Report on “Cultural Identities of Roma, Gypsies, Travellers and related Groups in Europe », 2003


The opinions expressed in this work are the responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Council of Europe

“ Every person belonging to a national minority shall have the right freely to choose to be treated or not to be treated as such and no disadvantage shall result from this choice or from the exercise of the rights, which are connected to that choice. ”

Article 3 al. 1 from the


Why this seminar?
The participants;
Objectives of the report;
About the content of the report.



part ii – denomination
Traditional occupations
Languages and dialects


On cultural identities
On the use of names at the Council of Europe



Glossary of Romani terms used in the report
Contribution by Prof. Courthiade


At the 15th meeting of the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM), held in Strasbourg in March 2003, Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe (OSCE-ODIHR) pointed out that there is sometimes confusion in the terminology used to name the various groups covered by the discussions and the work of the MG-S-ROM. He also mentioned that there is still confusion about administrative categories (for example “Gens du voyage” in France) and ethnic groups (for example “Travellers” in Ireland). Mr. Gheorghe advocated an explicit debate of the issue from the angle of cultural identity.

In response, the Specialist Group on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM), proposed holding a specific activity in the course of 2003. The Secretariat of the Roma/Gypsies Division proposed organising a multi-purpose seminar: on the one hand, the seminar would, by examining the similarities and differences between the various relevant cultures, provide participants with clarification of the terminology used by MG-S-ROM, as well as by the Council of Europe (hereafter “CoE”) in general; and on the other hand, it would serve as a forum for defining the needs and relevant actions, which could help to strengthen the Roma1 culture throughout Europe.


Over 100 participants took part in this two-day International Seminar, including:

Representatives of Roma, Sinti, Kale, Travellers, Yenish, Beash, Balkan Egyptians, Ashkali communities (several of them as speakers) from about 30 European countries;
Governmental officials dealing with Roma issues from several of these countries and members of the MG-S-ROM;
Representatives of international Romani organisations (FERYP, GATIEF IRU, IRWN, RNC);
Various departments of the Council of Europe (ECRI, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, CoE Congress for Local and Regional Authorities, DG III Social Cohesion, DG IV Education, Private Office, etc.);
International organisations (UNHCR) and NGOs dealing with Roma issues (ERIO, OSI, PAKIV, PER);
The Permanent Representatives of several member States with the Council of Europe, plus Permanent Observers’ Office of Japan and Mexico to CoE.

The seminar addressed the topic of identity from the anthropological, historical, linguistic, and political angles.

In their welcome addresses both Ms. Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni – Director General of Social Cohesion and Mr. Henry Scicluna – Co-ordinator of activities concerning Roma/Gypsies, underlined the importance of the seminar in the framework of CoE activities, and highlighted its specific objectives.


To analyse how cultural values and customs influence social relations inside and outside the communities;
To examine to what extent and within which limits the various groups share a common identity and cultural values, common traditions or ways of life;
To achieve consensus among the various groups on a common name to be used at international level;
To address majority/minority issues and the impact of the socio-economic conditions on cultural identity and integration in modern societies from the angle of the different generations.


This report focuses on the results of the individual contributions and the plenary discussions, as well as on the conclusions and the recommendations made during the seminar. It also provides short summaries of thematic inputs made during the seminar.

Finally, this report also sets out the Rapporteur’s conclusions and raises some questions to be put to the MG-S -ROM for further reflection.


Dr. Andrzej MIRGA, Chair of the MG-S-ROM, in his introductory remarks, asked the participants to reflect upon two very important questions:

How could this seminar contribute to the work of the MG-S-ROM?
How was the Roma culture defined and what was its relation with the Roma identity?

Dr. Mirga also introduced the working approach of the MG-S-ROM, which consisted in acknowledging and recognizing the diversity of the Roma. He stressed that the CoE intergovernmental structures, such as the MG-S-ROM, should not intervene in defining Roma’s culture and identity. But the Group could both advise and stimulate the governments to support activities related to the cultures and identities of the various ethnic groups.

