OSCE Conference - Press Reports
OSCE hosts conference on ways to protect Gypsy minority
By ALISON MUTLER - Associated Press Writer
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Senior international officials
urged action to end anti-Gypsy discrimination Monday, at the start of
a conference on the status of the minority in Europe.
"Along the centuries, Roma have traveled a long road of pain, sometime
violence and often the indifference of their fellow citizens,"
said Mircea Geoana, foreign minister and chairman-in-office of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is hosting the conference.
"The social project of human rights which Europe is building cannot
ignore the Gypsy problem," said Geoana. "It will be a test
of values of the new Europe and the only antidote against a social time
Gypsies, also known as Roma and Sinti, are believed to have emigrated
to Europe from India more than 600 years ago. They are at the bottom
of the rung across Europe, but live particularly deprived lives in the
continent's former communist countries. The victims of widespread prejudice,
some Gypsies have illegally migrated to Western Europe looking for better
economic conditions since the end of communism in Eastern Europe more
then a decade ago.
"We cannot pass the buck because ... we have a common
interest to find solutions," Rolf Ekeus, OSCE's high commissioner
on national minorities, told the conference, called "Equal Opportunities
for Roma and Sinti: Translating Words into Fact."
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of Romania said that many Gypsies in Romania
do not have identity cards, or birth certificates, "so adults cannot
vote and do not get social welfare, and cannot buy and sell property
and their children do not get welfare."
Romania officially has 409,000 Gypsies, but the real number is believed
to be between 1 to 1.5 million. There are approximately nine million
Speaking to assembled delegates from the 55 OSCE countries, Nastase
noted that in Romania, just 27 percent of Gypsies had regular jobs,
much of it menial. Just half of Roma children go to school, and almost
one-third of Gypsies over 45 are illiterate, Nastase said.
In April, Romania's government adopted a 10-year-strategy of including
Gypsies in society, including hiring them for local administration.
The aim is to reduce discrimination which is widespread at an official
and public level.
Some 300 participants are attending the conference, including European
government officials in charge of dealing with the Gypsy minority, and
prominent leaders of the minority.