MINELRES: Bulletin DIVERS on Ethnic Minorities no. 43 (239) / November 27, 2006

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Divers Bulletin no. 43 (239) / November 27, 2006



Romania and Hungary try to speak the same tongue. The two countries
settled tighter relationships in the past two years especially following
the second joint government session developed last week in Budapest. In
addition to the signing of various economic agreements, Bucharest and
Budapest agreed upon the development of a manual of history. The law on
minorities and especially the issue of autonomy for the ethnic
Hungarians in Transylvania, has not yet been agreed upon.

The members of the Government of Romania and of Hungary met on November
16, in Budapest, in a joint session, with Romanian Prime Minister Calin
Popescu Tariceanu and his Hungarian counterpart, Ferenc Gyurcsany,
respectively, chairing the meeting.
"Romania and Hungary set an example in this region for the way they
overcome historic issues, proving they are two European-like countries,"
Tariceanu said. In turn, Gyurcsany stressed the idea of historic
reconciliation between the two countries. "Cooperation must prevail over
historic conflicts. Any disagreement could be settled. It is hard to
settle a balance between all aims, but it is good to cooperate." 
During the meeting, Romania's vice-Premier Marko Bela stressed the
necessity of autonomy for the Hungarian minority. Marko, who is of
Hungarian origin, believes Bucharest and Budapest's biggest mistake is
to believe that progress achieved by the two countries is irreversible,
stressing upon the fact the biggest problem is the mentality of the two
On his part, Tariceanu pointed out the territorial autonomy goes beyond
the constitutional framework and that Romania's unity could not be
questioned; the authorities in Bucharest envisaging an ethnic-based
"I clearly set my point of view on the autonomy of the Szeckler's County
(a region in central Romania, where most of the population is of
Hungarian origin). The local autonomy is a widely embraced concept at
the Government level and I strongly support it. Government measures are
constantly increasing local autonomy but we do not take into account an
ethnic-based autonomy. All geographical areas in Romania benefit from
the same degree of autonomy," Tariceanu said. 
In related development, both Romania and Hungary decided to set up a
group of historians who will issue a joint history volume. The Academies
of the two countries will coordinate the historians' activity.
The detailed structure of the volume will be presented in 2010. The
creation of this joint history volume will be the basis for a future
joint history manual.
The Government in Bucharest stipulated that a similar initiative was
first achieved by France and Germany, which issued a book covering the
modern history of the two countries that will be published in 2006. 
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

ARAD - Romania's minister of Foreign Affairs Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu said
Friday, November 17, that ethnic minorities in Hungary should be
represented in the Parliament in Budapest. Some flaws in Hungary's
legislation triggered the so called “ethnic-business" phenomenon, with
people assuming a false ethnic identity in order to get support from the
"We are not pleased with the fact the ethnic minorities in Hungary are
not represented in the Parliament. This was a constant issue of any
bilateral dialogue and we were promised it will be solved through a new
normative act the Hungarian government is working on," Ungureanu said. 
He also said the Romanian authorities have never agreed with the
“ethnic-business" phenomenon in Hungary, which leads to the
establishment of certain organizations of ethnic Hungarian citizens who
declare themselves Romanians in order to benefit from the funds meant
for the Romanian minority. 
Ungureanu also pointed out this issue could be solved through the
legislative amendments made by Hungarian authorities or through the
establishment of the Law on the Romanians everywhere. "This law
describes the criteria by which an individual belongs to the Romanian
ethnics," Ungureanu said. 
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

BUCHAREST - Romania's Government approved Wednesday, November 22nd, new
support funds for 93 institutions teaching in Hungarian tongue or to
joint institutions in Transylvania. The funds assigned from the
government reserve could be used to modernize schools and kindergartens.
Thus, schools and kindergartens in the rural environment as well as
cities and towns in counties Arad, Bihor, Bistrita-Nasaud, Cluj,
Covasna, Harghita, Maramures, Mures, Satu Mare, Salaj, Timis, received
large sums of money. 
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

