MINELRES: Romania: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities - 45(173)/2005

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Tue Nov 29 21:39:07 2005

Original sender: Divers Bulletin <edivers_buletin-admin@mediafax.ro>

Divers Bulletin no. 45 (173) / November 28, 2005




Meeting of the International Coordination Committee of the “Decade of
Roma Inclusion” ended last week in Bucharest with adopting the Terms of
Reference of the Decade, namely a document aiming to ground some future
activities for the social integration of the ethnic Roma in Central and
Eastern Europe.

A society cannot survive on long-term if entire categories are treated
like second degree marginalized citizens”. With these words, George
Soros, the founder of the Open Society Foundation (FSD), drew the
attention that neglecting the ethnic Roma issue can inclusively bring
about actions similar to those developed in France or USA, after Katrina

“Democracy cannot develop within an environment in which many citizens
are refused the opportunity to build a better life. The initiative of
the Decade precisely aims to improve the society to the benefit of all
citizens and it is essential the majority population becomes more aware
of that”, also said Soros, namely the initiator of the program Decade of
Roma Inclusion, attended by eight European states.

“If we fail in our attempt to reach the goals of the Decade, we will
doom the future generation of ethnic Roma to the same faith of their
parents trapped in a devastating cycle of poverty and isolation; this
failure will spread beyond the area of ethnic Roma communities and will
have an irreversible impact upon the respective countries”, ended George

On his turn, Shigeo Katsu, vice-president for Europe and Central Asia
with World Bank drew an alarm signal, saying that nine months since the
launching of the Decade, the commitments have been unequally
accomplished. “We face a challenge, namely out of simple lists, the
action Plans become concrete measures, integrated in the governments
budgets, in order to back up the good intention with resources”, said
Katsu. World Bank is one of the main international organizations aiming
to concretely support the Decade of Inclusion.

On the other hand, Mariea Ionescu, secretary of state with the National
Agency for Ethnic Roma within the Government of Romania, namely the
country holding the presidency of the Decade, said the ethnic Roma
involvement in national and international public policies is “a
productive approach”, which should take into account the specific needs
of the citizens of this ethnic and the “gaps of socio-economic
development”. Within this context, Ionescu said that in order to reach
the goals, the Decade needs the support of the government as well as of
the civil society.

As long as the action plans of the “Decade of Roma Inclusion” have been
settled, the targets – the fight against poverty, the establishment of
workplaces, the improvement of the sanitary conditions, education,
houses, the fight against prejudice etc – have already been undertaken,
the only problems are connected to the financial resources.

It is hard to tell what money were assigned the Decade. In an interview
given to Mediafax news agency, George Soros stated the organizations he
is financing will spend an aggregate sum for the programs and
initiatives of the Decade, summing up around USD70 mn.

"This is a humanitarian cause, so I fell good when giving out the
money", said Soros. The main source of financing should be the national
budgets. However, in most of the countries that took part in the Decade,
the financing ministries had a limited role in drafting the plans for
this initiative. Next year’s budget bill for Romania does not explicitly
assign a sum to the ethnic Roma programs; the money will be allotted as
until now, at the level of each ministry. The lack of coordination and
of transparency might bring about the same modest results as registered
by now.

On the other hand, the Government in Bucharest and the World Bank are
working at drawing up a Program of Social Inclusion to support the
ethnic Roma communities and other disadvantaged groups. The project aims
to support the development programs for children. The program of social
inclusion also aims to grant assistance for accessing the funds of the
EU. The sums have not been definite yet.

The structural and pre-accession funds might be a vital source of
financing for the Decade. Some countries such as Spain or Hungary used
this kind of financing for the Roma social inclusion programs.

George Soros emphasized that using the structural funds is the main
modality to implement the projects for ethnic Roma, ensuring a European
co-financing of the national projects by up to 80%. As for Romania, most
probably starting 2007, these funds will be only 4% of the Gross
Domestic Product (namely very little), will not be exclusively meant for
the ethnic Roma and accessing the funds requires tight conditions: full
agreement at a local level on the problems to be solved, the
accomplishment of a feasibility study (that has to be paid with local
funds) and co-financing.

Within the meeting in Bucharest, World Bank also presented a Decade
Trust Fund, which will grant financing for technical assistance and
training, as well as for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of
the action plans. World Bank’s main role within the Decade is to grant
loans and consultancy services to the local governments.