Dr. Mirga also reminded the audience of the existence of a specific recommendation on Travellers that had been produced by the MG-S-ROM. He also listed a number of legal instruments aimed at protecting individuals’ culture and identity.

Furthermore, the Chair of the MG-S-ROM mentioned the need for assessment of the existing measures and standards for protecting Roma’s cultures and identities, adding that close attention should be paid to reverse assimilation processes.

Dr. Mirga concluded his introductory statement by inviting the participants to submit proposals to the MG-S-ROM to be taken into consideration by the Group of Specialists in formulating new memoranda, opinion papers and other policy-related documents, for preparing various recommendations, as well as for national policies on Roma and/or Travellers.


Mr. Liégeois’ introductory remarks contained a number of substantive remarks that are either quoted or otherwise used in various parts of this report.

One emphasis of Mr. Liégeois’ statement was the link between the concepts of Roma education and Roma culture, and the consequent importance of this seminar.

Mr. Liégeois began by underlining the longstanding interest of the CoE towards the issue of the schooling of Roma/Gypsy children. He reminded participants of various steps taken at CoE level on this issue through the development of various legal instruments on minorities, the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Recommendation No. R (2000)4 on the education of Roma/Gypsy children in Europe, or the instigation of a concrete DG IV project “Education of Roma/Gypsy children in Europe”. Mr. Liégeois outlined the aforementioned project, which he himself was currently overseeing.

The speaker stressed the importance of the seminar, especially its innovative aspects. In particular, he made the following points to the participants:

“…The present seminar is a very special one, in both form and substance;

• To my knowledge, this is the first time that Roma, Gypsies, Travellers and members of other communities have come together from such diverse geographical, cultural, social and political backgrounds to discuss key issues; it is, in short, a long-awaited event;

• It also promises to be novel experience, in that you will effectively be acting as your own anthropologists, and will be doing so as a team; anthropologists work in a particular community, seeking to define its uniqueness and identity, and numerous theories have been written on the subject; what matters here, though, is this experience of collective anthropology developed within a group dynamic; the discussions will, I expect, be rather lively, and are at any rate crucial for this process of exchange and collective development;

• Beyond the usual drawing of comparisons between different groups, what we have here is knowledge coupled with awareness, a dynamic combination that offers tremendous scope…”

Furthermore, Mr. Liégeois underlined the broad potential impact of the seminar on the DG IV Education project, as well as on the implementation of various legal instruments of the Council of Europe, including:

• The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

• The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

• Recommendations 563 (1969), 1203 (1993) and 1557 (2002) of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly

• Resolutions 125 (1981), 249 (1993) and 16 (1995) and Recommendations 11 (1995) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe on the situation of Roma/Gypsies in Europe

• ECRI [European Commission against Racism and Intolerance] general policy recommendation no. 3: combating racism and intolerance against Roma/Gypsies.

Finally, Mr. Liégeois emphasized that the subject of debate in this seminar went to the very heart of key political, social and cultural issues facing Europe today.


“Rromanipen – Roma Identity Patterns between Archetype and Stereotype. What DOES the Romani culTure mean TO the Roma?”
By Ms. Delia-Madalina GRIGORE,
Roma Centre for Public Policies “Aven Amentza”, Romania

In her statement, Ms. Delia Grigore underlined the significant difference in the perception and interpretation of the Roma culture by the Roma and non-Roma. She referred to the visible parts of the culture but also to fundamental values of the Roma.

As a starting point Ms. Grigore focused on some stereotypes about Roma and the features to which they corresponded in the reality of the Romani traditional culture. In this context, Ms. Grigore examined:
Traditional crafts,
Traditional costume,
Early marriage,
Bartered brides,
Woman’s inferior position in the family,
Children’s freedom.

