Strasbourg, 7 November 2006 MG-S-ROM (2006) 9

GROUP OF SPECIALISTS ON ROMA, GYPSIES AND TRAVELLERS
(MG-S-ROM)

renamed

COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON ROMA AND TRAVELLERS1
(MG-S-ROM)

21st Meeting
Bucharest, Romania
Venue: Nicolae Balcescu meeting hall (Parliament Palace)

2-3 May 2006

FINALMEETING REPORT
ADOPTED AT THE 22nd MG-S-ROM MEETING

I. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA AND LIST OF DECISIONS OF PREVIOUS MEETING

The Chair, Mr. Naysmith (United Kingdom), opened the 21st meeting of the MG-S-ROM and welcomed participants, in particular the new Czech member, Mr. Zdenĕk Duna. Experts from Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, and Hungary were excused.

He thanked the Romanian authorities for hosting the meeting, especially the Vice-Chair, Mr. Dezideriu Gergely and the President of the National Council for Combating Discrimination, Mr. Csaba Ference Asztalos, for all practical arrangements, and the Roma Party “Pro Europa” for offering an impressive venue in the Romanian Parliament.

The Chair also welcomed the representatives of international organisations/institutions (European Commission, EUMC, OSCE-ODIHR, UNDP, and UNHCR) and international NGOs (ERIO, ERRC, ERTF and PER).

The Chair was also honoured to welcome Mrs. Josephine Verspaget, the first Chair of the MG-S-ROM, who was attending the MG-S-ROM on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Group, as well as Mr. Alexander Vladychenko, Director General of DG3 Social Cohesion.

The Group adopted the agenda for the meeting, as well as the list of decisions of the 20th meeting, subject to an amendment from Slovakia. The Vice–Chair, Mr. Jan Hero, suggested including, under item IV, a reference to the discussion held in November on the decision of the Slovak Constitutional Court on the Anti-Discrimination Law, and to the Group’s decision to address a letter to the Slovak authorities concerning the impact of such a decision.

The Secretariat informed the Group that the final report of the previous meeting would be circulated to all MG-S-ROM members, once the Slovak amendments had been inserted2.

The Group took note of the revised mandate of the Group [MG-S-ROM (2006)5] following the procedure of adoption that took place among the MG-S-ROM members in early April and as adopted by the CDMG at their 19-21 April meeting3.

The Secretariat indicated the major changes (selection procedure and criteria, categories of participants, use of the Romani language), which were necessary to bring the MG-S-ROM’s mandate in conformity with the Committee of Ministers’ Resolution Res(2005)47 on Committees and subordinate bodies.

Mr. Mirga (Poland) questioned the need to have a reference to a long list of documents, some of which were more important than others. The Secretariat replied that it was encouraged to make reference to priority areas defined at the Third Council of Europe Summit in Warsaw, and to existing basic legal instruments and recommendations concerning minorities/Roma.

Mr. Peter Jorna (the Netherlands) approved the new mandate and welcomed in particular the reference to the Sinti in a footnote of the new mandate.

Mrs. Josephine Verspaget highlighted the need for the Group to have a strong mandate, which would guarantee that the Group is free to speak and raise issues it considers of great importance.

II. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AND UPCOMING ACTIVITIES IN THE FIELD OF ROMA AND TRAVELLERS

The Chair thanked the members (Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Ukraine) and Council of Europe sectors (ECRI, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights) for circulating written contributions in advance concerning recent developments [see MG-S-ROM(2006)8].

      a) The International Conference on the Implementation and Harmonisation of Policies towards Roma, Sinti and Travellers: Guidelines for a Common Vision

The Chair invited the Romanian authorities present to provide the Group with practical information about the International Conference on the Implementation and Harmonisation of Policies towards Roma, Sinti and Travellers, as well as indicate their expectations.

The President of the National Council for Combating Discrimination, Mr. Csaba Ference Asztalos, briefly presented the mandate and the experience of the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) highlighting some concrete cases of discrimination.

Mr. Nicolae Nastase, Third Secretary at the OSCE, Council of Europe and Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, introduced the Conference organized under the aegis of the Romanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, by the Romanian Government and the National Agency for Roma, under the auspices of the presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, in joint co-operation with the Council of Europe, the European Roma and Travellers Forum, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium as the Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, the European Commission, the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Austrian Presidency of the European Union, and the Project on Ethnic Relations Regional Center.

He explained that the conference would focus on the concrete measures taken by member states in the fields of housing, employment and relations of Roma with the police in order to implement the Council of Europe’s recommendations on Roma and Travellers, the Action Plan for Improvement of the Situation of the Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area, the European Union’s relevant standards, as well as the national strategies/action plans, including those undertaken in connection with the “Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015”. The Conference should aim to develop a set of commonly agreed criteria for measuring the progress in implementing the aforementioned policies/action plans with a view to improving inter-agency cooperation and synergies of the relevant actors at both national and international levels. The participants would share their experience, best practices and lessons learnt over recent years, including those under the Decade of Roma Inclusion, to ensure effective participation of Roma, Sinti and Travellers in implementing and assessing the impact on the grassroots communities as the main beneficiaries of policy-making.

The meeting, organised under intergovernmental auspices, would aim to improve inter-agency cooperation at national and international levels, in order to obtain a better political planning
of actions “with Roma, for Roma”.

At the same time, as a follow-up of the “Joint International Conference on the Implementation of Policies/Action Plans for Roma, Sinti and Travellers, and Measures against the Anti-Gypsyism Phenomenon in Europe,” which was held in Warsaw, Poland, 20 – 21 October 2005, the Conference would tackle the appropriate modalities through which states, NGOs and the international community could better contribute to combating the racism and intolerance faced by Roma, Sinti and Travellers.

Mr. Nastase also referred to several side events, including one on the role of the media in addressing anti-Gypsyism organised by the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER).

Mr. Nastase invited the Group to a reception to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MG-S-ROM at 8 p.m. on 3 May.

Mrs. Mariana Nitelea, Director of the Council of Europe Information and Documentation Office, welcomed the Group in Bucharest and thanked the Romanian authorities for their assistance. She also reminded the Group that Romania was chairing the Council of Europe until 17 November.

      b) Visit to Kosovo

The Chair invited Mr. Henry Scicluna, Council of Europe Coordinator for Activities concerning Roma and Travellers, to present the conclusions of their visit to Kosovo.

Mr. Scicluna informed the Group that, as well as himself, the Chair and Mrs. Eleni Tsetsekou, had participated in the visit to Kosovo. The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) was not part of the Council of Europe delegation as such, but sent two representatives (Mr. Nezdet Mustafa, President of the United Party of the Roma in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and member of the ERTF Executive board, and Mr. Martin Demirovski, Assistant to MEP Els de Groen). The ERTF attended some of the meetings together with the Council of Europe delegation.

The programme of the visit included meetings with representatives of UNMIK, UNHCR, OSCE, EAR, Roma NGOs, and representatives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. The delegation also met with the Ombudsman, the Head of the Negotiation team, as well as the Minister of Integration, who is of Serbian origin.

