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The Roma: a Minority in Europe

 | 
Roni Stauber
, 
Raphael Vago

Human Rights and Roma Policy Formation in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland

Eva Sobotka

Texte intégral

Where after all, do universal human rights begin? …

  • 1 Eleanor Roosevelt, “Where After All, Do Universal Human Rights Begin?” quoted in Sondra Myers, The (...)

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.1

INTRODUCTION

  • 2 ‘International society’ is a term used to describe actors in international politics. The English S (...)

1The application of a human rights objective to the formation of Roma policy in the 1990s changed the approach of Central and East European (CEE) governments to the Roma. International organizations (IGOs), such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU) became the main arenas for drawing the attention of international society2 to the situation of the Roma in Europe. Initially, in the early 1990s, the OSCE and the Council of Europe classified the Romani issue as a security concern (crime prevention, population regulation, assimilation); later in the 1990s it was reformulated as a subject of human rights policy. In response, the CEE states, influenced by the principle of minority rights, non-discrimination and addressing socioeconomic inequalities, adopted Roma policies as defined at the transnational level by the OSCE, CoE and EU.

  • 3 Eva Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms: Issue-Actors, Roma and the State,” unpublished Ph.D. (...)
  • 4 http://www.osi.hu
  • 5 P. Vermeersch, “European Integration and the International Romani Movement,” in E. Sobotka (ed.), (...)
  • 6 The CFR-CDF was set up by the European Commission upon request of the European Parliament in Septe (...)
  • 7 CFR–CDF, Report on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union in 2003 (Jan. 2004), (...)

2Although the EU accession process has helped keep the CEE governments focused on the issue of Roma, the EU has built only on the terminology and concepts developed within the CoE and the OSCE.3 Nevertheless, some recent initiatives have further shaped this approach within the enlarged EU. The “Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005–2015)” proposed by the Soros Foundation,4 the World Bank and the EU, encourages states to address inequality of Roma in the sphere of education, employment, housing and health. A conference on “Roma in an Enlarged Europe,” organized by the European Commission’s Directorate on Enlargement and the Directorate on Employment and Social Affairs, in April 2004, demonstrated that the Roma topic has attracted the attention of executive bodies of the EU,5 while the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights (CFR–CDF)6 proposed adopting a “directive specifically aimed at encouraging the integration of Roma.”7

3This essay analyzes the development of policies toward Roma in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland; it distinguishes between ‘human rights policy’ and ‘human rights politics,’ and explains the influence of international politics on change in Roma policy making at the state level.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND ROMA

  • 8 Richard Rorty, Truth and Moral Progress: Philosophical Papers (Cambridge University Press, 1998), (...)
  • 9 Jack Donnelly, “Human Rights, Globalizing Flows and State Power,” in Alison Brysk (ed.), Globaliza (...)
  • 10 Shlomo Avineri, “The Paradox of Religion and the Universality of Human Rights,” unpublished confer (...)

4Human rights are linked to a great extent to progress of human kind. Progress, as Richard Rorty remarked, is “an increase in our ability to see more and more differences among people as morally irrelevant.”8 Progress might be a contested concept, but we make progress to the degree that we act upon the moral intuition that our species is one, and that each of the individuals who composes it is entitled to equal moral consideration. Since the principle of equality has been rejected in some cultural contexts as Western and European,9 some experts have sought a common, irrefutable denominator of equality among people, arguing that regardless of cultural differences, equality stems simply from the fact that each human being has one mother and one father.10

  • 11 Michael Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 34
  • 12 Ibid.

5If we examine the historical records we find that minorities in the past typically justified their claims, not with an appeal to human rights or equality but to the generosity of rulers to accord ‘privileges,’ often in return for past loyalty and services.11 Today, by contrast, groups have a powerful sense of entitlement to equality as a basic human right, not as a favor or act of charity, and are impatient with what they perceive as lingering manifestations of a traditional hierarchical system.12

  • 13 The name Roma (pl.) (Rom, sing., Romani, adj.) is neutral and politically correct. It is an endony (...)
  • 14 Five congresses of the International Romani Union (IRU), an NGO uniting mostly Lovara Roma, have t (...)
  • 15 In 1961 European Roma asked the UN to sponsor a separate Romani state, to be called Romanestan, at (...)
  • 16 While Roma focused their lobbying efforts also on the EU, and the European Commission in particula (...)
  • 17 European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a public law interest organization, advocating the human right (...)

6Since the collapse of the communist regimes, Roma in Central and Eastern Europe have increasingly benefited from human rights advocacy and instruments.13 Efforts to alert world public opinion, both at the national and international level,14 to the situation of Roma in Europe date back to the 1970s.15 However, real human rights work on behalf of the Roma began only during the 1990s and focused on lobbying transnational inter-governmental organizations such as the UN, the OSCE, the CoE and the EU.16 Consequently, a political construct of ‘Roma rights’ was formed as a result of international human rights advocacy, supported since the mid-1990s by the Soros and Carnegie Foundations, and earlier by the German Marshal Fund.17 Within international organizations, Romani activists relied on the support of influential states, for example, the US within the OSCE, Finland, Hungary and Malta within the CoE, and during the 1960s and 70s, India and former Yugoslavia within the UN.

BETWEEN HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLITICS?18

  • 18 I use the distinction between human rights politics and policy presented by Dimitrina Petrova in h (...)
  • 19 Ibid.
  • 20 Thomas R. Dye, Understanding Public Policy (Englewood Cliffs, 1972), p. 2.

7Two approaches to Romani affairs were employed in international politics during the 1990s: human rights policy and human rights politics. ‘Human rights policy’ is an approach best defined as a lens through which we examine a given social, political, cultural or other issue and provide a rights-based policy using, explicitly or implicitly, human rights law as a reference.19 For example, a human rights policy position may be found in a variety of areas, such as school desegregation, race statistics, migration, police violence, access to justice and self-determination. This tactic may compete with policies that are not rights-based but that accord with other sets of priorities such as economic efficiency, security, conflict management or local custom. A decision to do nothing is as much a policy as a decision to do something. Thomas Dye offers a particularly succinct definition of public policy, describing it as ‘anything a government chooses to do or not to do.’20

  • 21 Petrova, “Social and Economic Dimension of Universal Rights,” author’s notes; Stanley Cohen, Denia (...)

8‘Human rights policy’ is the opposite of ‘human rights politics’. In the latter, we analyze issues from a specific perspective from that of the role they play in the world. Human rights politics is located outside the human rights paradigm or discourse and may be conducted by states as well as by non-state actors.21 States, for example, may step out of the human rights discourse in order to view human rights from an external security perspective. More precisely, in human rights politics actors seek to explore the political functioning of human rights—how human rights work, in whose favor or against whom, and how efficiently. Ultimately, and more precisely, human rights politics is about the relation of human rights to power.

  • 22 Erika Schlager, “A Hard Look at Compliance with ‘Soft’ Law: The Case of the OSCE,” in Dinah Shelto (...)
  • 23 Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 380.
  • 24 Ibid.
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 As established in the Vienna Concluding Document of 1989, the Vienna mechanism allows the particip (...)