The second part of Ms. Grigore’s intervention presented the archetype of the Romani traditional culture, focusing on the following:

Rromanipen was the Rromani identity pattern system of rules and values, Rromani traditional law, in the same sense as the dharma for the Hindu culture. It covered the following principles:
Phralipen (brotherhood) – mutual help, support, solidarity and shared responsibility; collective life (protection, security, control, guide, pre-established rules) as opposed to individual life (insecurity, lack of protection, freedom, self-asserted rules);
Pakiv - faith / belief (including in God), honour, honesty, reconciliation, respect / esteem, trust, balance, achieved only if the rules were observed;
Baxt - fate, destiny, good fortune - vs. bibaxt – ill-fortune (which happened when the rules of purity were broken; eg it was prohibited to speak about death because this could cause ill-fortune);
Ciacipen (truth, sincerity, justice);
Ujo (pure) vs. mahrime (impure): in this context many very strict rules had to be respected, otherwise punishment ensued, followed by reparations aimed at restoring balance in community life;
Family = community, community = family – in the sense of belonging, solidarity and shared responsibility, manifested also by recognition and blessing rituals;
Children’s cult;
Old persons’ cult o phuro as the link with the past experience and the identity ancestral pattern;
Dualism – Good and Evil existed equally in the world; Del (God) and Beng (Devil) were equally important and the individual should take both of them into account;
Eternal present – the past was not important because it had already passed, the future was known only to God, so only the present counted;
Rromani kriss (customary justice, traditional juridical system and reunion) – distributive justice mainly intended not to punish the guilty but to compensate the victim and secure reconciliation between the parties (each one was right in his own way, or both sides were partially right).

Finally Ms. Grigore presented the perception of the children in the Roma family/community, as well as their cultural education patterns.

Ms. Grigore’s input to the seminar was greatly appreciated by the participants. A number of references to her statement were made during the rest of the sessions. Her contribution was also reflected in the report section – “Outcomes of the seminar” (see page 19).

By Ms. Miranda VUOLASRANTA, Special Adviser on Roma issues, Council of Europe,
Ms. Angelina Dimitri-TAIKON, Sweden,
and Mr. Stanislaw STANKIEWICZ, International Romani Union

In this session the three aforementioned speakers introduced some fundamental elements of the Romani culture:
The Roma notion of purity versus impurity and its implications in Romani customs and everyday life.
The concept of the “endaj2 – the extended Roma family and its principles.
The relations between the generations and the men and women in the “endaj”. The perceptions of the roles of the men and the women in the “endaj”.

The session was particularly interesting to the non-Roma participants, as it provided genuine information about some fundamental elements of the Romani culture. For the Roma it was a good opportunity to conclude once again that despite some insignificant differences in terminology, or even variation of the customs, the various Roma groups throughout Europe still share the main elements of the “Rromanipen”.

The first part of the session was presented by Ms. Miranda VUOLASRANTA, Special Adviser in the CoE Migration and Roma/Gypsy Department. Ms. Vuolasranta’s starting point was the definition of the Romani notion of purity, which was the oriental one, meaning that it concerned not only physical but also spiritual cleanliness. This concept and its real implications could be found not only in the everyday life of Roma – for example the way they took care of their houses - but also in some very important customs bound up with childbirth, death and funerals, etc. Finally, it also concerned intergenerational relations, the relations between Roma men and women, as well as the perception of the elderly and children.

Ms. Vuolasranta devoted special attention in her statement to the relation between the Romani culture and the health care system. The elements of this analysis were:
At the doctor’s;
In the hospital: medical operations, visiting relatives in the hospital, taking meals;
Health education;
Maternity care and children’s clinics.

In her presentation, in addition to the relevant information about the Romani culture, Ms. Vuolasranta provided some very practical suggestions on how the various health institutions could take account of Roma cultural differences.