The issue of the participation of Roma in the negotiation talks concerning the future status of Kosovo was discussed with a Government representative. Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians complain that they have not been included in the negotiations talks from the beginning and those discussions are monopolised by Serbs and Albanians. The Government representative said that he had initiated consultation with other minorities who would be represented in the status talks on a rotation basis.

About 150,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians were living in Kosovo before the war; around 30,000 are still present in Kosovo. Mr. Scicluna indicated that their situation varied from one place to another.

The municipality of Gjilan, where there was a substantial Roma population before the war, has been quite successful so far in its attempt to bring Roma back. However, there is a lack of funds to rebuild houses and take other steps to integrate returnees. Residents also complained of high unemployment and exclusion from the police and other public services.

In Prizren, the delegation met Roma political leaders, including the president of the Party of the Roma Union of Kosovo and member of the Kosovo parliament, as well as women’s and youth groups. The town was peaceful, in spite of several ethnic communities living there. While they said that they felt secure, this was not the position elsewhere. They also said that there was a huge unemployment rate amongst Roma, and that almost no Roma were employed in the public sector, including the police, or studying at university. There was also very little Romani media.

In Fushe Kosovo Pristina, the delegation met with Roma and Egyptians, as well as with the mayor. They also said that they felt reasonably secure, but complained about high unemployment and social exclusion.

In Mitrovica, the situation is tenser. The Coordinator had visited Mitrovica in August 2004 together with the president of the ERTF – Mr. Rudko Kawczynski – to discuss the effects of the lead pollution. This time, the Council of Europe delegation had a larger mandate. The Roma in the Mitrovica camps were living in deplorable conditions, but were reluctant to move to the camp which had been vacated by French troops.

As regards the security, there has been some improvement in Kosovo as a whole, indicated Mr. Scicluna. However, people still do not feel safe everywhere. The perception of danger is common among Roma in Kosovo. It is therefore essential to take steps to rebuilt trust and confidence.

Mr. Scicluna reminded the Group about UNHCR’s position paper, which requested states not to send Roma to Kosovo. The UNHCR indicated to the Council of Europe delegation that it had no intention of modifying that position. They even feared that, as a result of the negotiation talks on the future status of Kosovo, the Roma already present might wish to leave Kosovo. The Council of Europe delegation agreed that the position of Kosovo remained volatile and uncertain, particularly for Roma. Furthermore, Kosovo did not have the infrastructure to integrate a large number of returnees. If people were forced to return without the necessary infrastructure being in place, this would be very destabilising.

Mr. Rudko Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) thanked Mr. Scicluna for his very clear presentation.

He recalled that, from the moment of its creation, the European Roma and Travellers Forum has been particularly involved with the situation in Kosovo where Roma have become the victims of systematic ethnic cleansing.

Mr. Kawczynski took part himself in several hearings at the European Parliament in Brussels: During a hearing in June 2005 on the deportation of Roma, he pointed out the persisting insecurity in Kosovo as a key obstacle to the Roma’s return.

ERTF representatives took part in several fact-finding missions of the Council of Europe to Kosovo. Following a visit to the refugee camps in Kosovska Mitrovica in August 2005, the Forum addressed a request to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for immediate action for the safety and well-being of the camps’ residents.

In March 2006, during a hearing on the status negotiations process, Mr. Kawczynski voiced the Roma’s right and interest to take part in this process which is taking place without the minority populations with the exception of the Kosovo Serbs.

More recently, ERTF held meetings on Kosovo with most relevant groups in Skopje (together with the OSCE-ODIHR) and in Strasbourg (25 delegates from France, Belgium and Germany and Kosovar Roma from these countries). The conclusion of these meetings was that Kosovar Roma did not envisage any return due to security reasons.

Roma in the diaspora are afraid of being returned. The OSCE-ODIHR, the Council of Europe and the host countries should support them. Many Roma from Germany and Italy were deported to Belgrade but returned to France or Belgium.

He said that governments should understand that most Kosovar Roma live in the diaspora, not in Kosovo. One million Roma from the Balkans are spread across Europe. The country they left does not exist anymore. Many of them do not have any valid documents.

Mr. Kawczynski said that countries were not serious enough about the issue. Political solutions should be found because in the meantime the Roma diaspora had become progressively integrated into the host societies, with their children going to school and learning the language of the host country. There is a need for dialogue.

Mr. Kawczynski informed the Group that ERTF would publish a position paper on Kosovo on 16 May with proposals on how the problems could be solved4.

Mr. Kawczynski also recalled the wish of the Roma in Mitrovica to have their houses rebuilt as they were before the conflict. The place they used to live in was not a ghetto. Although it is not necessary to rebuild a mahala, the destroyed houses should be rebuilt or at least compensation for them should be provided. The Roma in Mitrovica do not want to go from one temporary camp to another.

As regards the security issue, ERTF was informed that Roma families present in Kosovo are the victims of attacks, in particular in areas next to the KFOR camps. Objectively the security is not guaranteed.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum co-initiated the “Skopje Group” as a Roma expert body for the status negotiations process. The Skopje Group is ready to start negotiations with all institutions that wish to discuss solutions, and hopes to have the support of the Council of Europe and the MG-S-ROM in that respect, as well as of OSCE-ODIHR and States concerned. It will issue shortly a policy document containing the main demands related to the preservation of Romani rights in the status negotiations process in Kosovo.

ERTF position can be summarized as follows:
- ERTF is against the return of Roma to Kosovo;
- ERTF is concerned about Kosovar Roma living in diaspora and the recent phenomenon
of renomadisation;
- ERTF is not taking any position on the political solution for the future status of Kosovo;
- ERTF is looking to find a way to participate in the status talks.

Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe (OSCE-ODIHR) indicated that the OSCE has a mission in Kosovo, as well as several missions in various municipalities. They produce regular monitoring reports about the situation of human rights and minorities, including Roma. These reports provide updated information about developments concerning the infrastructure, the institution-building, etc. Some progress has been noticed as regards the situation of Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians (RAE), and other minorities, as reflected in recent discussion within political parties and at the parliamentary assembly of Kosovo. He also noted positive developments as regards the situation of civil society (NGOs) in Kosovo. He indicated that one of the new challenges would be to ensure a large participation of the population, including RAE communities, in the municipal elections.

He indicated that for the Ministry of Justice of Kosovo it was difficult to objectively say what is missing in Kosovo in terms of security. There is a large part of RAE who live in Kosovo in private houses or in certain districts. Not everyone has been displaced and there are RAE who have stayed in Kosovo. Further attention should be given to certain instruments related to the protection of human rights, as well as minority, linguistic and social rights that could guarantee the presence of Roma in or their return to Kosovo.

He recalled that at OSCE meetings in Vienna it was possible to have Roma representatives from Kosovo. We should support Roma to become equal partners.

Referring to the joint Council of Europe/OSCE-ODIHR visit to Mitrovica last year, Mr. Gheorghe noticed that Roma are hesitating to move to a new camp. He indicated that some money was available for the reconstruction of the mahalas. The first phase of the project concerns 75 individual houses for people who document ownership of their houses before the war. The architect, Mr. Vladimir Macura, pointed out however that the current 3.5 hectares put at disposal is not enough to accommodate 900 persons. This could lead to a slum. Negotiations have started at the level of the municipality to get more land but it is rather difficult as there are strong interests among various communities to take possession of this good location in Mitrovica.