9In 1975, the US cooperated with other member states of the OSCE, using human rights politics (criticism) to achieve change in the former communist bloc. The US suggested releasing political prisoners in the Soviet Union in exchange for reducing the number of US weapons.22 During the 1990s the US continued to address its security concerns from a human rights perspective, using the OSCE as a multilateral mechanism for instituting a change in norms.23 The US feared a possible reversal of democratic reforms in CEE due to the social-economic demise of many communities (Roma included) and inter-ethnic violence between Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania (used by Romani agitators to create a parallel with the situation of the one million Romani minority in Romania in order to keep US attention on the issue).24 At an OSCE meeting in Copenhagen in the early 1990s, the US took every opportunity to shape future OSCE organizational structure and policy by inculcating a human rights point of view.25 Hence, US foreign policy vis-àvis Europe, and especially vis-à-vis post-communist Europe, employed human rights politics in connection with various issues (such as property restitution, citizenship issues, freedom of speech), and with Roma policy in particular. Explicit concerns on the situation of Roma were raised initially in the concluding document of the Human Dimension meeting in Copenhagen, 29 June 1990.26 Paragraph 40 of the Copenhagen document reads:

  • 27 OSCE Human Dimension Commitments, A Reference Guide, OSCE/ODIHR, 2001, p. 104

The participating States clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone as well as persecution on religious and ideological grounds. In this context, they also recognize the particular problems of Roma (Gypsies).27

10Within the framework of discussion of issues of national minorities, the OSCE member states again reaffirmed their concern with the situation of Roma in a Report of the CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities in Geneva in 1991. Chapter VI, paragraphs 1 and 2 read:

  • 28 Ibid.

The participating States, concerned by the proliferation of acts of racial, ethnic and religious hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination, stress their determination to condemn, on a continuing basis, such acts against anyone.
In this context, they reaffirm their recognition of the particular problems of Roma (Gypsies). They are ready to undertake effective measures in order to achieve full equality of opportunity between persons belonging to Roma ordinarily resident in their State and the rest of the resident population. They will also encourage research and studies regarding Roma and the particular problems they face.28

11At the next Human Dimension conference, which took place in Moscow, 3 October 1991, it was concluded that:

  • 29 Ibid.

[State parties] recognize that effective human rights education contributes to combating intolerance, religious, racial and ethnic prejudice and hatred, including against Roma, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.29

12The first affirmation of programs for improving the situation of Roma came one year later, during the Summit meeting in Helsinki. The Helsinki Declaration of 10 July 1992 states:

  • 30 Ibid.

[The Participating States] will consider developing programs to create the conditions for promoting non-discrimination and cross-cultural understanding, which will focus on human rights education, grass-roots action, cross-cultural understanding and research. Reaffirm, in this context, the need to develop appropriate programmes addressing problems of their respective nationals belonging to Roma and other groups traditionally identified as Gypsies and to create conditions for them to have equal opportunities to participate fully in the life of society, and will consider how to co-operate to this end.30

13At the next OSCE summit in Budapest in December 1994, a decision was made to create an office within ODIHR (OSCE’S Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) that would deal with the issue of Roma and Sinti and, more importantly to bind this decision to a commitment to provide sufficient resources. The Concluding Document, dated 6 December 1994, reads:

  • 31 Ibid., p. 283

The participating States decide to appoint within the ODIHR a contact point for Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) issues. The ODIHR will be tasked to: act as a clearing-house for the exchange of information on the implementation of commitments pertaining to Roma and Sinti (Gypsies); facilitate contacts on Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) issues between participating States, international organizations and institutions and NGOs; maintain and develop contact on these issues between CSCE institutions and other international organizations and institutions. To fulfill this task, the ODIHR will make full use of existing resources. In this context they welcome the announcement made by some Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) organizations of their intention to make voluntary contributions. The participating States welcome the activities related to Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) issues in other international organizations and institutions, in particular those undertaken in the Council of Europe31.

  • 32 Eva Sobotka, “Romani Migration in the 1990s: Perspectives on Dynamic, Interpretation and Policy,” (...)

14Similarly, West European states began to view the Romani issue as a security concern in the early 1990s, due to the perceived vast Romani migration from east to west.32 Within the CoE, the issue was first addressed in the European Committee on Migration (CDMG).

  • 33 Romani agitators admit that they have exploited US concern over the return of communism in Romania (...)
  • 34 The European, 27-29 July 1990; Stuttgarter Zeitung, 18 Aug. 1990; DPA, 9 Sept. 1992; Reuters 31 Oc (...)
  • 35 Margalit, Antigypsyism in the Political Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany, pp. 8–9; Sobot (...)

15However, in contrast to the US approach to the Roma, which was more concerned with the possibility of a return of communism, especially in Romania, European states, in particular, Germany, France and the UK, feared the challenge of Romani migration to their internal security.33 In Germany, Roma became targets of racially motivated attacks, which broke out shortly after they began arriving in east Germany in 1990, and culminated in the neo-Nazi firebombing of a hostel housing 200 Romanian Roma in Rostock, to the cheers of onlookers, on 22 August 1992.34 Some east German political parties were actively involved in inciting hatred against asylum seekers and migrants, and called for pro-active solutions to the Asylantenproblem (problem of asylum seekers).35

16Consequently, security concerns of states led to human rights politics becoming a part of their foreign policy which, de facto, took the form of calls and pressure to improve the human rights situation of Roma in CEE. It is at this point that the analysis of human rights policy toward Roma in CEE began.

  • 36 Romani ‘agitators,’ both Roma and non-Roma, agitate for human rights related issues on behalf of t (...)
  • 37 In recent years, non-binding instruments have sometimes provided the necessary statement of legal (...)

17To gain attention, Romani ‘agitators’36 advanced powerful arguments about their situation, using international human rights organizations and their ability to draw on international ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ law37 to make relevant states comply with their international commitments.

  • 38 Sobotka, Mobilising International Norms, p. 32.

18A significant contribution to furthering the Romani issue in CEE has been made by transnational donors, in particular the German Marshall Fund, and the Carnegie and the Soros Foundations. These philanthropic organizations, which have taken an interest in supporting activities designed to encourage the transformation from communism to liberal democracy in the CEE states, have sought topics that would attract political attention, and understood that the situation of the Roma had the potential to become the primary civil rights issue of both the region and the decade.38

THE FIRST POST-COMMUNIST DECADE: A MIXED RECORD

  • 39 While in the 2002 Hungarian national election, four Romani candidates, Flórian Farkas, József Varg (...)

19The fall of communism in CEE created a window of opportunity for Roma to seek representation in political life; to protect and promote their language and culture; and to resume the development of their ethnic identity following the Nazi policy of annihilation and its suppression through assimilation policies under communism. Indeed, between 1990 and 1992, the three representative chambers in Czechoslovakia—the Federal Assembly, the Czech National Council and the Slovak National Council—saw the election of a total of eleven Romani representatives. Similarly, three Romani representatives, Tamás Peli, Aladár Horváth and Antónia Hága, were elected to the Hungarian parliament between 1990 and 1994.39 The rise of Roma representation in the CEE national parliaments in the early 1990s, has, so far, not been repeated; as of late 2004, there were four Romani MPs in the Hungarian parliament, and none in the Slovak, Czech or Polish parliaments.

20The integration of Roma and wider issues of equality and diversity became principal themes of the post-1989 transition decade in the CEE states. They have chosen different approaches to Roma policy, ranging from exclusion, through assimilation and coexistence to multiculturalism. Similarly, in regard to human rights violations, states have opted either to address domestic issues of racism and xenophobia or to deny them, despite international calls for improvement. State refutation has lasted for years rather then months. Hence, ‘multiculturalism’ in Roma policy making in the CEE must be understood as an ideal that most states have been approaching at a slow pace.

  • 40 Sobotka, Mobilizing International Norms, p. 55.
  • 41 Isabel Fonseca, “Bury Me Standing,” in Lidia Ostałowska, Cygan to Cygan (Warsaw, 2000), p. 20.
  • 42 Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Nationalism: An Interview with Isaiah Berlin,” The New York Review (...)
  • 43 Address by Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic at the Conference “Europe’s New Democraci (...)

