Roma representatives from 5 countries work to promote Roma rights

By • on May 14, 2013

Roma parliamentary representatives from Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia have signed a declaration about a collaboration on the enforcement of Roma rights at a national and local level. 

Roma parliamentary representatives from neighboring countries joined in an inter-parliamentary organization which will work on the improvement of the Roma situation at the local level. Roma members of parliament from Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia have took on the challenge to tackle the problems of local Roma communities and advance their rights. The first official assembly of this group was organized by the Serbian Parliament. On this occasion, the representatives signed a declaration that establishes an inter-parliamentary group for protection of Roma rights.

This organization will collaborate with the governments of the countries that signed the declaration, and will also cooperate with international organizations such as EU, OSCE and UN.

Apart from this agenda, this group will also promote the International Day of Roma, 8 April, and Romani language Day, 5 November.

During the official meeting in Belgrade, Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, president of the National Assembly of Serbia Nebojsa Stefanovic, as well as the USA, Germany and UK ambassadors shared their support for the initiative.

Representatives of Serbian governmental institutions highlighted the fact that the work done for Serbian Roma has given great results so far, and that their country has embraced the affirmation of minority rights.

I am glad about this initiative, which, in spite of being new, could turn into a key factor in helping democratic institutions solve Roma issues through a lucrative partnership. Serbian Roma fully enjoy their citizen rights, a fact made obvious through this meeting taking place in Serbia’s house of democracy,” added Nikolic.

From the declarations coming from representatives of the 5 countries, we could deduce that Roma enjoy the same rights as the majority. However, EU reports show the exactly opposite situation for its southern and central European member countries, as well as for other countries that currently have a candidate status. Despite warnings issued by the EU towards local authorities, the Roma living in the region still face poverty and discrimination coming from non-Roma, and continue to be refused entry into the EU on the grounds that they are asylum seekers.

We can conclude that, on one hand, in all 5 countries mentioned before, Roma rights are declaratively, formally and publicly guaranteed. However, EU reports are saying the complete opposite for EU member countries, and are stressing that Roma issues are vital for the integration of EU candidate countries. Still, the main problem that Roma face is poverty, as well as discrimination coming from the non-Roma. Even more, a lot of Roma are constantly sent back from the borders of the EU because they are seen as asylum seekers.

This is why the Decade of Roma Inclusion, which started in 2005, made Roma inclusion into society its main goal. Eight years after the start of the Decade, little change happened in the countries taking part in this program, as shown by reports on its implementation.

It’s already 2013, and we should probably put an end to the fantasy that the Decade will put an end to all Roma problems. On the other hand, the work of the recently established inter-parliamentary group might have higher chances of bringing change, given that, in its case, Roma issues are discussed at a lower level by people who are truly familiar with the topic.