The current negotiation partners (UNMIK, OSCE, and CoE) need assistance from lawyers, architects, etc. but also from Roma themselves. This area could be reconstructed; it is essentially a question of will.

A political decision is to be made that would break the principle of UNHCR paper: Roma would not come back to their place of origin – i.e. South Mitrovica inhabited by Albanians - but to North Mitrovica inhabited by Serbs. The possibility should be offered for them to come back if they feel that the place is safe enough.

The economic situation in Kosovo remains however disastrous: high unemployment and lack of economic prospects. It should be reminded that Roma in Kosovo were not nomads and were not excluded economically before the war.

Mrs. Livia Plaks (PER) reported on their recent meeting in Bucharest with three ministers from Kosovo – as well as participants from Belgrade. PER organised political dialogue with the Deputy Prime Minister in Kosovo; however the latter could not stay at the conference. She reminded participants that Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, UN’s Special Envoy for Kosovo status talks, indicated in March that he considered the issue of minorities as his top priority, and a discussion on minority councils would take place in Vienna on 4 May. She considered that there was still not a single vision from the Roma community – those who want to return, those who do not want to return…there was a need for a larger conference just to discuss the issue.

The Chair opened the floor for discussion.

Mr. Claudio Marta (Italy) asked for a copy of the report. The Chair responded that a draft report is already ready and would soon be finalised and distributed to MG-S-ROM members. Mr. Marta proposed to organise an ad hoc working group of MG-S-ROM on the situation of RAE in Kosovo and asked the Secretariat whether this would be possible by the end of June, i.e. the end of the current mandate of the MG-S-ROM. He proposed that ODIHR should participate in that meeting.

Mrs. Josephine Verspaget (former Chair) encouraged various partners to organise a joint meeting in order to come together with common views. She said it was terrible to let Roma living in lead-polluted areas. She recalled that UNMIK had made available a former French military camp near to the lead-contaminated area. This was of course no luxury but was at least dry, paved and secure. She recommended that arrangements – even temporary - should be made to improve the health situation of these families.

The Secretariat reminded the Group that it received a mandate from the CDMG for drafting proposals for the development and implementation of a medium and long-term strategy for the social integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo. The Secretariat invited the MG-S-ROM, as well as the other international partners involved in RAE issues in Kosovo present at the meeting, namely OSCE-ODIHR, PER and ERTF, to decide on the organisation of a small scale meeting to address the draft strategy.

The Secretariat informed the Group that there would be no side event on Kosovo in the afternoon of 3 May, as originally envisaged by the Co-organisers of the Conference, due to a limited number of participants being available, especially from Kosovo. However, one hour was introduced in the agenda of the Conference, on 5 May in the morning, to discuss Kosovo issues.

Mr. Andrzej Mirga (Poland) questioned what the position of the MG-S-ROM would be if the conditions for the return were to improve. Would the Roma be ready to accept this perspective? He supported the idea of developing a long-term strategy using other countries’ examples.

He also proposed to consider at such an ad hoc meeting incentives for the return (housing conditions, work and education opportunities, and perspectives for the future). He reminded the Group that there was no shortage of funds but rather limited political will. Once such incentives were in place, the reconciliation could start. He also launched an appeal to Roma: the more divided the Roma are, the weaker position they have in society.

He also reminded the Group that there are various interests groups among Roma: putting all of them together might cause confusion and create problems among authorities, including in neighbouring countries. Coordination was necessary with UNMIK which was already engaged in political talks.

According to him, the role of the MG-S-ROM could be to clarify the position of governments.

Mrs. Eva Sobotka (EUMC) indicated that EUMC had no mandate in Kosovo but was supporting all initiatives to improve the living conditions and human rights situation of Roma. EUMC, which supports the initiatives of the International Roma Women’s Network (IRWN), recalled a recent meeting in Vienna last April on the occasion of which Romani women made the proposal to participate in the negotiation talks for the future status of Kosovo. Referring to the Secretariat proposal, Mrs. Sobotka suggested that EUMC could recommend the participation of one or two women at the MG-S-ROM ad hoc meeting on Kosovo.

Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe (ODIHR) indicated that ODIHR could contribute financially and logistically to the organisation of such an ad hoc meeting provided it takes place in South East Europe and by the end of June. He agreed with EUMC’s intervention saying it was a shame not to have Roma women. A Roma woman who wanted to participate in the debate was refused. On the issue of refugees, Roma men monopolise the debates. Mr. Gheorghe proposed to use the hour devoted on Roma issue at the conference to discuss the agenda of the proposed ad hoc meeting.

The Group decided to organise by the end of June an ad hoc meeting on Kosovo, preferably in South East Europe. The Secretariat was requested to take contacts with Skopje and prepare a draft agenda and provisional list of participants.

Bearing in mind the mandate given by the CDMG to the MG-S-ROM, the ad hoc meeting group should focus on proposals for the development of a medium and long-term strategy for the social integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo. The ad hoc meeting should therefore concentrate on the Roma living in Kosovo and their living conditions. However, the future strategy could include a chapter on the preconditions for the return of Roma.

The OSCE-ODIHR would financially and logistically contribute to the meeting. PER and ERTF would participate in the meeting. EUMC might support the participation of Roma women in such a meeting. The members of the MG-S-ROM interested to participate should inform the Secretariat in due course.

      c) Informal Contact Group Meetings on Roma Issues and Update on ERTF

Mr. Henry Scicluna, Council of Europe Coordinator for Roma Activities, informed the Group about the Informal Contact Group Meeting of Intergovernmental Organisations and Institutions on Roma, Sinti and Travellers that took place in Brussels on 3 April under the Austrian EU Presidency.

Items on the agenda included a report on the situation of Kosovo. It was decided to uphold the UNHCR position paper on returns. Other issues addressed concerned the organisation of task forces on anti-Gypsyism in the field of education, employment and housing (conclusions of the Bucharest Conference) and the possibility to update EU COCEN Guidelines on Roma adopted in Tampere under previous Finnish EU presidency (December 1999). Mr. Scicluna indicated that the next meeting of the Informal Contact Group should take place in the autumn under the Finnish EU presidency, which would be an excellent opportunity to negotiate the revision of the COCEN Guidelines on Roma.

The meeting report of the Informal Contact Group Meeting of Intergovernmental Organisations and Institutions on Roma, Sinti and Travellers is available in the Appendix.

Mrs. Sarita Fridman (Finland) proposed that there might be two meetings organised under the Finnish EU presidency: a first meeting at the beginning of July and another one at the end.

As regards the revision of the EU COCEN Guidelines, she recalled that this paper was drafted seven years ago and served until now as a basis to define EU criteria in the field of Roma for accession countries. The President of Finland, Mrs. Tarja Halonen, was going to visit Romania in the near future and would use the opportunity to address the situation of Roma in Romania.

Mrs. Friman supported nevertheless the idea of revising this paper in a format that would address Roma issues also within the European Union.

Mrs. Friman also raised the issue of a possible redundancy of the Informal Contact Group in view of similar other international fora.