21While creating numerous openings for representation and identitybuilding, the first post-communist decade also saw the flourishing of anti- Roma prejudice as well as the creation of new threats against Roma, most of which had lain entrenched in the region’s communist legacy and came to light through the conflict of identity of the majority populations in the transition states.40 In the post-communist era, Romani issues were commonly interpreted as a very recent development whose origins lay in the collapse of communism and the rise of nationalism and minority rights.41 Yet a few detected the misconception. Isaiah Berlin wrote in 1991, “In our modern age, nationalism is not resurgent; it never died.”42 Others stressed a rosier vision of post-communism: “When the curtain rose humanity suddenly found itself face-to-face with a truly multicultural and multi-polar world.”43

  • 44 Paul Hockenos. Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (London/New Yo (...)

22Many followers of neo-Nazi ideology emerged, some of whom formed skinhead groups and extreme nationalist parties, which targeted Roma (‘Gypsies’) as a scapegoat for the ills of society. Music bands performed songs whose lyrics referred to Roma in a racist manner.44 On 17 September 1991 the daily Los Angeles Times published a survey, which revealed that hostility to Roma was unrelated to religion or to economic or educational status:

  • 45 “World Report—Pulse Europe—Special Report,” Los Angeles Times, 17 Sept. 1991.

In Hungary, 5 out of 6 persons were hostile to Gypsies. Anti-Gypsy feeling was strongest in Czechoslovakia where it was about the only thing on which Slovaks and Czechs agreed; 13 out of 14 or 91 percent of both peoples said they disliked Gypsies. “People automatically consider a Gypsy a criminal,” admitted a Czech Institute manager. He said he knew that on weekends, “skinheads” seek out Gypsies, intending to kill them. “We, the whites, are very angry at Gypsies,” said a Slovak taxi dispatcher. “They are given flats, and I heard that they sold things out of them or had open fires right inside the flats… I hate them.”45

  • 46 Today, Roma are dispersed throughout all European countries with the exception of Iceland, Malta, (...)
  • 47 Arne Mann, Rómsky dejepis: Doplnkový učebný text pre vyučovanie dejepisu (Bratislava, 2000), p. 19

23In many CEE countries, Roma are reported to be the fastest growing ethnic group.46 For example, the 1992 Bulgarian census indicated that 23.2 percent of the Romani minority was under the age of nine, compared to 12 percent of the ethnic Bulgarian population. This high birth rate has generated a stream of sometimes speculative and alarmist news stories focusing on national demographic trends. In Slovakia, an article published in 2000 posited that, by the year 2060, the Roma would form a majority of the national population.47

24Roma have experienced an extraordinary wave of racially motivated violence, ranging from attacks by non-state actors such as mobs to confrontations by state organs such as the police. In Romania alone, after the fall of the Ceausescu regime, more than 30 Romani settlements were set alight during ‘pogroms’. On the day Romania joined the CoE, 20 September 1993, three Roma were killed, fourteen houses set on fire, and four destroyed in the village of Hadareni. The number of Roma in the various CEE states bears no relation to the outbreak of pogroms. Romania has the highest share of Roma in the population (11 percent) and the largest number of Roma among European countries, while Poland, with 0.1 percent of Roma in the total population, is at the other end of the spectrum. However, in Poland we know of seven major pogroms during the 1990s, resulting in deaths and emigration of Roma seeking asylum abroad. Moreover, nationalist and neo-Nazi groups in Poland glorified the attacks and expressed anger with what they perceived as “Jewish support for the filthy Gypsies.” The Polish National Front, for instance, displayed a poster entitled “Poles Wake Up!” in several Polish towns during the 1990s, with derogatory references to Roma:

  • 48 Ostałowska, Cygan to Cygan, p. 186; Limits of Solidarity: Roma in Poland since 1989 (Budapest: Eur (...)

… as usual our humanitarian and tolerant government does absolutely nothing to solve the [Gypsy] problem. In Romania it is similar, but there people themselves took affairs into their own hands. In our country, only the act in Mlawa [demolition of a few Gypsy burrows — sic] caused uncalled for anger in Jewish-liberal circles… Because the government does not deal with the Gypsies, the nation itself has to take affairs into its own hands. Enough of those poor bastards… Let them pack their dirty bags and get out of Poland forever. Poland belongs to Poles!48

25A new trend that followed the fall of communism and the subsequent amendment or rewriting of national legislation was the denial or revoking of Roma citizenship. This problem has occurred largely in newly independent states such as the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. When the Czechoslovak Federation dissolved on 1 January 1993, the Czech Republic implemented one of the most narrowly crafted citizenship laws of any of the 21 newly independent states. Thousands of Roma who had been long-term or life-long residents of the Czech lands—former Czechoslovak citizens—were left stateless and told to go to Slovakia.

  • 49 In the early 1990s in the former Czechoslovakia, many policy issues, including human rights, were (...)
  • 50 Mladá Fronta Dnes, 22 July 1992.

26What preceded adoption of the Law on Citizenship in the Czech Republic well illustrates the perversities of Czech policy toward Roma at that time. On 22 July 1992 the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes published part of the government’s “‘catastrophic (black) scenario’ concerning information on economic relations between the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in the event that extraordinary measures will have to be adopted in connection with the possible break up of the Czechoslovak Federal Republic.”49 Part of the scenario, which deals with social affairs, contains clear references to “citizens of Romani nationality.” The government was preparing to apply the regulation concerning Czech citizenship as a tool for the transfer of Roma from the Czech Republic to Slovakia, citing their ethnicity as the selection criteria. The document reads: “This process [establishment of Czech citizenship after division of the federation] should be used… to move citizens of Romani nationality to Slovakia.”50

  • 51 Transcript of the 19th Session of the Czech Parliament, 29 Dec. 1992, p. 24.

27In addition, many local government officials grasped the opportunity to eject Romani inhabitants from municipal flats, and came up with proposals on how to restrict the selection process for municipal flats to Czech citizens. These included the necessity of a clean criminal record, limiting childsupport benefits and extending the eviction rights of municipal governments. In December 1992, in an attempt to “solve in a professional way the problem of some groups of inhabitants who are unable to behave,” the prosecutor-general of the Czech Republic submitted to the Czech Parliament a draft Law on Extraordinary Measures. The bill gave the local police the right to ‘monitor’ who was staying in an apartment at any time of the day, except between midnight and 6 am. It stated that it “would be applied only in those municipalities defined as threatened by migration.”51

  • 52 “What to Do about the Romany Migration,” Mladá Fronta Dnes, 15 Dec. 1992; Ivana Vajnerova and John (...)
  • 53 The Czech Law on citizenship saw several amendments during the 1990s. However, the 1993 Czech citi (...)

28While the press was busy reporting on the prosecutor-general’s legislative proposal,52 little attention was paid to the abovementioned Czech Citizenship Law, passed on 29 December 1992, with 155 votes for and 13 against. In 1999, the law was finally amended. Implementation of the new law, however, has been incomplete and some Roma in the Czech Republic have not yet benefited (see below).53

29De facto segregated education is another problem dating from the communist legacy. There are two variants of this problem: segregation that results from channeling Roma into special schools for the mentally handicapped, regardless of the lack of any real defect; and segregation which results from separate housing locations for the majority and the minority. Similarly, discrimination is practiced in public places, such as restaurants and swimming pools, as well as in the workplace.54

  • 55 The Limits of Solidarity: Roma in Poland Since 1989 (Budapest: European Roma Rights Center, 2002).
  • 56 Ibid.

30No general Roma policy was formulated in Poland until 2000. However, the post-1989 Polish Ministry of Education’s support for segregation of Romani children in ‘Gypsy classes,’ aimed at addressing the poor schooling results of Romani children in Małopolska province, was later adopted as state policy. Two experimental ‘Gypsy classes’ were followed by the establishment of others, after gaining the pedagogical and financial support of the Ministry of Education in Mielec, Tarnów, Czarny Dunajec, Nowy Sącz and a few other places.55 The ‘Gypsy classes’ have not only instituted segregation, but have a racially prejudiced and less ambitious curriculum, which purports primarily to teach Romani children elementary manners such as how to greet people and thank them. Although the original goal of this separation was to serve as ‘catch up’ classes, no child taught under this curriculum has ever returned to the normal schooling system.56

  • 57 Josef Kucio, “Interview with Nicolae Gheorghe,” Uncaptive Minds. Fight against Poverty and Social (...)
  • 58 Ibid.