One of the few implementation initiatives of the Decade of Inclusion
whose budget is known for sure is the Roma Education Fund. Established
in December 2004, REF is enabled USD42 mn (money from various
financers), 5-6 million of which will be annually transferred to finance
the programs of improving the ethnic Roma’s education level. 
Author: DIVERS


GALATI – A couple of tens sanitary mediators for the ethnic Roma in
eight localities in Galati took part in a class organized by the Public
Health Department (DSP) and were trained on contraception issues. The
ethnic Roma women were trained on the contraception methods and were
brought to the family medics.

The action developed within the Campaign to Promote Contraception and
met participants of the ethnic Roma mediators in the eight localities in
Galati and volunteers of the Red Cross in high-schools “Sf.Maria”, “Emil
Racovita” and “Dimitrie Cuclin” in Galati. 
Author: DIVERS


ALBA IULIA – The so-called king of ethnic Roma in Romania, Florin
Cioaba, has publicly asked on November 22, during a press conference,
the ethnic Roma are included, next to the Jews, in the category of the
victims of the Holocaust. If not, the members of the ethnic are wiling
to resort to street protests. 
Florin Cioaba referred to the bill on the Holocaust and asked the Senate
and the Chamber of Deputies to include the ethnic Roma as victims of the
Holocaust in its final draft.

"People are always talking about the Jewish’ Holocaust and the ethnic
Roma are overlooked. I do not know if a Jew is worth much than an ethnic
Roma and vice-versa. We are all people (…). It is a matter of
discrimination not including the ethnic Roma among the victims of the
Holocaust. The Jews and the ethnic Roma suffered and died in those
extermination camps", said Cioaba.

He gave as example the period in which marshal Ion Antonescu had
enforced a plan targeting the ethnic Roma extermination, the period they
had been confiscated their possessions. Also, Florin Cioaba warned the
state authorities that in the event the ethnic Roma are left aside and
are not included in the new law on the victims of the Holocaust, the
members of the ethnic are wiling to get out in the street for protests
to claim their rights.

A month ago, president Traian Basescu resent the Parliament, for
re-examination, the Law on enacting Government E.O. no. 31/2002, on
banning the fascist, racist or xenophobic-like organizations and the
symbols, suggesting the definition of the Holocaust should include the
ethnic Roma minority. According to the release given by the Presidency,
article 2 letter.d) should enclose the ethnic Roma minority. Including
the ethnic Roma minority in the stipulations of the article is
"natural”, informs the cited document, despite of the different nature
of the sacrifice of this ethnics. This idea was backed up by several
international documents, including the Report of the International
Commission for Studying the Holocaust in Romania, established in 2003 at
the president’s initiative and designed as an independent research body,
beyond any political influences.

In the current draft of the normative act, the Holocaust is defined as
"the systematic state-sponsored persecution and the genocide of the
European Jews by the Nazi Germany, as well as by its allies and
collaborators during 1933-1945", also said the open letter addressed the
Author: DIVERS


The national minorities' status law risks destabilizing the ruling
coalition, as MEPs expressed concern over the rejection of the law by
the Senate and the consequences this may have for the EC's decisive
report in April.

“European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn exceeded his attributes
when he talked about the draft law on national minorities' status as
positive, without analyzing whether the project is constitutional”,
according to the head of the National Initiative Party, Cozmin Gusa. He
told a press conference last week that the European representative had
probably become the victim of "an extremely efficient external lobby" in
favor of the minorities' status law. The national minorities' status has
been widely debated by coalition leaders. The law stipulates cultural
autonomy, education in minorities' languages, and the right of
minorities to have representatives in the local and central leadership.

Gusa said he had sent a copy of the National Initiative Party's report
on the national minorities' status law to the head of the European
Commission's Delegation to Romania, Jonathan Scheele, and another copy
to Rehn. "If Mr. Rehn wants to give an opinion on this matter, we will
place the report at his disposal and show him the unconstitutionality of
this draft law, said Gusa.

In Gusa's opinion, the project cannot become a criteria for Romania's EU
accession, as Hungarian MEP Kinga Gal had suggested. According to Gusa,
Gal also exceeded her duties when she had requested that the European
Parliament consider the national minorities' law as a political criteria
for EU entry. The minorities' status law is strongly backed by the
Hungarian Democratic Alliance (UDMR), a member of the ruling coalition.
The project was rejected by the Senate, given that several members of
the ruling coalition, mostly Democrats, voted against it.