Mr. Andrzej Mirga (Poland) said that the practical effect of coordination was very low. It might have an impact for coordinating conferences, but each organisation has its own mandate. The Informal Contact Group is not binding but a place to share information.

      d) Internal Co-Ordination Group meeting between Council of Europe sectors dealing with Roma and Travellers Update on ERTF

In addition, Mr. Scicluna reported back to the Group about the Internal Co-ordination Group meeting between Council of Europe sectors dealing with Roma and Travellers issues that he is conveying every six-nine months. He also informed the Group that he is circulating to other Council of Europe bodies on a monthly basis reports received via the Internet on violations of human rights (police brutality, segregation, evictions, etc.). He was particularly shocked to see evictions taking place in winter period without alternative shelter being provided to these families with children and the elderly.

The full report of the Internal Coordination Meeting of Council of Europe sectors dealing with Roma and Traveller Issues is available in the Appendix.

Mr. Scicluna insisted at the end of his report that the terms of reference of the Coordinator should be modified. The coordinator’s position should be made more stable within the Council of Europe. The position is currently occupied by a volunteer but there is a need for a permanent position. The Coordinator asked the MG-S-ROM to support that proposal. He added that there should be a thorough discussion, including at the level of the MG-S-ROM, as to whether the Council of Europe should have an Ombudsman for Roma or a Coordinator.

Mrs. Josephine Verspaget (former Chair) supported the Coordinator’s demand and recalled that the creation of an ombudsman for Roma was a longstanding wish already contained in a Parliamentary Recommendation of 1993 that suggested that the Secretary General create the institution of an ombudsman for Roma at the level of the Council of Europe. This proposal was repeated in the 2002 Parliamentary Assembly report on the legal status of Roma. She said that such an ombudsman was necessary due to growing anti-gypsyism all over Europe. It was not enough to have a coordinator working as volunteer. She said that she admired Mr. Scicluna but was shocked that the Council of Europe, the most important Organisation in Europe for the defence of human rights, was not able to finance even the position of a Coordinator. She concluded that this was really a shame.

Mr. Andrzej Mirga (Poland) disagreed with previous speakers. He recalled that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe repeatedly said no to the proposal of creating an ombudsman for Roma. One reason for that decision was that if the Council of Europe created an ombudsman for Roma this would not strengthen human rights. Instead of multiplying institutions, the Commissioner for Human Rights should act on cases of Roma rights violations.

      e) Update on the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF)

Mr. Rudko Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), informed the Group about recent developments related to ERTF.

The ERTF was created as a result of President of Finland Mrs. Halonen’s initiative although the original proposal dates back from the early 90s. The signing ceremony of the partnership agreement between the Council of Europe Secretary General and the President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum took place in Strasbourg on 15 December 2004. About 1,200 Roma and Traveller NGOs (but also churches) from about 40 countries registered to ERTF to participate in the elections of delegates. The same applied for seven Romani international organisations. ERTF is trying to extend its contacts with the European Commission and the OSCE-ODIHR, as well as establish partnership with experts who have contributed to Roma issues. Mr. Kawczynski agreed with Mr. Mirga that there were too many initiatives on Roma issues but not enough coordination among them. There is also an absurd competition for fundraising. The mandate of each organisation gets lost. These issues require further debate. The good cooperation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE which determined common ground when discussing with governments should be duplicated, especially among member states of the two organisations.

Mr. Kawczynski concluded by saying that he was surprised to have seen the ERTF so rapidly accepted by international organisations and NGOs. He reiterated that the ERTF is open to cooperation and the establishment of political partnership. He asked participants to be patient as the ERTF is a 14-month old organisation and so cannot solve century-long problems overnight. Finally, he thanked Mr. Vladychenko and DG3 Secretariat for their close cooperation with the ERTF.

      f) Council of Europe activities related to Roma and Travellers Issues

The Secretariat briefly informed the Group about both recent and upcoming events/activities related to the third Joint EC/CoE Programme in South East Europe “Equal Rights and Treatment for Roma”.
The Secretariat recalled the overall objective of the project which is to promote tools for the efficient implementation of National Strategies for Roma in South East Europe, through training on participative monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of national programmes/action plans for Roma, as well as through an awareness-raising campaign to fight against stereotypes and prejudices towards Roma. The project manager of the programme is Ivana d’Alessandro.

With regards to component 1 – training on participative monitoring and evaluation techniques – needs assessments were carried out in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (March) and in Albania (April). The next launch was foreseen in Bosnia and Herzegovina in June. The target group in each country particularly appreciated the effort of taking into account the specific needs of each country while programming the content of the training. Training sessions were about to start in the countries concerned.

With regards to component 2 - the awareness-raising campaign: “Dosta! Go beyond prejudice, discover the Roma!” – the Secretariat encouraged the Group to visit the campaign website : www.dosta.org. The campaign has already collected audio-visual material on Roma that can be easily used by both partner organizations to support their work in favour of Roma. It has also fostered cooperation with actors at the local level, as well as with other Council of Europe bodies (Eurimages, the Directorate of Communication, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities). The communication material still in preparation concerns leaflets, posters, a TV spot and a media pack for journalists.

The Secretariat called for countries represented in the Group, as well as other international partners (EUMC, OSCE-ODHIR, OSI, UNDP, UNHCR, World Bank, etc.), to contribute as much as they could to the success of this campaign.

With regards to component 3 - the evaluation of the impact of the two previous joint programmes in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Mr. Alan Phillips was entrusted to conduct visits in South East Europe to meet with authorities and NGO, as well as visits to Warsaw and Brussels. The draft evaluation report would be submitted to the partner’s institutions by the end of January 2007. It will then be transmitted to the concerned institutions and ministries in the participating countries for comments, and then presented during an evaluation workshop by the end of March 2007 in Strasbourg.

The Secretariat also indicated that the Roma and Travellers Division would contribute to priorities identified by the Warsaw Summit, such as the campaign to combat trafficking in human beings by training Roma mediators, particularly women, to inform potential victims within the communities of the danger of being trafficked. The Secretariat person responsible for this activity is Eleni Tsetsekou.

The Secretariat recalled that apart from the MG-S-ROM meetings and a few bilateral activities, such as joint activities with the UNHCR in the Balkans on refugees and access to documentation, or a training of lawyers on legal assistance to Roma in Ukraine, most of the activities of the Division were financed under the Special Account for Roma. Thanks to the voluntary contributions from Finland, a larger number of activities were carried out such as the annual training session of lawyers on legal assistance to Roma (with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg) or the project supporting Roma women health mediators in the Republic of Moldova using the Romanian experience. The Finnish grant also contributed to the participation of Roma representatives in various international fora (NDI training on diplomacy; European Parliament events). It also contributed to the participation costs of a dozen of Roma representatives to the Conference to take place the day after tomorrow. The Secretariat also recalled the voluntary contribution received from Norway to support FERYP activities on Roma Youth and Alternatives to Migration.

      g) Roma and Travellers Internship Programmes/Young Roma participation

Mr. Valeriu Nicolae (former ERIO Vice-Director) presented the conclusions and recommendations of the Group of young Roma who attended the Brussels Conference on Roma Diplomacy (December). They are available online at: http://www.diplomacy.edu/roma/Recommendations.pdf.