31The concept of ‘Roma rights,’ at first rejected by all CEE governments, began to infiltrate domestic policy on Roma only after significant efforts by transnational organizations, human rights activists, governments, donors and, later, by a mushrooming number of NGOs. In addition, in some countries such as Romania, Romani activists chose not to work with political parties, preferring to focus on cooperation with human rights organizations.57 In Romania this was largely due to political exploitation of the Romani vote and to the indifferent reaction on the part of the mainstream political parties to the pogroms which spread throughout Romania immediately after the fall of Ceauşescu.58

  • 59 Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 328.
  • 60 Copenhagen criteria are political criteria for membership in the European Union, defined by the Eu (...)
  • 61 At the OSI and World Bank conference, “Roma in an Expanding Europe,” Budapest, June 2003, a number (...)

32Until 1997, all CEE governments were hostile toward the concept of Roma rights, even hiding the NGOs’ human rights reports under the table at international conferences (Slovakia 1999) and putting the names of human rights activists working toward improving the situation of Roma on a ‘blacklist’ of people damaging the reputation of the state (Hungary 1998–2002, and to some extent the Czech Republic 1994–2002).59 Toward the turn of the century and especially the approach of accession to the EU, some states such as Hungary adopted the language of ‘Roma rights’ and began to proceed with implementation of specific Roma policies. These advances were made because of the political requirements of the Copenhagen criteria60 placed on EU accession countries by the European Commission and a wider international consensus on the need to address the grave socio-economic and human rights inequalities of Romani communities.61

  • 62 Havel, “Europe’s New Democracies.”

33In respect to Roma, we have witnessed a shift from governments defining the issue as ‘a Gypsy problem’ in the early 1990s and making an analogy with crime prevention and increasing internal security (police power, supremacy of municipalities) to ‘issues of the Roma community’ with implications for human rights policy and increasing considerations of diversity in state educational and employment policies. This has not been mere lip service on the part of governments but a real alteration in their understanding of who Roma are and what policies need to be developed. On a broader level, we have witnessed a change in the concept of security.62

ADDING LEGITIMACY: TRANSNATIONAL AGITATION FOR ROMA RIGHTS

34Consensus on what constitutes suitable Roma policy has been crystallizing internationally around the linkage between Roma and human rights politics. Consequently, policy elites in national governments and international institutions, as well as NGO activists, have increasingly recognized that efforts to promote membership in NATO and the EU are contingent on assuring some degree of human (Roma) rights protection. However, to conclude that a state becomes human rights conscious because it is worried about its reputation (e.g., membership in alliances, multilateral or bilateral relations) does not reflect the complexity of the situation.

35States such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland denied violation of human rights principles, proclaiming their commitment to international treaties. In response to calls by the international community to deal with infringement of Roma rights, these states have tended to claim that no article of international law was breeched and that advocacy groups invented these ‘violations’ or fundamentally misunderstood the situation of Roma. Such was the case of the 1993 Czech Citizenship Law, which made many Roma living in Czech lands for generations stateless; Slovakia’s firm refusal in the mid- 1990s to accept international criticism of increasing police and skinhead violence against Roma; and forced sterilization of Romani women.

36Similarly, in the many instances of discrimination against Roma, these states have resisted the arguments of human rights advocates who pointed out the precedence of international law over domestic legal provisions. They have argued that their own legal system has a different definition of discrimination from that presented by their critics. In addition, they reject examples from European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law on discrimination, although their domestic legislation does not, in most cases, provide remedies to plaintiffs.

  • 63 Developmental approach refers to the World Bank strategy of advancing the socio-economic situation (...)

37The power of human rights discourse has proved especially important in the process of norms change. Usage of human rights language by treaty-based bodies at the level of the UN and the CoE ultimately led to a shift in state thinking about Romani issues. There is no doubt that human rights advocates played a major role in this development. By generating and crafting language about Romani issues in their submissions to treaty-established bodies and human rights reports, they conceptualized the issue in a way that caused states to slowly move the focus of their approach to Roma away from social policy and ‘crime prevention’ toward a more human rights oriented policy. The ‘new’ human rights focus included three aspects: non-discrimination, minority rights and a developmental approach.63

38The dramatic shift in norms that took place from 1998 on ultimately led to redefinition of the problem and the object of policy. This transformation opened up possibilities for new voices by altering contexts and making new types of action possible, such as Roma rights campaigns, which seemed to emerge virtually out of nowhere. In the absence of any norms about Roma and/or discrimination, Roma claims concerning discrimination and racially motivated violence could not be heard. Once norms were developed stating that Roma had a right not to be harassed, the Romani claim could be regarded as legitimate. With norms about equality in place, marginalized actors or their advocates could harness the rhetoric of equality to make their case for different treatment and to call into question the ‘naturalness’ of dominant, racist and mostly unwritten norms.

39In order to become human rights policy, public policy had first to break away from the pre-1990 line, when the dominant means had been assimilation of Roma, either by coercive administrative measures or by milder methods such as ‘assimilation plus social integration’; and second, to firmly reject the discriminatory nature of policies immediately after the end of communism (such as the Czech Citizenship Law and segregated education), and the failure to adequately address the growing level of racially motivated violence.

40Before norms could be used instrumentally in Roma rights politics, possibilities for their use had to be created by:

  • Adding actors: It is essentially governments that define agendas and actions of human rights research, monitoring, reporting and even advocacy, by having/or not having a policy.
  • Adding meaning: Understanding rapid policy development requires seeing the political importance of meanings.
  • 64 Pavel Barša, “Ethnocultural Justice in Eastern European States and the Case of the Czech Roma,” in (...)

41Rejection of human rights politics in relation to Roma by their home countries led to development of human rights advocacy. Advocates, following the rules of the international system and reporting within the framework of treaty-based processes, have contributed to the development of new meaning(s) concerning Roma. Two leading factors caused a shift in meaning during the 1990s. First, Roma have been increasingly seen as a national minority. Some states have approached this new classification hesitantly, since they have never viewed and do not wish to view Roma as a national minority, arguing that because they lack distinctive characteristics Roma do not qualify as such. Thus, in the debates on ‘the special situation of Roma’ and ‘their unique status,’ governments tended to regard Roma as a ‘social stratum’ and/or an ‘ethnic group.’ The discussion in academic scholarship has focused on whether policies toward Roma should be drafted in reference to national/ ethnic minorities or to immigrants.64

42Second, the human rights concept, and especially the non-discrimination principle, has been increasingly applied in analyses and consequently in policy proposals on Roma. Shifts in terminology usage were first made by advocacy organizations lobbying for Roma rights and subsequently (ten years later) by CEE governments.

MECHANISMS OF NORMS CHANGE

43Two types of mechanisms in policy change have been utilized: human rights treaty-based processes under the UN and European Convention system and political processes under the OSCE, CoE and EU.

44The CoE’s 1953 European Convention is perhaps the most highly regarded international instrument in the field of human rights. It does not protect minority rights per se, but establishes a broad framework of fundamental rights of individuals. Article 14 of the Convention further provides that:

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secure without discrimination on any grounds such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

45In many ways the European Convention is similar to the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Unlike the latter, however, the European Convention established a court whose judges are drawn from the member states. The court has the authority to receive petitions from any person, NGO or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties. The court may also hear complaints brought by one state party against another. Significantly, the court is empowered to adjudicate such claims. In the event of violation of the convention, the court may issue a judgment, which may include an order to the violating party to pay damages to the plaintiff.