The issue stirred concerns in the European Parliament, according to
Liberal observers in the institution. "If we don't solve the minorities'
status problem by the end of February, we will have problems in April
next year," when the European Commission's report is due”, said Liberal
lawmaker Mircea Cosea. He added that many MPs from various countries had
referred to this issue in their discussions about Romania. "After the
minorities' status law was slammed in Senate, the next day I attended
the EP's meeting in Strasbourg and a Hungarian deputy told the session
everything that had happened in our country about the status law,"
explained Cosea, adding that this is considered a vital issue in

The minorities' status law was also discussed in a joint Romania-EU
committee. Parliamentary sources said Gal and UDMR Senator Peter
Eckstein Kovacs asked the committee to adopt an amendment which would
force the government to enforce the minorities' law without eliminating
the concept of "cultural autonomy." Meanwhile, UDMR leader Marko Bela
said that if the draft law on national minorities' status is not passed,
the "entire ruling coalition will have to be revised." Marko said he
believed "some" are trying to force the Hungarian Democratic Alliance
out of the coalition by rejecting the minorities' status law.

"I couldn't conceive this situation as a unilateral problem of the UDMR,
it's a problem of the whole coalition, because this law is a project of
the coalition, and if the project is not adopted, that means the
coalition does not work," said Marko.

He also referred to Rehn's statement expressing disappointment over the
rejection of the national minorities' status law by the Senate. "This
statement will help us because it proves that the EU is paying
attention, including over what happens about minorities' rights," said
the UDMR leader. Marko also criticized the "ultranationalist rhetoric"
used by some "pocket parties" in relation to the minorities' status law,
saying it proves that interethnic collaboration and dialogue depends a
great deal on "the will of the political class."
"There is political will to move on, but, given that it's a delicate
issue, I notice that the opposition's attacks are mainly designed to
crack the coalition's solidarity; they're trying to break the
coalition," said Marko. Last week, Prime Minister Calin Popescu
Tariceanu said he was confident the national minorities' status law
would not endanger the stability of the ruling coalition.

The Hungarian Democratic Alliance (UDMR) developed the draft law on
national minorities and is one of its strongest supporters, claiming it
is the only means to obtain cultural autonomy and the guarantee of
religious freedom.

- The law has special provisions designed to prevent further
discriminatory acts or nationalist attitudes against any national
- Under special provisions of the new law, local authorities have the
duty to take into consideration and work closely with minorities living
in their region. - The law guarantees the right to cultural autonomy and
minorities' right to religious freedom, as a defining trait of each
group of minorities.
- It includes a provision saying that the state must guarantee
minorities' right to freedom of expression. Thus, any law or draft which
might limit use of the minorities' mother tongue is forbidden.
- Under the draft law, counties' territorial borders cannot be altered
if the changes could affect minorities living in those areas. This
article might eliminate injustice caused to minorities during elections.
Author: DIVERS


SFINTU GHEORGHE – Hungarian Civic Union (UCM), a organization which
opposes main party of ethnic Hungarians in Romania UDMR, started on
November 20 the official campaign to gather the signatures for its
registration as a political party, the president of the Union saying
that from the point of view of "minority of another minority", this is a
difficult but not an impossible mission. "It is hard to build a
political alternative as minority of another minority, but we keep
trying", said UCM president, Szasz Jeno, attending a civic forum for
starting the campaign to gather signatures. 

“The Hungarian Civic Union faces two challenges: to constantly criticize
UDMR and to create a political alternative for the Hungarian community”,
said Szasz. UCM leader stressed out that UCM has already been twice
hindered to take part in the elections, which caused internal conflicts.
“UCM has members who have not represented the interests of the Union but
served other people. The Union had and still has members aiming to bring
the UCM back to UDMR, as a platform, but they have not succeeded in
their attempt”, stated Szasz.
On his turn, UCM Covasna president Gazda Zoltan stated that once with
starting gathering signatures, it begins "a decisive process that could
bring about political benefits among the ethnic Hungarian community in
Transylvania”. The local organizations of UCM Covasna gathered on
Saturday evening the first signatures to support the founding members
for establishing and registering the Hungarian Civic Party. Most of the
about one hundred people in Covasna attending the public demonstration
signed in favour of establishing the Hungarian Civic Party.

UCM Odorheiu Secuiesc has already started for a week now, to gather
signatures for registering the Union as a political party, which caused
the dissatisfaction of the leaders of the organization in Sfintu
Gheorghe, who claims the action should have been started at the same
time by all the local organizations.

The new party is an alternative to UDMR, mainly targeting the autonomy
and the establishment of an autonomous institutional system in
Transylvania. In order to register for taking part in the parliamentary
elections, the Hungarian Civic Union must gather at least 25,000
signatures in 18 counties, plus Bucharest. 
Author: DIVERS

DIVERS - News bulletin about ethnic minorities living in Romania is
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