Both Mr. Stanislaw STANKIEWICZ , Journalist and University Professor, Poland and Ms. Angelina Dimitri–Taikon, Sweden, outlined the way of life in extended families (“ENDAJ”) and the relations between individuals within the “endaj”.

Some of the important points that Mr. Stankiewicz stressed in his presentation were the following:

Examining the role of the individual versus the family = community.
For every Roma the family was the fundamental value. The individual as such was therefore less important. This could easily be ascertained by looking at the Roma customs of greeting and getting to know each other.
A person without family had less prestige and a different image in the community than a person with family. But this did not mean that persons without family were excluded from the community. On the contrary, such persons were taken care of by the others.

The meaning of Roma family = to Roma community.
For its members, the Roma family meant not only the immediate family but also the extended one. Roma settlements were often made up of a single family. But whether or not this was the case, the concept of the family often coincided with that of the community.

Respect as a value and mode of behaviour.
Self respect, mutual respect. Respect of the elderly. Respect between the genders and the generations. Respect of the Roma and respect of the non-Roma.

Dualism in speaking/communication.
Mr. Stankiewicz presented the Roma way of communicating as a particular skill. He said that even where Roma could not speak directly to each other, they could nevertheless understand each other very well. But non-Roma often failed to understand this dualism in communication. Therefore, they often had difficulty in understanding the real meaning of what Roma were saying.

Family and children as fundamental value.
The role of parents and the children in the Roma family and their interrelations were explained.

The role of Roma women in the Roma family/community.
As explained previously by Ms. Grigore and Ms. Vuolasranta, as well as by Ms. Taikon afterwards, Mr. Stankiewicz also stressed the fact that women do not have any inferior position in the Roma community, contrary to majority perceptions. On the contrary, the women have a rather important role to play in the traditional Roma family, complementing that of Roma men.

The Romani language.
Language was crucial to Roma identity and culture. It was therefore of cardinal importance to the Roma, though not only as a communication tool. Moreover, the way an individual used the Romani language was indicative of his/her image, prestige and position in the community.

Solidarity was a fundamental principle in the Roma family and community. It had been developed as a survival strategy and functioned as such not only on a daily basis, but also, even more strongly, in emergency situations.

Romani traditions played an important role in the life of the family. Mr. Stankiewicz drew attention to the importance of preserving traditions, but also admitted that they were changing. He stressed that sometimes the traditions were an obstacle to modernity, but added that without traditions it was very difficult for anyone to define his/her identity. An important challenge for young Roma was to decide which Romani traditions to preserve and carry forward into the future, and which to leave behind.

The treatment of elderly Roma people.
He stressed the fact there had never been a single case in the Roma community of an elderly Roma person being placed in institutional care by his/her family.

Gender roles and relations.
The speaker stated that: “The good Roma man was responsible for his family”. He explained the concept of the “Pativaly Romni” (the faithful, honoured and respected Roma woman). Monogamy was highlighted as a cultural characteristic of the Roma, whereas polygamy and unfaithfulness were modes of behaviour adopted under non-Roma influence.

Romani Kriss.
Mr. Stankiewicz explained the function of the Romani Kriss in the community or family. Mr. Teodor Mutto specifically presented this topic at a later stage

Romani culture – the Rromanipen as the religion of the Roma.
Mr. Stankiewicz concluded his contribution by stating that the Roma people had lost their material culture; efforts should be made to (re-) discover it and even greater efforts were needed to further develop the culture they had at present. Finally, he said that for various reasons it could be said that the Romani culture –RROMANIPEN - had become the religion, or the Bible, of the Roma people, as it regulated their lives and relations inside and outside the community.

The presentation of Ms. Angelina Dimitri – TAIKON, Sweden, was along the same lines as Mr. Stankiewicz’s.

Additionally, Ms. Taikon emphasised that contrary to stereotypes about Roma women, everyone in the Roma family was allowed to express his or her opinion.

She also described the Romani culture as a culture of survival and adjustment. And finally she also raised the question how to strike a balance between the Roma culture and the neighbouring non-Roma culture.