46The European system, to which Roma rights activists familiarly refer as “the beauty of Strasbourg,” has some major shortcomings. First, the European Convention is limited by the terms of its own text. Unlike the ICCPR, the European Convention prohibits discrimination only with respect to rights that are specifically included in the Convention itself. In other words, state parties to the European Convention may discriminate in regard to rights contained in their national constitutions or laws but not included in the European Convention. In an effort to close this gap, the CoE adopted Protocol 12 on 4 November 2000. This amendment to the Convention, which bears similarities to the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment or Article 26 of the ICCPR, provides that any right set forth by national law shall be secured without discrimination. It also prohibits discrimination by public authorities. Protocol 12 will come into force after ten countries have ratified it. As of late 2004, 27 of the CoE’s 43 member states had signed Protocol 12, but none had ratified it yet.

47In addition, the European Convention is limited by the types of remedies it may apply. Although the court can award damages, including significant monetary compensation, it does not have the power to strike down laws that violate the Convention and it cannot force or compel governments to change practices that systematically violate it. For example, in an ongoing court case that began in early 1999, Romani plaintiffs from Ostrava, the Czech Republic, alleged that the education system in the Czech Republic practiced de facto segregation on racial grounds. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs, it can award them damages, but has no power to order the overall desegregation of Czech schools. While some states have been willing to change laws or practices that could otherwise form the basis for repeated suits, others (notably Turkey) have been more reluctant to do so.

48Several other treaties are relevant to the protection of minorities: the ICCPR, mentioned above; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The two torture treaties are relevant in that minorities tend, disproportionately, to be victims of police brutality.

49These four treaties function in similar ways. First, they establish a committee of experts. Second, they establish an obligation for state parties to the treaty to report, at specified time intervals, to the committee on their compliance with it. In their review of state reports, as well as in their consideration of specific cases or situations, these bodies provide authoritative interpretations of treaty law. However, they neither adjudicate cases nor have the power to censure states.

50Generally speaking, the UN system does not play a very significant role in Europe, given that the enforcement machinery of the European Convention is much more effective than that established under the UN. Nevertheless, in light of the increase in human rights problems that Roma and other racial minorities have faced in Europe over the past decade, particularly in central and southern Europe, the UN Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are viewed by some NGOs as significant forums for bringing pressure to bear on key countries. The 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban (and the many preparatory events associated with it) served as a vehicle for several European non-governmental organizations to promote the Roma issue.

51Minority treaties also exist—namely, the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Neither treaty, however, specifies remedies in the event of violation.

52The Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues, established in 1994 and housed within the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the High Commissioner for National Minorities, with a seat in The Hague established in 1992, greatly influence policy making toward Roma. The CoE embraces the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and a number of policy discussion committees (such as family and social matters).

53The OSCE and the CoE serve as political mechanisms for the drafting of resolutions and declarations, the language being carefully selected and used to achieve particular objectives. Political processes have had the effect of shaping cognitive maps of Romani issues, and we can observe that while in the early 1990s the CoE concentrated more on fulfillment of minority rights, especially aspects such as language and culture, in the second half of the 1990s, the focus shifted toward lobbying for anti-discrimination provisions.

  • 65 ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 3: Combating Racism and Intolerance against Roma/Gypsies.

54ECRI, a political body for monitoring expressions of intolerance, racism, and discrimination in the member states, was established by a decision of the CoE on 9 October 1993. ECRI is mandated to consider all necessary measures to combat violence, discrimination and prejudice faced by persons or groups, on the grounds of race, color, language, religion, nationality and national or ethnic origin. ECRI issues country-by-country reports pertaining to these concerns. Prior to publication, the content is discussed confidentially with the relevant state, which has the right to block public release of the report. ECRI also draws up general policy recommendations addressed to the governments of all member states. In 1998, ECRI issued General Policy Recommendation No. 3: Combating Racism and Intolerance against Roma/Gypsies, noting that Roma/Gypsies suffer throughout Europe from persistent prejudice, are victims of a racism that is deeply-rooted in society and that these prejudices lead to discrimination against them in many fields of social and economic life, and are a major factor in their social exclusion.65

55The process of enlargement of the EU, by conditioning membership on the fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria, requiring stability in regard to minority and human rights, rule of law and institutions guaranteeing democracy, had a carrot and stick effect on accession states in improving Roma policy.

ROMA POLICY CHANGE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA AND POLAND

  • 66 Petrova, “Social and Economic Dimension of Universal Rights.”
  • 67 Ibid.
  • 68 Ibid.

56In CEE human rights evolved from being a utopia in the early 1990s to ideology at the end of the decade.66 Utopia and ideology are two types of cognitive bias: utopia is a vision that does not yet correspond to social reality, while ideology never corresponds to it completely. While utopia is realizable, in principle, as a transformation project, ideology cannot be ‘fulfilled,’ in principle. Ideologies may be former utopias that have ‘come to power,’ and therefore are no longer tools of radical social change.67 The move from utopia to ideology in Roma policy took place in two ways: a) mainstreaming of human rights—inclusion of human rights in various policies and projects, and b) mainstreaming of issues by articulating them in human rights terms.68 We have seen both, namely, Roma policy development and mainstreaming of Romani issues under the influence of human rights. Yet, as can be seen from analyzing the policy documents, the impact of the human rights discourse has not been fully integrated into the relevant states.

  • 69 “Report on the Situation of the Romani Community in the Czech Republic and Government Measures Ass (...)

57The Czech government adopted two framework policy documents: ‘The Report on the Situation of the Romani Community in the Czech Republic and Government Measures Assisting Its Integration into Society’ (hereafter Report), in 1997, and ‘The Concept of Government Policy toward Members of the Romani Community, Supporting Their Integration into Society’ (hereafter Concept), in 2001.69 While the Report has a socio-cultural perspective, the Concept specifies three approaches to Roma affairs: human rights, nationality, and the wider socio-cultural dimension. The practice of Roma policy implementation in the Czech Republic shows that the socio-cultural approach prevails. Needless to say, all activities within this approach, coordinated by the Council for Romani Community Affairs, have contributed to the overall improvement of the socio-cultural situation of Roma in the Czech Republic; however, they remain insufficient for the complete integration of Roma.

58Examining the structure of Roma policy drafting, it is noteworthy that it is administered entirely by an advisory body to the government, with a limited mandate. While a member of government chairs the council, this symbolic measure has little bearing on the fact that systemic, long-term integration of Roma will probably be carried out with the objective of improving their socioeconomic situation. Although two more bodies, the Council for Nationalities and the Council for Human Rights, deal with the rights discourse of Roma policy in the Czech Republic, they remain marginalized in the overall policy approach toward Roma in that country.

  • 70 Act on Rights of Members of National Minorities, No. 273/2001 (Minority Act). To date, there are c (...)

59In the Czech Republic, additional forms of representation of Roma have been developed as a result of the Act on Rights of Members of National Minorities, reinforced by its amendment (Act No. 273/2001), which guarantees members of national minorities the right to participate in cultural, social and economic life, especially with regard to matters concerning national minorities at the communal, regional and national levels (No. 6, Art. 1). This right is to be realized through the establishment of the Council for National Minorities and Committees for National Minorities at the regional and communal/ municipal levels (No. 6, Art. 2).70

  • 71 The amendment to the Minority Act reduced these thresholds, which had been defined in earlier legi (...)
  • 72 No research has been conducted yet on the effectiveness of the representation of national minoriti (...)