The Secretariat informed the Group about recent developments in the internship programme of the Council of Europe. A young Italian, Mr. Ugo Caruso, is currently doing a study visit in the Roma and Travellers Division and contributed to the drafting of several MG-S-ROM working documents (re. European Solidarity Fund and 10th anniversary documents). The latest young Roma to benefit from the OSI-funded Roma internship scheme was Mrs Ramiza Sakip from “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ramiza did her traineeship partly in DG3 Social Cohesion and partly in DG4 Education. It is hoped that the successful partnership with OSI would be renewed for other young Roma interns from Central and Eastern Europe. Following the circular letter sent to MG-S-ROM members and to Permanent Representations requesting funds for the Roma internship programme at the Council of Europe, there was a positive answer from the Netherlands, a negative answer from Switzerland and a slight indication from the United Kingdom that a young Traveller intern could be financially supported in 2007. The Secretariat called upon members to renew their contacts about the Roma internship scheme and recalled that secondments were still an alternative

The Secretariat thanked the Finnish Government for having seconded Miranda Vuolasranta to DG3 since October 2002. Throughout her time at the Council of Europe, Mrs. Miranda Vuolasranta acted as Special Adviser on Roma issues. Mrs. Vuolasranta was a crucial actor in furthering the initiative of the Finnish president, Ms. Tarja Halonen, leading to the signature of the unique Partnership Agreement between the ERTF and the Council of Europe on 15 December 2004. Her main objective was also to establish a liaison between Roma activists and leaders and the Council of Europe. In addition, her duties included tasks related to the development of Romani children’s education and the promotion of Romani women’s rights (gender equality). In that context she established close co-operation with international partner organizations, mainly with the OSCE/ODIHR and EU institutions. Since February Ms. Salomé Hirvaskoski, who used to work at the OSCE-ODIHR, has been the new Finnish seconded Roma person in the Division.

Mr. Peter Jorna (the Netherlands) related about his experience in trying to find trainees. Once he heard the Secretariat’s proposal at the last meeting, he took it for granted that he would easily succeed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior were initially enthusiastic; however they did not regard the financing of internships as a priority issue and considered the money required too small an amount to benefit from a grant. Mr. Jorna then contacted Dutch Roma NGOs. Out of the two first candidates, one Roma had difficulties leaving his job; the female Roma candidate had children and could not leave them. Mr. Jorna then publicised the announcement on his organisation’s website. Although not negative, many replies were hesitant: Roma candidates thought they did not possess the right educational level, their motivation was too weak or they considered Strasbourg too far away. A Sinto candidate living on a campsite applied. He had missed the chance of continuing his education. He started a job to earn some money but was flexible. At the moment there are five candidates: two female and three male. Mr. Jorna concluded by introducing two Roma who had accompanied him to the meeting and invited other members to show an interest in the Roma internship scheme.

Mr. Ahmet Jasar introduced himself. He said he is a Rom from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and is working with Peter Jorna. He is working for a consultancy company and as consultant for certain ministries. He said he would not be able to do the internship for professional reasons.

Mr. Dzango Djuric introduced himself too. He is a Rom born in France and travelled throughout Europe. He said he did not know much about Roma in Europe and about their living conditions but believed they needed help. He said he would be willing to go to Strasbourg to know the position of non-Roma people Roma issues.

Mr. Anthony Lockett (European Commission) informed the Group that the Roma internship programme of the European Commission was launched in 2005 and was funded by Open Society Institute (OSI). There was a good level of interest. So far, there had been ten young Roma graduates, four of whom are currently working in four different sectors: regional policy/structural funds; employment/social affairs; enlargement/Phare programme; and Education/Culture. He considered the programme particularly useful for both the European Commission, as well as for the interns themselves who could discover how European Institutions function.

The Chair thanked Mr. Jorna for having taken the personal initiative to find Roma and/or Sinti trainees and encouraged other members to do the same.

      h) Individual presentations

MG-S-ROM members and international institutions/organisations were asked to deliver a brief presentation on recent developments in their respective countries/organisations, with a special focus on certain issues to be addressed at the conference, i.e. housing, employment and relations between Roma and the police. Written presentations are available upon request [doc. MG-S-ROM (2006)8].

Following the last meeting, MG-S-ROM members were also invited to explain whether and to what extent affirmative action/positive discrimination was being practiced as concerns Roma and/or Traveller populations. Due to the timing, this item could not be addressed at the meeting.

      i) Questions and conclusions of the Group as regards further steps to be taken.

III. DRAFT RECOMMENDATION ON POLICIES TOWARDS ROMA AND TRAVELLERS IN EUROPE

The Secretariat indicated that the following states (Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Slovakia) and international organisations (EUMC) had submitted written comments since the 20th MG-S-ROM meeting of November 2005 [see MG-S-ROM(2006)2]. The Secretariat presented a new draft version of the Recommendation [MG-S-ROM (2006)4 prov] which tried to present all various amendments and apologized that this summary did not take into account the recent comments received from Mr. Valeriu Nicolae and invited him to share with the Group his comments paragraph after paragraph.

Mr. Alan Phillips, consultant and British expert on monitoring and evaluation techniques, presented his viewpoint on the current draft. His contribution is available in the Appendix.

The Group examined the first part of the draft recommendation but, due to numerous comments and proposals made at the meeting, did not manage to adopt a final version. The Secretariat suggested organising a small working group with the MG-S-ROM members who would propose a compromised version. The members from Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and United Kingdom, as well as the Coordinator, volunteered to assist the Secretariat. A new version of the draft recommendation would be sent by the Secretariat to the whole Group.

IV. EUROPEAN SOLIDARITY FUND

The Secretariat reminded the Group that the Committee of Ministers had requested the MG-S-ROM to submit its opinion on the creation of a European Solidarity Fund for Roma, as proposed by Mr. Tabajdi in Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation Rec. 1557 (2002) on the legal situation of the Roma in Europe [CM/AS(2003)Rec1557 final 13 June 2003].

The Secretariat also briefly presented the document prepared by the Italian intern, Ugo Caruso, on Existing Funds at national and international level for Roma [doc. MG-S-ROM (2006)5 prov]. The Secretariat invited the Group to read this document and complete it, if necessary. The Secretariat proposed that this item be discussed in further detail at the 22nd MG-S-ROM meeting.

The Group took note of the provisional document on Existing Funds for Roma [doc. MG-S-ROM (2006)5 prov] prepared by the Secretariat and decided to postpone the discussion about this item to its next meeting. The Chair proposed end of June to make any remarks concerning this document and any proposals concerning this item.

V. TENTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE MG-S-ROM IN 2006

The Chair, Mr. Naysmith (U.K.) informed the Group of events that were being held to mark the tenth anniversary of the MG-S-ROM, including the reception to be offered by the Romanian authorities on 3rd May in the evening. The Chair thanked the relevant authorities for this kind offer.