SUCEAVA - The Prefect of Suceava, eastern Romania, Orest Onofrei, said
Tuesday, November 21, the rights of the Ukrainian minority are observed
at the county level. The prefect's statement is based on the conclusion
of a report drawn up by the joint Romanian-Ukrainian commission, which
monitored the Ukrainian minority in Suceava county. 
The only irregularity is the lack of bilingual signs, in Romanian and
Ukrainian, in Vascauti village. This notice is not fair because not even
signs in Romanian tongue exist in Vascauti, as they are being stolen.
The joint monitoring team was made up of officials in Romania and
Ukraine, experts with the Council of Europe and Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, as well as by
representatives of administrative institutions. 
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

LUDUS - Over 75 ethnic Roma, Hungarian and Romanian citizens took part
on November 18th, Ludus, Mures county, in the training sessions
organized by Foundation Freedom House Romania and Balkan Investigative
Reporting Network, on the issue of inter-ethnic communication. 
The courses targeted the medics and teachers, the servants and the staff
with the Police and Gendarmerie in Mures county, assigned to Ludus area
and Hadareni community, where a large number of Roma people are living.
The training was attended by 32 persons, employees with Mures
Gendarmerie and Ludus Police. The chief commissary Silviu Erusencu, with
the National Agency to fight Human Trafficking within the Defense
Ministry, held the course. This course focused on information to fight
and manage conflict situations. In order to increase the efficiency of
the course, the training was attended by people actually working in
field positions as well as decision-making persons. Silviu Erusencu
believes this is the solution to preventing decision-making deadlocks.
Mariana Buceau held the course for medical staff, which gathered 10
family medics in Ludus area, who registered on their lists a large
number of ethnic patients, and five medical nurses and sanitary
mediators. It included information about inter-ethnic communication and
modalities for an efficient relationship between the medical and ethnic
Roma patients. 
The third course targeted teachers working with ethnic Roma pupils,
namely teachers with the General School in Hadareni as well as with
schools and high schools in Ludus. Servants with the Ludus public
administration also took part in the course. 
Two trainers, namely Maria Korek, program director with the regional
branch of the NGO, Project on Ethnic Relations, and Elisabeta Danciu, an
ethnic Roma teacher in Caransebes, held an interactive meeting. The
meeting explained the ethnic Roma specific, traditions, social behavior,
and values, as well as about efficient means to reach out to ethnic Roma
pupils. The training session organized by the foundation, Freedom House
Romania, and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network is part of the
Program for communitarian development in Hadareni, managed by the
Government of Romania through the National Agency for Ethnic Roma.
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

According to official estimates, the Roma population account for about
2.5% of the country's population, and the actual number could be much
higher. They also are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Romania,
with 74% in poverty. As the country prepares to join the EU, efforts are
under way to better the quality of their lives, writes . Paul Ciocoiu
for Southeast European Times. 