60The right to be represented in committees at the local and regional levels, however, applies only to those minorities who meet the 10 percent threshold in a given community, 5 percent threshold in a region and 5 percent threshold in statutory towns and the capital Prague.71 The requirement that the number of national minorities in a given administrative unit be established according to the “last census result” could be particularly problematic for Roma. In the Czech Republic, 0.3 percent of the population declared Romani as their ethnic identity in 1991, compared to 0.1 percent in 2001. Estimates, however, range between 150,000 and 300,000 Roma in the Czech Republic (1.5–2.7 percent of the total population). In some areas with a high concentration of Roma, particularly, in Prague, as well as in the Moravian-Silesian, South Moravian, Ústí nad Labem and Liberec regions, the condition of representation based on census data might lead to disproportional results.72

  • 73 See Second Report Submitted by the Czech Republic Pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Frame (...)

61In addition, the minority members of the Committees for National Minorities (if any) are nominated by minority associations and need not be elected representatives of the minority in question, while the elected local and regional representatives (in the case of Roma) are most likely to be non- Romani.73 Nevertheless, Roma participate in some Committees for National Minorities at both the regional and city levels.

  • 74 See Czech Minority Report 2002, pp. 39–60.
  • 75 Czech Minority Report 2002, § 6, p. 82.

62These committees deal mainly with taking decisions on funding activities of national minorities and, in the case of Roma, on coordination of programs to increase social integration of Roma.74 However, as noted by a Roma representative on the Council for National Minorities, “the Act on the Rights of National Minorities is formal and insufficient because it does not enable access of representatives of national minorities to elected local and regional authorities.”75

  • 76 Resolution of the Government of the Slovak Republic proposing activities and measures to solve the (...)

63The Slovak government adopted three framework documents of policy toward Roma. In 1991, Resolution No. 153/1991, entitled ‘Principles of Government Policy toward Roma,’ specified areas for improving the situation of Roma. A subsequent policy paper drafted by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, issued in April 1996, and entitled ‘Resolution of the Slovak Government Proposing Activities and Measures to Solve the Problems of Citizens in Need of Special Care’ discarded the approach of the 1991 resolution and reframed policy toward Roma as an issue of social policy.76 In 1999, the Slovak government approved a redrafted policy toward Roma, ‘Strategy I of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Solving Problems of the Roma National Minority and a Set of Measures for Its Implementation: Stage I— Outlining Areas of Action’. Updates on priorities of the Slovak government on issues of Roma community, especially action plans of the Commission for Romani Community Affairs and Council for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, do not develop the anti-discrimination and minority rights discourse further. For example, the documents do not refer to the issue of political representation.

  • 77 Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Minority Protection (Budapest, 2002) p. 422.

64The Polish government, which was more or less outside the mainstream discussion of an appropriate transnational Romani policy, was eventually coerced into forming one in 2001. The UK and Sweden, alarmed by the growing number of Polish Romani asylum seekers, urged the Polish government to adopt the Małopolska program (2001–2003), an experimental project aimed at improving the life of Roma in the spheres of housing, schooling, justice, police relations, health and culture. The program itself remains underimplemented due to insufficient budget allocation by the national and local governments, and has been geographically restricted to the Małopolska province in the south of Poland, an area inhabited mostly by the Carpathian (Bergitka) Roma.77 Implementation of the Małopolska program was completed in 2003. In contrast to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Poland is not a participant country in the ‘Decade of Roma Inclusion’. Therefore, international attention is not likely to be focused on the situation of Roma in Poland.

CONCLUSION

  • 78 Sobotka, “Romani Migration in the 1990s”; Eva Sobotka, Romani Migration in the 1990s: German and B (...)

65Roma policy in the 1990s stemmed from the security concerns of states, which addressed the situation of Roma using a strategy of human rights politics. Advocacy groups of Roma rights, taking advantage of this approach employed by powers such as Germany, the US and the UK, have succeeded in inserting a human rights objective into the human rights policy of each CEE state, using mainly transnational treaty-based and political processes. While in the case of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the human rights objective has been successfully incorporated into national Roma policies, in that of Poland it has stagnated, and older lines toward Roma, such as ‘boosting domestic security,’ have prevailed. This disparity has been due to uneven international attention to the Roma in the various CEE countries. While Poland came under international scrutiny for its treatment of Roma only at the end of the 1990s, very early in the decade the Czech Republic, and especially Slovakia, had become the focus of states such as the US, Germany, the UK and France, which considered the Romani issue vital to the successful transition of the region from communism; or of states which viewed Romani migration as a threat to their internal security (e.g., Germany, France, and later during the 1990s, the UK).78 Thus, advocates of Roma rights facilitated a change in norms, which led to transformation in the discourse on Roma, and consequently shifts in government understanding of what constitutes suitable Roma policy.

66While some domestic policies toward Roma derive from the influence of human rights politics and consequently of Roma rights advocacy, the question that troubles many advocates today is to what extent the campaigns for Roma rights will remain sustainable after accession to the EU. Here the hope lies in the 2000/43 EU Race Equality Directive and Lisbon Process: political guidelines laid down by the European Council in the area of “combating poverty and social exclusion.”

67For EU candidates and member states, the EU Race Equality Directive, adopted by the EC in 2000, should become a powerful means to address issues of exclusion and discrimination. Similarly, the European Council has made the promotion of social cohesion an essential element in the global strategy of the Union, whose “strategic objective for the next decade [is] becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.”79

Notes

1 Eleanor Roosevelt, “Where After All, Do Universal Human Rights Begin?” quoted in Sondra Myers, The Democracy Reader (New York, 2002), p. 25.

2 ‘International society’ is a term used to describe actors in international politics. The English School of International Relations was the first forum to attribute importance to the interaction of the society of states and world society. Hedley Bull defines international society as follows: “A society of states (or international society) exists when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and share in the working of common institutions.” The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (New York, 1977), p. 13.

3 Eva Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms: Issue-Actors, Roma and the State,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Lancaster University, 2004, p. 3.

4 http://www.osi.hu

5 P. Vermeersch, “European Integration and the International Romani Movement,” in E. Sobotka (ed.), International Romani Movement after 1945 (coming, 2005). For more, see 2005–2015: The Decade of Roma Inclusion (World Bank), at: http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/ECA/ECSHD.nsf/$$vwbyid/5ACB 3FB63019D944C1256D6A00438015?Opendocument&Start=1&Count=5.

6 The CFR-CDF was set up by the European Commission upon request of the European Parliament in September 2002. Consisting of one expert per EU member state, its aim is to assess the safeguarding of fundamental rights by EU member states. For more on the CFR-CDF, see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/ justice_home/cfr_cdf/index_en.htm

7 CFR–CDF, Report on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in the European Union in 2003 (Jan. 2004), http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/cfr_cdf/doc/ report_eu_ 2003_en.pdf.

8 Richard Rorty, Truth and Moral Progress: Philosophical Papers (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 11.

9 Jack Donnelly, “Human Rights, Globalizing Flows and State Power,” in Alison Brysk (ed.), Globalization and Human Rights (University of California Press, 2002), pp. 226–41.

10 Shlomo Avineri, “The Paradox of Religion and the Universality of Human Rights,” unpublished conference presentation, 10th Annual Conference on “The Individual vs. the State, Universalism in Law: Human Rights and the Rule of Law” (Budapest, 2002).

