these
organizations meet more stringent requirements to participate in local
government compared to minority groups that were already represented in
Parliament. For example, an organization of ethnic Hungarians, the Civic
Union Of Hungarians, had to provide lists of at least 25,000 members
from at least 15 counties and Bucharest, with at least 300 members in
each county, in order to run candidates in the local elections, despite
the fact that the UDMR is already in Parliament and allowed to run
without providing proof of membership. The Law on General elections,
adopted in September, included a similar provision.

Ethnic Hungarians are the largest minority, comprising 1.4 million
persons, according to the 2002 census. The UDMR party was in a de facto
political alliance with the ruling minority PSD Government. Beginning in
2001, the UDMR signed annual protocols of cooperation with the PSD.
After the November and December national elections, the UDMR changed its
allegiance and joined the new governing coalition led by the PNL-PD
A government decree permits students in state-funded primary and
secondary schools to be taught in their own language, with the exception
of secondary school courses on the history and geography of the country.
In the Moldavia region, some in the Roman Catholic Csango community, who
speak an archaic form of Hungarian, repeatedly complained that there was
no schooling available in their language. They established two school
groups with Hungarian as the language of instruction in schools in
Pustiana and Cleja during the 2002-03 school year. This initiative was
expanded to 9 groups in 7 localities for the 2003-04 school year and to
24 groups in 9 localities, totaling 450 students, for the 2004-05 school
year. However, they could not hold religious services in the community
in their mother tongue, because of the opposition of the Roman Catholic

According to the 2002 census, the Romani population numbered 535,250, or
2.5 percent of the population. However, a 2004 European Commission
report on health policy and the European Union estimated that the Romani
population was bvetween 1.8 and 2.5 million. The World Health
Organization (WHO) reported that the Romani population represented
approximately 10 percent of the total population. Romani groups
complained that police brutality, including beatings and harassment, was
routine (see Section 1.c.). According to the Government, only 27 percent
of Roma had steady jobs and only half of those jobs were considered
skilled. Illiteracy among Roma older than 45 years of age was
approximately 30 percent.

Some schools, such as in Cehei (Salaj County), Tg. Frumos (Iasi County),
Geoagiu (Hunedoara County), Ardusat (Maramures County, Tg. Jiu (Gorj
County) and others segregated Romani children. In April, following
complaints by several NGOs that monitored such situations, the Ministry
of Education prohibited segregation in schools by a notification that
was not legally binding; Romani NGOs are presently pressing for the
issuance of an order to this effect.

The National Council on Combating Discrimination received 157 public
complaints during the first half of the year, of which 62 were resolved.
The Council initiated another 17 cases from its own findings, bringing
the total to 174 cases. Of the 62 resolved cases, the Council identified
12 cases of discrimination, applying 2 fines and 10 reprimands. Of
these, three of the complaints involved discrimination against Roma, one
against the Jewish community, and one against ethnic Hungarians. The
Council set up a National Antidiscrimination Alliance, a forum for
discussion with NGOs, in March 2003 and drafted a National
Antidiscrimination Plan in September 2003.

Romani CRISS continued to monitor cases of alleged human rights
violations in 10 counties and Bucharest. Human rights monitors followed
12 cases documented in 2003 and identified 27 new cases in these
counties. Of the 27 cases, 20 involved discrimination, while 7 were
cases of violence or abuse against Roma.

The Romani population continued to be subject to societal
discrimination. A 2003 survey by the Press Monitoring Agency showed that
approximately 80 percent of the television news on Roma concerned
conflict-generating events, such as illegal migration and police raids
in Romani communities, and used images reflecting stereotypes.

Romani NGOs asserted that, with the exception of setting up implementing
bodies, the 2001 National Strategy for the Improvement of the Situation
of Roma had few practical results. The National Office for Roma
maintained a database on the living conditions and needs of the Romani
community. However, the office was understaffed and undertrained, and
its approximately $1.9 million (64 billion lei) budget was insufficient
to implement the strategy.

During the year, little progress was made with regard to the
implementation of the partnership protocol, signed by the Health
Ministry and the Roma Party in 2001, that sets forth cooperative
measures to ensure that Roma have access to health care. In 2003, Romani
CRISS maintained a training program (with private funding) for Romani
health mediators in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, and the
Directorate of Public Health hired 160 such mediators. Romani CRISS and
the Health Ministry continued their cooperation.

Romani CRISS was also involved in a national program of training police
on conflict management and human rights. Police from 30 counties were
trained on these issues.

Author: DIVERS


BRAILA – Gradistea Local Council (Braila county) in partnership with the
County Council and with the Community Group of Ethnic Roma Initiative in
the locality announces the launching of a project to establish a
traditional bakery. The initiative is being financed through Phare
Program “Sprijin pentru strategia nationala de imbunatatire a situatiei
rromilor” (Support for the national strategy to improve ethnic Roma
status), in the field of revenue-generating activities. The direct
beneficiaries of the activities developed through the project will
involve about 30 ethnic Roma citizens in Gradistea. The total budget of
the project is of EUR52,319, of which EUR49,319 represents the
contribution of the European Union.