By Mr. Teodore MUTTO, Chair of the International Romani Kriss, Sweden

Mr. Mutto presented the code of honour of the Roma and their understanding of loyalty, as well as such concepts as fidelity, cohesiveness and community responsibility. He also explained why the Roma community had in the course of history developed an internal system of justice, namely the Romani Kriss, which had various names and forms within the different communities but was based on the same principles and also played the same role.

Mr. Mutto gave examples of the functioning of the “Romani Kriss” and its membership, as well as examples of punishment (financial or moral), which could in the most serious cases lead to complete isolation from the group (ostracism).

Mr. Mutto’s presentation was complemented by Mr. Saimir MILE, Legal Assistant, Centre Rrom AVER, France, who compared the Roma and the non-Roma judiciary systems.

The speaker emphasis the fact that the Romani Kriss was one of the main features of the Romani culture. Unfortunately, some of the elements of this unique system had now been lost. Worse still, in some communities it was no longer practised at all.

He stressed that the justice administered by the Romani Kriss was not punitive, but reconciliatory. Furthermore, Mr. Mile explained that Romani Kriss judges were not required to have had any particular formal training.

Mr. Nicolae RADITA, Chairman of Roma Students’ Association, Moldova, spoke about relations between the Roma and the police and the difficulties arising from the fact that Roma lived in a community. The “endaj” defended every one of its members. At the same time, when the police forces came to a Romani or Traveller settlement to arrest someone, they tended also to disturb neighbours/neighbouring caravans, while this would never happen in the majority society. Concluding his statement, Mr. Radita proposed that the CoE organise training of police officers on issues relating to Romani culture.

By Mr. Alexian Santino SPINELLI, University of Trieste, Italy

Mr. Spinelli said that the Roma communities conceived of time in a completely different manner from other groups.

He compared the Roma notion of time with the Western concept. According to his presentation:
Roma had a pre-industrial vision of time, a more static (oriental) one;
Roma did not regulate time according to commitments defined by society;
Roma regulated their time according to their social life within the community;
To the Roman, time was not a means of making money; They preferred using their time to develop and maintain their social relations and their interpersonal relationships within the community;
The Romani concept of time also referred to the Romani culture, which did not concern itself with counting hours;
Time as the Roma people conceived it was measured according to the rhythms of nature, organised in accordance with the main events in life (births, marriages, funerals, journeys, etc) and according to the economic activities conducted.
Time was a continuous “horizontal” flow, very flexible in its application, without rigid parameters or particular duties.

Additionally, Mr. Spinelli also explained the impact of the different perceptions of the time by the Roma and the non-Roma on their inter-ethnic relations. He went into the link between the Roma notion of time and other parts of the Roma culture as well as their manifestations.


It was particularly important to provide the non-Roma groups present at the seminar with an opportunity to express their cultural identity at the forum. That possibility was highly appreciated by the representatives of these groups as well as by the Roma, for the following reasons:
Generally there was a lack of information about the cultural identities of these groups among various social operators: the representatives of the groups themselves, the Roma, the majorities in the countries where these groups lived, and even at the level of the institutions, both national and international. Such groups as the Balkan Egyptians, the Beash, the Travellers, the Ashkali, etc. were often perceived by the majority of their countries as Roma. Moreover, these minorities were often covered by the same governmental policies as the Roma, and even more so by the same policies at International institution level.
These groups actually had some cultural similarities with the Roma.
Like the Roma these groups were also faced with discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices, exclusion and other identical problems at national level.
It became clear from the statements of the representatives of those groups that in actual fact they not only did not consider themselves as Roma, due to the fact that they had different origins, but some (the representative of the Balkan Egyptians) said the their groups needed to have separate relation with institutions such as the Council of Europe. It was also pointed out (by the representative of the Balkan Egyptians) that the Roma should have an opportunity for separate relations with it.