11 Michael Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 34

12 Ibid.

13 The name Roma (pl.) (Rom, sing., Romani, adj.) is neutral and politically correct. It is an endonym, since it stems from the Romani language Romanes and means ‘human being’ or ‘man’. Designations such as Gypsy, in German Zigeuner, in Czech cikan, in Slovak cigan, in Hungarian cigany, in Polish cigan, in Romanian tsigan, have pejorative connotations and have been used as synonyms for lying cikánit/cigánit/ciganit. The name Rom/Roma was also chosen by a Romani NGO, the International Romani Union, as a self-designator at the First World Romani Congress in London in 1971. In recent years, linguist Victor Friedman recommends usage of Rom, Roms, Romani. Linguistic Emblems and Emblematic Languages (Columbus, Ohio, 1999), pp. 319–20. However, the combination Rom, Roma, Romani has been widely used and recognized as acceptable by Roma. We can also find designation ‘the Rom’ used in plural. Yaron Matras, Romani: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

14 Five congresses of the International Romani Union (IRU), an NGO uniting mostly Lovara Roma, have taken place so far: The first world Romani congress took place in London, 8–12 April 1971; the second in Geneva, 8–11 April 1978; the third, in Göttingen, 16–20 May 1981; the fourth in Serok, 4–13 April 1990; and the fifth in Prague, 24–28 July 2001. Acton argues that the style of meetings of the IRU is modeled on organizations from other nationalist traditions, such as Zionism and third world nationalism. Thomas Acton, Gypsy Politics and Social Change (London, 1974), pp. 233–4. At the domestic level Roma either organized in cultural organizations (Poland, Czechoslovakia) or were active in the anti-communist dissent movement (Czechoslovakia), preparing reports about the situation of Roma and Romani women in respect to categories of international law: health, education, housing, employment, etc.

15 In 1961 European Roma asked the UN to sponsor a separate Romani state, to be called Romanestan, at the UNESCO conference, and several Romani leaders visited UNESCO headquarters in Paris in November to select a possible site (New York Times, 14 Oct. 1961). In 1971, in the town of Orpington, Kent near London, the first World Romani Congress adopted the Romani anthem and the national flag, consisting of two horizontal bars, the lower green, the upper blue, with the red, sixteen-spoked chakra-wheel and dropped the idea of territorial requests in favor of non-territorial recognition. They further proposed objectives that the Romani elite continue to promote today, including standardization of the Romani language and a Romani encyclopedia.

16 While Roma focused their lobbying efforts also on the EU, and the European Commission in particular, the role of the EU in shaping transnational Romani agenda began to develop only toward the end of the 1990s. This essay does not deal with interaction between Romani agitators and the EU. However, toward the May 2004 conclusion of EU accession processes, the EU is expected to take a greater role in Roma politics.

17 European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a public law interest organization, advocating the human rights of Roma was established in Budapest in 1996. The Roma Participation Program of the Open Society Institute, also with a seat in Budapest, was established a year later. While the task of the ERRC is to advocate Roma rights by producing first-hand research about the situation of Roma and submissions to treaty-based bodies, the role of the RPP is to enhance the political participation of Roma in the CEE region. The ERRC is modeled on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), while the inspiration for RPP was the Afro-American movement (1954–66). For more, see http://www.errc.org.

18 I use the distinction between human rights politics and policy presented by Dimitrina Petrova in her unpublished paper, “Social and Economic Dimension of Universal Rights” at the 10th annual conference, “The Individual vs. the State, Universalism in Law: Human Rights and the Rule of Law,” Budapest, June 2002.

19 Ibid.

20 Thomas R. Dye, Understanding Public Policy (Englewood Cliffs, 1972), p. 2.

21 Petrova, “Social and Economic Dimension of Universal Rights,” author’s notes; Stanley Cohen, Denial and Acknowledgement (Jerusalem, 1995), pp. I–V, 1–17. Cohen distinguishes between several different human rights discourses, each with its distinct validity claims and norms of professionalism—diplomatic, legal, social, scientific, etc.

22 Erika Schlager, “A Hard Look at Compliance with ‘Soft’ Law: The Case of the OSCE,” in Dinah Shelton (ed.), Commitment and Compliance: The Role of Non- Binding Norms in the International Legal System (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 346–71.

23 Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 380.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 As established in the Vienna Concluding Document of 1989, the Vienna mechanism allows the participating state, through a set of procedures, to raise questions relating to the human dimension in another OSCE participating state. The Moscow mechanism, agreed to at the last meeting of CSCE in 1991, builds on this and provides for the additional possibility to establish ad hoc missions of independent experts to assist in the resolution of a specific human dimension problem. (AFP, 25 Jun. 1990).

27 OSCE Human Dimension Commitments, A Reference Guide, OSCE/ODIHR, 2001, p. 104

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid., p. 283

32 Eva Sobotka, “Romani Migration in the 1990s: Perspectives on Dynamic, Interpretation and Policy,” Romani Studies 2 (2003), pp. 80–121.

33 Romani agitators admit that they have exploited US concern over the return of communism in Romania to their benefit, by utilizing the connection the US administration has made between human rights politics and foreign policy since the Carter administration. Nicolae Gheorghe, a former Romani agitator, has pointed out the connection between miners strikes in Romania in the early 1990s, participation of Roma in the miners strikes, proportion of Roma in Romania and the fact that Roma as an ethnic group reside in all post-communist European countries (personal communication, 2003).

34 The European, 27-29 July 1990; Stuttgarter Zeitung, 18 Aug. 1990; DPA, 9 Sept. 1992; Reuters 31 Oct. 1992; Gilad Margalit, Antigypsyism in the Political Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany: A Parallel with Antisemitism (SICSA: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, 1996), p. 8: http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/9gilad.htm

35 Margalit, Antigypsyism in the Political Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany, pp. 8–9; Sobotka, “Romani Migration in the 1990s,” Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 32.

36 Romani ‘agitators,’ both Roma and non-Roma, agitate for human rights related issues on behalf of the Roma—civil and political rights, social and economic equality or effective bans on discrimination. The usage of the term ‘agitator’ is preferred to the term ‘activist,’ because it better reflects the fact that most of those involved are employed in this occupation on a regular basis. The term ‘activist’ is understood to be a person who conducts human rights work voluntarily. The word ‘agitating’ also better reflects the nature of the work, usually done on behalf of Roma, rather than activating Romani masses for further action.

37 In recent years, non-binding instruments have sometimes provided the necessary statement of legal obligation (opinion juris) to provide evidence of emergent custom and have assisted in establishing the content of the norm. The use of soft law has been also closely associated with the growth of international institutions. Resolutions, declarations, codes of conduct and guidelines articulated by global international or regional organizations have been termed ‘non-legal soft law’. In general, the international legal system turned to soft law as a means of including all relevant actors, trying out solutions that are still experimental, regulating in greater detail what hard law would allow, and regulating quickly and more flexibly. Soft law thus meets many of the needs of global governance. Not one, but two hard law alternatives existed in parallel to the CSCE/OSCE and the CoE at the time of the Cold War. the UN, which included virtually all the participating states but failed to win them over as parties to the human rights mechanism until the end of the Cold War, and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR, were open), in principle, to membership of European parliamentary democracies.

38 Sobotka, Mobilising International Norms, p. 32.

39 While in the 2002 Hungarian national election, four Romani candidates, Flórian Farkas, József Varga, Mihály Lukács and Lászlo Teleki were elected to the Parliament, at present, there are no Romani candidates in the Czech, Polish or Slovak representative bodies. Some Romani councilors were elected in local elections in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Poland remains without any elected Roma at local or national level. For more see Eva Sobotka, Romani Mobilization and Political Representation at the National and Transnational Levels (Flensburg, 2004).

Table 1
Romani MPs in Czechoslovakia (1990–92)

Image img01.jpg

40 Sobotka, Mobilizing International Norms, p. 55.

41 Isabel Fonseca, “Bury Me Standing,” in Lidia Ostałowska, Cygan to Cygan (Warsaw, 2000), p. 20.

42 Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Nationalism: An Interview with Isaiah Berlin,” The New York Review of Books, 21 Nov. 1991.

43 Address by Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic at the Conference “Europe’s New Democracies: Leadership and Responsibility,” Bratislava, 11 May 2001.