The main activities will be: establishment of ethnic Roma Association in
commune Gradistea for the Local Initiative (ARGIL); rehabilitation,
planning and fitting out the production and storing area; the property
transfer upon the production unit towards the ethnic Roma Association;
training of the operative personnel to get the baker qualification;
production startup. The project will develop on a 8 months period but it
will subsequently be continued through the self-financing from the
production activity developed within the bakery unit. Petre Andrei, the
mayor of Gradistea commune, stated: “This project was initiated by the
ethnic Roma community within our locality. The idea started from the
necessity to create new labor places corroborated with the lack of a
bakery in the commune. The financial support got through Phare program
enables us we create 12 labor places for the ethnic Roma population and
to train other 20 persons as bakers.” 

Author: DIVERS


CONSTANTA – The authorities of Constanta county seat along with the
representatives of five organizations of ethnic Roma in the locality
inaugurated ACASA program at the beginning of February, by means of
which 20 dwellings will be built for the ethnic Roma families.

The value of the investment is of EUR212,000 and 93% of these funds
represents non-payable credit from the European Commission, through
Phare program, “Sprijin pentru strategia nationala de imbunatatire a
situatiei rromilor” (Support for the national strategy to improve ethnic
Roma status). Constanta municipality will provide the field for the
construction on 6 Celulozei Street and will ensure the units, covering
7% of the total sum of the project, as co-financer. The local
authorities forecast the offers are to be selected at end-March – the
beginning of April, their book of tasks and the framework conditions
being already under discussion. The 20 dwellings will have two or three
rooms with necessary annexes and the surface sets to around 50 m2. In
addition, leisure areas and playgrounds will be established, with the
possibility of the subsequent construction of a medical healthcare
center and of a kindergarten. The taking over will take place on
December 1, 2005.

These dwellings will be given to a large part of the ethnic Roma
families who currently live in the peninsular area of the city. A
commission made up of the project coordinator, representatives of the
investments department and of the ethnic Roma communities will establish
the criteria to assign the dwellings.

The project coordinator Ana Merla, chief of the Environment Service,
Program Monitoring and Projects within the city hall stated that a basic
assigning criterion is represented by the financial possibilities of the
ethnic Roma families who must cover the cost of the utilities. The
ethnic Roma will become the legal owners of a dwelling, with the
possibility that in five years, they acquire the ownership right upon
the locative areas.
The team to implement ACASA project forms a group of initiatives called
“Impreuna pentru o viata mai buna” (together for a better standard
life). By 2015, the project coordinator said the municipality aims at
establishing an entire district to make new financing applications for.
This is the first complex project countrywide, on this credit line.

Author: DIVERS


BUCHAREST – The Democrat Union of ethnic Hungarians in Romania (UDMR)
started a national-level analysis as regards the necessity of an
economic regionalization, stated president Marko Bela. "The economic
regionalization is the concern of the entire Union and not only of the
colleagues in Covasna", stated Marko Bela. He said that a further
analysis of this problem at a national level is required as other
counties are "extremely dissatisfied" with the development areas. This
measure is aimed at being finalized by June and on the basis of the
result, concrete proposals are meant to be submitted, said UDMR leader.

Marko Bela mentioned that meetings with the representatives of the
European community would take place as regards the necessity for an
economic reorganization of the regions. "We take over the development
regions only with the agreement and support of the EU", stated UDMR
president. The chief of the Delegation of the European Commission in
Romania Jonathan Scheele said the number of the economic regions is
already being negotiated by Romania with the European Union and any
change supposes a renegotiation. 

Author: DIVERS


BUCHAREST - A prominent Jewish rights group said last week that its hunt
for Nazi war criminals in Romania had flushed out 15 suspects it hoped
to see prosecuted by the country's top court, Reuters reported. About
half a million Jews were killed during the Holocaust in Nazi ally
Romania, including Transylvania, which was then under Hungarian rule.
Israel has repeatedly urged the Balkan country to face up to its ugly
"The suspects are alleged to have actively participated in the
persecution and murder of Jews in several places in Romania," top Nazi
hunter Efraim Zuroff, who opened a Holocaust crimes hotline in Romania,
said in a statement.

Zuroff said the top prosecutor's office was asked to start an
investigation into alleged crimes by four suspects, the first people
likely to be prosecuted in Romania for war crimes since the fall of
communism in 1989.

The chief prosecutor's office said it was investigating the cases and it
would closely cooperate with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The center launched "Operation Last Chance" in 2003, offering 10,000
euros for information leading to the capture of war criminals, saying it
was the last opportunity to find those responsible for the Holocaust.
As late as 2003, the leftist government denied a Holocaust had taken
place on its territory, prompting a diplomatic row with Israel and
forcing the creation of an international commission of experts to study
the EU candidate's Nazi past.

The commission revealed that up to 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews
were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities. Many were
slaughtered in pogroms, murdered in forced labor camps or death trains.
Another 135,000 Jews living in the Transylvania and 11,000 Roma were
killed. Romania, led by pro-Nazi Marshal Ion Antonescu became an ally of
Germany in 1940 when it turned into Adolf Hitler's main operational base
in southeastern Europe. But it switched sides shortly before the end of
World War II when it became clear the Third Reich's days were numbered.

Author: DIVERS

DIVERS - News bulletin about ethnic minorities living in Romania is
edited every week by MEDIAFAX, with the financial support of
Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center. Partial or full reproduction of
the information contained in DIVERS is allowed only if the source is
mentioned. You can send messages and suggestions regarding the content
of DIVERS bulletin at MEDIAFAX, Str. Tudor Arghezi, Nr. 3B, Sector 2 -
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