Europe is home to at least eight million Roma, of whom six million live
in Central and Eastern Europe. The last census, in 2002, revealed that
Romania had a stable Roma population of 535,140 -- amounting to 2.5% of
the country's population -- but unofficial estimates run as high as 2.5
Experts in Roma history agree that the population hails from India and
probably left there no later than the 10th century. However, it remains
very difficult to establish precisely when they settled down on Romanian
The first documented evidence of Roma in Romania dates back to 1374,
when Dan the 1st ( a King?) offered to the Vodita monastery 40 Roma as
slaves. That was a status they then had for centuries. In 1424,
Transylvania's Roma were led by a voivode (ruler) as the Constitution
stipulated, but that provision was scrapped in 1588 by the provincial
In 1785, Austrian Emperor Joseph II abolished slavery in Transylvania.
Four years later, the first Roma were accepted in the province's schools
and churches. Things were different in the other two Romanian provinces,
Moldova and Walachia, which were still under Ottoman sovereignty and
opposed to the modern ideas of the West. It was only in 1855 and 1856,
respectively, that the two provinces abolished slavery entirely, under
pressure from writers and intellectuals. 
Centuries of slavery were followed by persecutions and deportations
during the pro-Nazi regime of Ion Antonescu in the Second World War.
Nearly 38,000 Romanian Roma died in the Holocaust, according to figures
advanced by the Romanian War Crimes Committee.
The subsequent communist dictatorship then forcibly displaced whole Roma
communities and confiscated their assets in pursuing its objective of
creating a homogenous Romanian society. For half a century, communism
had tried to conceal these problems while fostering the illusion of
utopia. With the fall of communism and the beginning of the transition
period, however, social tensions erupted, and fires of conflict were
fanned by the burgeoning Romanian media. In 1991, a Roma villager in
Bolintin Deal, a settlement near Bucharest, killed a Romanian. The
murder aroused the Romanian community in the village, who responded by
setting fire to Roma houses. Two years later, on September 23rd 1993,
three Roma people were killed in Hadareni, Mures County, by angry
villagers. One of the persons killed had earlier stabbed a Romanian. His
crime brought a collective punishment -- 14 houses of the Roma community
were burned down and 175 Roma who had lived in Hadareni for nearly 70
years were ousted from the village. 
Between 1990 and 1993, at least eight Roma were killed and many others
seriously wounded during outburst of collective violence, according to a
report released by the European Center for Roma Rights. There have also
been frequent instances of abuse of Roma at the hands of police. As with
crimes of private violence, such occurrences frequently go unpunished
and sometimes are not even properly investigated. 
Racist statements have been made by the Romanian leader of an extremist
opposition party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. According to an OSCE report, he
reportedly announced in August 1998 a ten-point program which included
"isolating the Roma criminals in special colonies" in order to "stop the
transformation of Romania into a Gypsy camp". 
The government, meanwhile, has become increasingly aware of the need to
promote and apply a strategy for the Roma minority. In February 1997,
the government founded the National Roma Office as part of the National
Minorities Department. In October 2004, the office was transformed into
the National Roma Agency, led by a president with the rank of state
In 2001, the government adopted a national strategy for bettering the
quality of life for the Roma. It defines priorities across ten major
fields of activity, including social security, health, justice,
education, communication and civic involvement. A 7.6m-euro PHARE
project meant to support this strategy was finalized in April 2006. In
addition, the Romanian General Inspectorate of Police has launched a
program aimed at improving relations between the police and the Roma
community, and to enhance the police's capacity to respond effectively
in situations of tension between Roma and non-Roma communities. The
program was developed with the help of the Project on Ethnic Relations
and the Department of Justice Administration at the University of
Louisville. In July 2003, in Budapest, the leaders of eight Central and
Eastern European states agreed to launch the "Decade of Roma Inclusion
2005-2015", a project initiated by the World Bank and the Open Society
Institute. Its primary objectives are the elimination of discrimination
and poverty among this community.
Romania held the presidency of the program for a year, between July 2005
and July 2006. 
In July 2006, the World Bank agreed to loan Romania 58.5m for a social
inclusion project. Its beneficiaries include some of the most
disadvantaged groups in the country -- the Roma minority, children at
high risk and/or coming out of child care institutions, persons with
disabilities, and victims of domestic violence. The project was
developed under the new Country Partnership Strategy principles,
intended to help Romania meet its commitments in the Joint Inclusion
Memorandum signed with the European Commission. 
In less than two months, Romania will join the EU. The time is ripe for
addressing social sector issues, in order that the benefits of reform
and EU accession can be brought to society's most vulnerable segments.
With 74% living in poverty, an infant mortality rate four times higher
than the country's average and a formal employment rate of 13%, the Roma
are particularly at risk. The last census, conducted in 2002, revealed
that a quarter of Roma are illiterate. Unwilling to renounce their
traditions that they have observed for hundreds years, including the
custom of marrying children at an early age, the Roma are often at odds
with the authorities and the law. 
Minority Watch, based in London, suggests Romania and Bulgaria should
use part of their regional development funds to improve life for the
Roma population. Unless a sustained effort is made, improvements will
only be short-term. And that is something neither country can afford. 
Author: DIVERS - http://www.divers.ro/

DIVERS - News bulletin about ethnic minorities living in Romania is
edited every week by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, with the
financial support of King Baudouin Foundation, Belgium and Ethnocultural
Diversity Resource Center. Partial or full reproduction of the
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