The Secretariat presented a provisional version of a document aimed to mark the 10th anniversary of the MG-S-ROM [MG-S-ROM (2006)7 prov]. The document contained statements by former or current MG-S-ROM members: Mrs. Josephine Verspaget (former Chair – the Netherlands), Mr. Claudio Marta (former Vice-Chair- Italy), Mr. Samo Drobež (Slovenia), Mr. Jan Hero (Slovak Republic), and Mr. Michael von Klüchtzner (Germany). The document contained also the mandate and short introduction to the members of the MG-S-ROM, recommendations and opinions that have been so far adopted by the Group, as well as relevant legal and political instruments of the Council of Europe.

The Chair thanked the members who had contributed to this document and invited other members of the Group to make suggestions or provide statements about their own experience and their vision of the future work of the Group.

VI. THE SITUATION OF ROMA IN ROMANIA

The Chair, Mr. Naysmith (U.K.), invited the Romanian authorities present to take the floor.

Mrs. Mariea Ionescu, President of the National Agency for Roma (NAR), introduced a presentation on the implementation and harmonization of national policies for Roma in Romania. She characterized the activities of the NAR as being institutional rebuilding in which previous ongoing activities were continued and new projects and programmes were initiated. The main role of NAR is to initiate, monitor and evaluate policies for Roma. NAR received a loan from the World Bank to establish a monitoring body. NAR also paid attention to the involvement of women and young graduates in its work. She explained that a number of working groups chaired by state secretaries, as well as consultative councils with experts were created. NAR also benefited from consultancy, for example by Mr. Mirga. NAR established a public and relations department for improving cooperation with the media and signed strategic partnership agreements with the National Council for Combating Discrimination and the National Agency for Workforce Employment, amongst others. Memoranda of collaboration were signed with various partners including OSCE-ODIHR, UNDP and the World Bank.

She indicated that the Government strategy for Roma was updated and a new Master Plan of Measures was adopted for the 2006-2008 period that will clarify structures for implementing the strategy and their role in this process. She also referred to several publications, such as “Public Policies for Roma: Evolution and Perspectives”.

Mrs. Ionescu complained that she was lacking space to develop NAR’s activities and about lack of funding from the Romanian Government. Progressively the EU funding will have to be replaced by state budget and therefore she requested assistance from international organisations.

She also outlined several community development programmes in some localities. NAR also organised the process of ensuring the fulfilment of the Government engagements regarding the European Court of Human Rights’ decision on Hadareni case. The Government had just adopted on 19 April a decision for the approval of the community development programme for the locality of Hadareni, County of Mures.

NAR is ensuring chairmanship of the Decade for Roma Inclusion since July 2005. It issued its priorities and Romanian commitments vis-ŕ-vis the Decade. Mrs Ionescu thanked Mr. Paun for his assistance in having them passed in Parliament. As regards the action plans of the Decade, benchmarks and a set of indicators were defined. She asked for concrete support from Roma Decade partners and international organisations.

She concluded with a specific request addressed to the Council of Europe and the OSCE for providing funds for a NAR housing-related project to be implemented in September. She also indicated that her presentation, as well as her presentation for the Conference of 4-5 May, would be made available
(see the Appendix).

Mr. Nicolae Paun, President of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and President of the Roma Party, congratulated the Romanian authorities and the MG-S-ROM for the rare opportunity offered to address more specifically Roma issues. He indicated that the Conference of 4-5 May would be another opportunity. While he did not want to create discomfort to the parliament, he underlined that since 2000 Roma was a delicate issue and a difficult one to approach with governments. The various initiatives of the government – i.e. the Government Strategy for Improving the situation of Roma (2001-2010), the National Plan for Fighting Poverty and Promoting Social Inclusion (Anti-Poverty Plan, 2002-2012), the Joint Inclusion Memorandum (2005-2010), the Action Plans of the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) and the EU National Development Plan (2007-2013) - were insufficient, he said. There was a need for a more consistent approach that should not be exclusively supported by the Government. These initiatives should have been presented before the Parliament. He said that there was a need for real engagement from political parties, and unity around this issue, not just governmental decisions. Mr. Paun said that he had pointed out several times that the parliament is not aware of these initiatives, which have therefore no political support.

Mr. Paun explained that, according to him, the target groups of the aforementioned initiatives were not sufficiently defined.

Mr. Paun indicated that the Parliament was discussing the status of minorities but both the Conservative Party and the Democratic Party were no longer supporting the draft law in respect to minority rights.

He also said that Romania should be more careful about the way it addresses Roma issues when looking to EU accession since there are hundreds of thousands of Roma with no legal status. These persons are “not existent”. Many of them will want to leave Romania and go to EU countries. There was a need to reform the Romanian constitution he said. He regretted that at the moment the Romanian Government was focusing too much in trying to get funding from the international community.

He also raised some concerns about the composition of experts groups related to the above initiatives. He regretted that there were not enough Roma representatives and that Roma activists were not so visible or had turned into “experts” and abandoned “activism”.

The former NAR (National Office for Roma - NOR) was criticized for not cooperating with the NGOs and not ensuring the process of consultation with the civil society but the current amendments made to the Strategy for the improvement of the Roma situation basically have pushed out the civil society. In this regard, for example, the coordinating and monitoring body of the Strategy is formed of Secretaries of State and the National Agency for Roma which should subsequently bring the opinions of the Roma NGOs. In comparison, during 2001-2004 five organizations were members of the Joint Mixed Committee for Implementation of the Strategy, but currently the NGOs have disappeared, and the only actor is a governmental institution.

Mrs. Liliana Preoteasa, Director General, Direction Pre-University Education, Ministry of Education and Culture, presented an overview of the situation of Roma pupils and students and indicated that her ministry paid particular attention to access to education for disadvantaged groups.

She quoted a series of concrete measures aimed at improving quality education and school attendance:

    - lower number of children in classes in the rural areas;
    - a glass of milk and a croissant for all children;
    - school buses to ensure transportation of children;
    - positions of Roma inspectors;
    - quota in high schools for Roma students as a positive measure;
    - open distance programme for Roma graduates to become institutors in Roma communities;
    - catch-up courses.

Mrs. Preoteasa described the main obstacles as follows:

    - lack of IDs;
    - not educated enough;
    - poor school education;
    - teachers not interested or not qualified enough;
    - need to adapt to children’s culture;
    - lack of participation and interest from local authorities.

Mrs Preoteasa added that there were many drop-outs from schools due to the fact that the educational system is in Romania very competitive and that teachers pay little attention to children with difficulties. She also clearly pointed out discrimination at school as being one of the reasons.

Her ministry had decided to develop pre-school, prevent drop-outs, and provide second chance programmes for people who have dropped out from primary or secondary education by adopting a 8.33 million Lei programme for access of Roma to education (2001 PHARE exercise that finished last year). In 2003 the programme should be extended to 12 additional regions.

The role of school mediators has been beneficial. They inform schools about difficulties faced by Roma children and encourage families to send their children to school. They contributed to the improvement of quality education and to the increase of the number of children enrolled at school. The MEC is also providing school material that puts forward the specific needs of Roma children.

There is however still segregation in Romanian schools. A fight against segregation is included in the new curriculum.

Mrs. Preoteasa’s Power Point presentation is available in the Appendix.