44 Paul Hockenos. Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (London/New York, 1993), p. 57.

45 “World Report—Pulse Europe—Special Report,” Los Angeles Times, 17 Sept. 1991.

46 Today, Roma are dispersed throughout all European countries with the exception of Iceland, Malta, Luxemburg and the Vatican. Taken together, there may be 8-10 million Roma in Europe, with large concentrations in central, eastern, and southern Europe.

47 Arne Mann, Rómsky dejepis: Doplnkový učebný text pre vyučovanie dejepisu (Bratislava, 2000), p. 19.

48 Ostałowska, Cygan to Cygan, p. 186; Limits of Solidarity: Roma in Poland since 1989 (Budapest: European Roma Rights Center, 2001), p. 36; Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 306.

49 In the early 1990s in the former Czechoslovakia, many policy issues, including human rights, were viewed in purely economic parameters. Therefore, ethnic conflict was primarily defined in terms of a fair division of assets. Viewing Romani issues through an economic prism was the narrowest way to define the problem.

50 Mladá Fronta Dnes, 22 July 1992.

51 Transcript of the 19th Session of the Czech Parliament, 29 Dec. 1992, p. 24.

52 “What to Do about the Romany Migration,” Mladá Fronta Dnes, 15 Dec. 1992; Ivana Vajnerova and John Zdenek, “Pithart Government Counted on Influx of Romanies,” Mladá Fronta Dnes, 23 July 1992; “Using the Law against Undesirable Migration,” Mladá Fronta Dnes, 15 Dec. 1992; Mladá Fronta Dnes, 31 Dec., 1992; Jiří Pehe, “Law on Romanies Caused Uproar in the Czech Republic,” RFE/ RL Research Report 7 (12 Feb. 1993).

53 The Czech Law on citizenship saw several amendments during the 1990s. However, the 1993 Czech citizenship law has had an impact on many Romani lives. Those stripped of Czech citizenship were unable to collect social security and health benefits.

54 For more on discrimination and human rights violation of Roma, see http://www.errc.org.

55 The Limits of Solidarity: Roma in Poland Since 1989 (Budapest: European Roma Rights Center, 2002).

56 Ibid.

57 Josef Kucio, “Interview with Nicolae Gheorghe,” Uncaptive Minds. Fight against Poverty and Social Exclusion—Definition of Appropriate Objectives (Brussels, 30 Nov., 2000), pp. 13-18.

58 Ibid.

59 Sobotka, “Mobilising International Norms,” p. 328.

60 Copenhagen criteria are political criteria for membership in the European Union, defined by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993: “Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.”

61 At the OSI and World Bank conference, “Roma in an Expanding Europe,” Budapest, June 2003, a number of states showed, not only understanding of the concept of Roma rights, but adopted the language of Roma rights

62 Havel, “Europe’s New Democracies.”

63 Developmental approach refers to the World Bank strategy of advancing the socio-economic situation of threatened, impoverished communities, motivating states to fight poverty.

64 Pavel Barša, “Ethnocultural Justice in Eastern European States and the Case of the Czech Roma,” in Will Kymlicka and Magda Opalski (eds.), Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? (New York, 2001), pp. 243–58.

65 ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 3: Combating Racism and Intolerance against Roma/Gypsies.

66 Petrova, “Social and Economic Dimension of Universal Rights.”

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid.

69 “Report on the Situation of the Romani Community in the Czech Republic and Government Measures Assisting Its Integration into Society,” 686/1997; “Concept of Government Policy toward Members of the Romani Community, Supporting Their Integration into Society,” 599/2000, in 2001.

70 Act on Rights of Members of National Minorities, No. 273/2001 (Minority Act). To date, there are committees for national minorities in 39 municipalities or municipal districts, in one charter town (Brno), and in four regions. There are also National Minority Boards in Prague and Liberec, most of which did not meet the requirements for national minority committees. See the Second Report Submitted by the Czech Republic Pursuant to Article 25, Para. 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, received on 2 July 2004, Para. 5, p. 5 – http://wtd.vlada.cz/files/rvk/rnm/ zprava_mensiny_2002_ eng.pdf; see also Council of the Government of the Czech Republic for National Minorities, “Report on the Situation of National Minorities in the Czech Republic in 2002,” pp. 39–60 – http://wtd.vlada.cz/files/rvk/rnm/ zprava_ mensiny_2002_eng.pdf (hereafter, ‘Czech Minority Report 2002’).

71 The amendment to the Minority Act reduced these thresholds, which had been defined in earlier legislation, on communities, regions and the capital city, from 15 percent to 10 percent in communities, 10 percent to 5 percent in regions; and from 15 percent to 5 percent in Prague. By means of Act No. 320/2002 Coll. on the amendment and cancellation of some acts because of the abolition of district offices, Act No. 273/2002 Coll. on the rights of the members of national minorities was amended within the legislation of the second phase of the reform of local public administration. Article 6 was amended by paragraphs 7 and 8. Paragraph 7 gave the regional authority a duty to administer and coordinate state policy toward Roma. Paragraph 8 imposes a duty on local authorities to implement state policy on increasing integration of Roma into society and fulfilling tasks leading to implementing the rights of national minorities. For more, see Act 320/2002, Section 64 on Amendment of the Act 273/2001 on the rights of the members of national minorities. In practice, this change is crucial for implementation of state policy toward Roma in the Czech Republic and gives the central government power to demand implementation of Roma policy in regions and communities. According to the Report on the state of rights of national minorities in 2002, “the Minority Act was supplemented by § 13a, which determines that the competencies of a regional or local authority with extended competencies according to this Act are delegated powers. In this context more than ten towns concluded at the end of 2002 and at the beginning of 2003 public agreements aimed at the assurance of the exercise of delegated powers in the field of rights of the members of national minorities. These agreements should ensure the execution of public administration, i.e. the agenda of regional Roma coordinators and their cooperation with consultants for Roma affairs in communities and towns.” For more, see Czech Minority Report 2002, p. 9 – http://wtd.vlada.cz/vrk/vrk.htm.

72 No research has been conducted yet on the effectiveness of the representation of national minorities through Committees for National Minorities in the Czech Republic. The Council for National Minorities, an advisory body of the Czech Government, although expressing criticism of the present system (see Czech Minority Report 2002, p. 40), does not include information on the number of Romani representatives.

73 See Second Report Submitted by the Czech Republic Pursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, received on 2 July 2004, para. 5, p. 5.

74 See Czech Minority Report 2002, pp. 39–60.

75 Czech Minority Report 2002, § 6, p. 82.

76 Resolution of the Government of the Slovak Republic proposing activities and measures to solve the problems of citizens in need of special care (Uznesenie vlády SR knávrhu úloh a opatrení na rešenie problémov občanov, ktorí potrebuju osobitnů pomoc , na rok 1996) of 30 April 1996, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, Government of the Slovak Republic. See also “Conceptual Intentions of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Solution of the Problems of the Romani Population under Current Social and Economic Conditions,” Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, 1997.

77 Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Minority Protection (Budapest, 2002) p. 422.

78 Sobotka, “Romani Migration in the 1990s”; Eva Sobotka, Romani Migration in the 1990s: German and British Context (Berlin, 2004).

79 Lisbon and Santa Maria da Feira European Councils 2000, for more, see http://europe.eu.int/comm/dgs/employment_social/index_en.htm.

Auteur

EVA SOBOTKA is an Administrator for Communication and External Relations at the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in Vienna. Her research interests include EU enlargement, contemporary issues of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Europe, and formation of policy towards ethnic minorities in Europe. She regularly publishes in the journals Politologicky casopis, Journal for Ethnic and Minority Issues, and Roma Rights and Romani Studies, and in 2004 contributed the chapter “Roma in Hungary; Minorities in Hungary,” in Karl and Stefan Wolf, Ethnopolitical Encyclopedia (2004).

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