Mr. Gruia Bumbu, Adviser on Roma Issues, Office of the Vice Prime-Minister of Romania, Department of Education and Culture, indicated that according to the official census, there are 535,000 Roma living in Romania. However, the unofficial statistics suggest a figure between 1.2 and 2.5 million, which makes the Roma the 2nd largest minority group after the Hungarians. There are more than 45 Roma organisations in Romania led by Roma women or men. An umbrella organisation called Civic Alliance was recently created.

There is a high level of poverty among Roma, three times higher than the rest of the population, due to a low rate of income. Only 25% live off a normal income. Low professional training is one of the reasons for high unemployment. Inappropriate housing, absence of infrastructure and limited access to public services (59% of Roma have no access to sewage) make their lives particularly difficult. Not all Roma have ID, which result in difficult access to social and health rights.

Mr. Bumbu highlighted however positive decisions put forward by the Government that have been implemented at the local level, such as school mediators, Roma officers of the National Agency for Rom, and Roma inspectors.

Mr. Dezideriu Gergely from the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) made a presentation about the work and functioning of the NCCD. It recalled that this body is the national authority in Romania which investigates and sanctions facts or acts of discrimination, independently, without being influenced y other institutions or public authorities. He described the composition of the Steering Board (7 members), which has decision-making powers; therefore its decisions, instructions or regulations are legally binding. Acts or facts of discrimination can be sanctioned with a fine and the implementation of the decision of the Board is secured by the Court. According to the Romanian anti-discrimination law “elimination of all forms of discrimination may be fulfilled also by mediation through friendly settlement of conflicts occurred as result of act/facts of discrimination”. The case law from 2003-2005 was presented, with focus on friendly settlements involving Roma issues. The NCCD has also adopted decisions without including a sanction but with recommendations.

Mr. Gergely also presented annual statistics by subject of complaint and indicated the ground (race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) and the outcome. The number of complaints lodged before the Council is increasing yearly from 134 in 2002, for example, up to almost 400-500 in 2004-2005. Up to 39% from the complaints lodged have as object instances of discrimination manifested against Roma. The same extend of the situation is reflected in the statistics of the sanctions applied (starting from warnings to fines). For example, 52% from the sanctions applied regards cases where perpetrators were find in violation with the anti-discrimination law in matters involving discrimination against Roma. In most of cases, discrimination against Roma occurred in advertisement: ads in housing (selling/renting/buying buildings, apartments etc.), services or related activities; press articles referring to Roma, denial of access to public places and hate speech manifested in public.

Also, relevant initiatives in Roma issues promoted by NCCD, in cooperation with other institutions and NGO’s have been presented. Mr. Gergely’s presentation will be made available to participants.

The Chair, Mr. Naysmith (U.K.), invited members of the Group to react to previous interventions.

Mr. Lauri Sivonen from the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe presented the document “Final report on the human rights situation of the Roma, Sinti and Travellers in Europe [CommDH(2006)1)] published by the previous Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, to the Group. Issues affecting Roma and Travellers raised in this report included housing, education, employment, health, treatment of Roma by public authorities, including the police and judiciary, as well as a chapter on the trafficking of human beings. He encouraged the MG-S-ROM to consult this document, which also addresses the situation in Romania.

Mr. Sivonen informed the Group about upcoming visits to be undertaken by the new Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg, in particular to the Baltic States. He also reiterated the strong interest of the Commissioner for Roma Issues.

Mr. Stefan Gherman, UNHCR, informed the Group on the situation of Roma in Romania from the UNHCR perspective. He also recalled the UNHCR position paper on the Continued International Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo, Roma in particular, from March 2005, which resulted from previous meetings with regional, authorities and NGOs. The UNHCR representative recalled its cooperation programme with the Council of Europe to train and/or assist persons who do not have identity papers or certificates.

The Chair opened the floor to a exchange of views and discussion.

Mrs. Isabel Alonson Luzuriaga (Spain) thanked the Romanian authorities for their presentation. She insisted on the need to allocate enough funds to the national budget to ensure the sustainability of programmes for Roma, as well as not to multiply legislation but to offer the same ones to all citizens. She asked the Romanian authorities to be more specific as to exactly what was required: expertise (consultancy) or financial assistance. She considered that particular attention should be given to education, and to providing sufficient and trained teachers. Concerning difficulties between the Parliament and the Government in Romania, she encouraged the two Parties to work together. She also recalled the important role of the media in combating prejudices against Roma.

Mrs. Tove Skotvedt (Norway) indicated that she was well aware of the situation of Roma in Romania and witnessed positive measures undertaken. There was still room for improvement in the areas of transport and discrimination. If the problems faced by the Roma population were based on discrimination, this would indeed justify positive measures towards this category of population. She also raised a question concerning accessibility of the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) for the Roma population.

Mr. Claudio Marta (Italy) insisted on the issue of providing identification papers for Roma to ensure their equal access to basic rights. He also wondered how the NCCD could ensure that complaints from NGOs reach the Office.

Mrs. Louiza Kyriakaki (Greece) briefly introduced a paper distributed [see doc. MG-S-ROM(2006)8] on the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan (I.A.P.) for the social inclusion of Greek Roma, with special focus on developments in the field of housing. This Plan includes two priority axes: the construction of infrastructure and the provision of services (education, health, employment, culture and sport). Mrs. Kyriakaki also presented the housing loans programme guaranteed by the Greek state, i.e. the granting of 9.000 housing loans, of 60.000€ each to Greek Roma living in shacks, tents or any other constructions that do not meet minimum requirements on permanent habitation. In order to ensure Roma access to information and services, they are supported on a daily basis on both local and central levels (Ministry of Interior, Organisations of Local Government, Citizens’ Support Centres) for receiving information on programmes, laws and the processing of their cases. She also indicated that the government introduced alternative administrative procedures, respecting different lifestyles and particular needs born by socially vulnerable groups of the Greek population, such as Roma. They issue birth certificates upon judiciary decision and jurisdiction, in cases of lost or non-existing documents, or issue driving license through oral exams.

Mrs. Mariea Ionescu (NAR-Romania) replied that indeed persons who do not possess ID do no have access to certain rights. The Ministry of Interior is dealing with this juridical status issue. Tensions between state institutions are reflected in the annual programme for 2006-2007. In Romania there is a housing shortage and lack of land for construction and people do not always have property rights. The recent floods have worsened the situation. The Open Society Institute (OSI) has implemented a good project in Bǎcau district. This could be considered as a good practice.

Mr. Dezideriu Gergely (Romania) confirmed that it was sometimes difficult for Roma NGOs to access the NCCD in Bucharest; it was therefore all the more important to have a draft law adopted by the Senate which will create regional offices of the NCCD. Two of them should be financed in 2007 and five others in 2008.

Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe (OSCE-ODIHR) mentioned two priority areas in Romania: the need to ensure quality education and to desegregate schools and classes, and referred to a joint ERRC/OSCE-ODIHR/Council of Europe project on this issue which led to three different round tables in Sofia, Budapest and Bucharest. The OSCE-ODIHR and the NAR were about to finalise a memorandum o understanding on that issue. Mr. Gheorghe suggested that the MG-s-ROM should at one of its next meetings address the issue of influencing budgetary allocations in favour of Roma. He also considered that Governmental policies were not discussed enough at parliamentary level. He quoted the good example of Spain where there was a debate about Roma within the parliament.

Mrs. Mariea Ionescu (NAR-Romania) thanked the European Commission, the OSCE-ODIHR and the Council of Europe for their moral support. She said that there was a need to depoliticise Roma political issues in the social area. There was also a need for harmonising policies. This did not mean that there should not be initiatives that complement each other; there is a need to take stock of them. Common actions could be undertaken through the aforementioned institutions. Mrs. Ionescu also identified a problem of communication of OSCE and CoE recommendations, as well as of finding relevant mechanisms to put them into force. She also underlined the weakness of the system of governmental decisions which are adopted without going through Parliament. In Romania there is a lack of interest regarding the situation of Roma from the Parliament, as well as from local and regional authorities. It was necessary to appoint Roma advisers to municipalities to raise awareness.

      VII. ROMA EDUCATION

Ms. Aurora Ailincai, DG IV - Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport, Division for the European Dimension of Education, Council of Europe, presented recent developments as regards the Council of Europe Project "Education of Roma children in Europe". Her Power Point presentation is attached in the Appendix.

As part of the Project, the Council of Europe has designed an education pack for Roma pre-school children. This pack prepares Roma and Traveller children who have not attended nursery school and are neither ready nor sufficiently mature for the first primary school class to start school so that they do not fall too far behind.

Through the Council of Europe’s in-service training programme Pestalozzi about 40 training seminars are held each year, some of them on Roma issues (use of teaching material, Roma culture and history in schools, Roma school mediators, etc.).

The Council of Europe is producing a Guide for Roma school mediators. Positions such as that of Roma mediator or school assistant can be made more effective by promoting high-quality initial training geared to the needs on the ground. This Guide will contain an occupational profile, training modules for mediators and other essential practical information.

The Council of Europe is producing teaching material suitable for use by Roma and non-Roma teachers working with classes made up of both Roma and other children. This material, in the form of publications or sets of educational fact sheets covering a number of topics, such as history, culture, cinema, literature and theatre, will foster mutual understanding of differences, which is the basic principle underlying the intercultural approach. It will be used in both formal education and non-formal educational settings such as cultural centres or museums of Roma culture and history. Some of this material can be used in the community by children and their parents.

As part of the Council of Europe’s project on the education of Roma children, representatives of the Roma community are involved at each stage, and play an active role in the implementation of policies concerning them. The idea of involving community representatives in developing the project is in keeping with the more general principle of encouraging direct participation by, and empowerment of, members of these communities.

Mrs. Miranda Vuolasranta, Vice President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), presented - as a member of the consultative group under the Language Policy Division – recent developments concerning the Council of Europe medium-term Project “A European curriculum framework for Romani language” that aims to elaborate a common framework of reference for the development of the Romani language curricula, and to produce teaching materials in Romani language. The work has benefited from a voluntary contribution from Finland. The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) has followed the work with interest and is kept informed of developments. The project, along with other policy actions on minority education, was also presented at a Hearing of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages with the Language Policy Division. The conclusions of that hearing clearly recognize the Romani language as a mother tongue and it is recommended to speak about codification rather than of standardisation of the Romani language (the report of this hearing is available in the Appendix).
Mrs. Vuolasranta said that the Council of Europe was playing an important role on the recognition of the Romani language and culture as an integrated part of European history. She supported Mr. Gheorghe’s intervention highlighting the need for quality education, and for a ban of racial segregation that could be identified as a sort of apartheid. Roma children should not be left out but integrated into mixed classes from preschool to university. She felt that it was important to ensure that line ministries allocate sufficient money for the education of Roma children when they carry out their bi-annual budgetary planning.

Mr. Costel Bercus, Chairman of the Roma Education Fund (REF) presented recent developments concerning the Fund. His presentation will be made available to participants.

Mr. Jan Hero (Slovakia) asked the representative of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) about any evaluation/assessment made of Roma school inspectors, as well as the system of quotas in high schools, which were a priori positive measures. Mr. Hero also asked Mr. Bercus to indicate recent developments in the context of the Roma Decade and whether these developments were monitored.

Mrs. Liliana Preoteasa (MEC-Romania) responded that at the beginning (1998-1999) Roma School inspectors were not considered as necessary. They do sometimes part-time work. The MEC feels it is important to have someone looking specifically at the education of Roma children. As regards the system of quotas, it was necessary due to the fact that many students in high schools may have private lessons, while this was not usually the case for Roma due to poorer living conditions. This was therefore a measure to compensate this unbalanced situation.

Mr. Bercus (REF) responded that it was too early to monitor the process since the REF only started being operational earlier this year. About 35 projects had been approved so far. The Monitoring of project implementation would be carried out in all countries benefiting from REF grants, with the participation of local organisations and the respective ministries of education.

VIII. ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE NEXT MEETINGS

The Secretariat proposed to have the next MG-S-ROM meeting end of October or early November, possibly during the same week as the 2nd plenary meeting of the European Roma and Travellers Forum and/or the Roma Film Festival in Strasbourg.

Members of the Group did not make any proposal as regards the new host country for the Spring 2007 meeting, though Mr. Petro Grygorychenko confirmed to the Secretariat after the meeting that Ukraine’s proposal to host the MG-S-ROM in 2007 was still valid.

The Chair invited members of the Group to suggest possible events to be organised on the margin of the next meeting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MG-S-ROM, as well as to propose to the Secretariat names of experts or NGO representatives to be invited for the autumn session in Strasbourg.

The Chair closed the 21st MG-S-ROM meeting.

*****************************************************

APPENDICES TO THE 21ST MG-S-ROM MEETING REPORT

    1. Annotated agenda of the 21st meeting;

    2. Final list of participants;

    3. Report of the Informal Contact Group of Intergovernmental Organisations and Institutions on Roma, Sinti and Traveller Issues under the Austria EU Presidency,Brussels, 3 April 2006;

    4. Report of the Council of Europe Coordinator for Activities Concerning Roma and Travellers for the Period  March 2003 – December 2005;

    5. Mr. Alan Phillips’ viewpoint on the draft recommendation on policies for Roma and Travellers;

    6. Power point presentation by Mrs. Mariea Ionescu, President of the National Agency for Roma (NAR);

    7. Power point presentation by Mrs. Liliana Preoteasa, Director General, Direction Pre-Universitary Education, Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC);

    8. Report of the Public Hearing on the Romani language between the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the European Roma and Travellers Forum;

    9. Power point presentation by Mrs. Aurora Ailincai on the Education of Roma Children in Europe.

Please consult also written contributions submitted by members of the Group [MG-S-ROM(2006)8].


1 The new Terms of Reference of the MG-S-ROM were adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 July 2006.

2 The meeting report of the 20th meeting (Strasbourg, 22-23 November) is appended to this report.

3 The absolute final version of the mandate was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 July 2006. It was circulated by email to the Group and is also appended to this report.

4 The ERTF position paper on Kosovo is available in English, Serbian and Romani on ERTF Website : www.ertf.org