Excerpt from the statement by Mr. Rubin ZEMON, President of the Union of the Balkan Egyptians, “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

The Balkan Egyptians were of Hamit origin. There were a number of historic documents substantiating this claim, in addition to the fact that they migrated to the Balkans as long ago as the reign of Pharaoh Sesotrid (Ramzes the Second).
They lived in “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Albania;
The Balkan Egyptians did not have a separate, unified language. They spoke the language of their host country or the language of the Balkan country from which they had recently immigrated. They spoke Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian, Turkish, etc., but never the Roma language;
The main traditional occupations of the Balkan Egyptians were as blacksmiths, reed makers, pottery, musicians, brick-makers, coal workers, agricultural trades, etc. The blacksmith’s trade was very important in the lives of the Balkan Egyptians. The whole material, spiritual and social culture of the Balkan Egyptians had connections of various kinds with this occupation.
The Balkan Egyptians had always had a settled way of life. Various historical documents identified their earliest settlements. The districts and settlements of the Balkan Egyptians were situated in town (city) centres or nearby old fortresses.
An important part of their customs and rituals was the “traditional ritual nutrition”. Ritual bread was present in all the important rituals of the Balkan Egyptians. They had a wide variety of traditional national costumes. The oral folk culture of the Balkan Egyptians was very rich, but it had also been assimilated by other communities.
The religion of the majority of this group was Islam (they had accepted Islam as their religion under the Ottoman Empire), but their customs relating to the yearly cycle comprise many elements of paganism, mythological beliefs and Christianity.
The Balkan Egyptians had three types of ethno-names:
Ethno-names relating to or reminiscent of Egypt: Gjyp, Egjyp, Magjyp, Evgjit, Jevg – in Albanian; Gjupci, Egjupci, Jupci, Ejupci, Ojupci – In Macedonian, Agupti – in Bulgarian, Kepti, Kiptijani, Misirli – in Turkish.
Ethno-names connected with the traditional occupations: Kovaci (blacksmiths), Esnaf (guild), Ashkali (coal-maker).
Other ethno-names: Faraon, Firaon, Farvan (Pharaon), Airli, Gjivagjani, Latini, etc.
The Balkan Egyptians were faced with the same stereotypes as the Roma.

Finally Mr. Zemon said that the Roma were also identified with such ethno-names, especially those in the first group. Why and how this confusion came about was difficult to ascertain, but there were several hypotheses. One of these concerned the ethnic mimicry of the Roma at various points in history. But the main difference concerning the aforementioned ethno-names was that for the Balkan Egyptians these were endo-names, while for the Roma they were exo-names. Moreover, the “usurping” of the ethno-names of the Balkan Egyptians by the Roma, the “ethnic mimicry” and the erroneous identification by the majorities still led to confused perceptions throughout society, in science and, most importantly, vis-à-vis the minority policies implemented by the states and the international community.

By Ms. Letitia MARKS, Rroma Women Association for our Children, Romania

The word “Beash” meant miner;
They had common features with the Roma;
They used an old Romanian subdialect;
Customs – they shared the fundamental principles of the Roma culture;
They were discriminated against;
Advocated solidarity between the groups.

By Ms. Rabije Krasniqi, Ashkali from Kosovo

Mixed Roma/Albanian origin;
Their culture was based on both elements from the Roma and from the Albanian culture.
They were discriminated against.

By Mr. Brendan O’CAOLIN, Pavee Point, Ireland

Numbers: 30 000 Irish Travellers, 15 000 in UK;
Origins: Indigenous coherent group of Celtic origin; Pre-Celtic populations in Ireland;
Language: Gamon = Shelta;
One of the primary cultural features of Travellers was nomadism. They considered this a form of cultural expression. Nomadism was currently largely treated as an offence in Ireland, in other words the Travellers were not allowed to practice their culture;
Oral culture;
Travelling musicians, tinsmiths, etc.
In 1930 the Department of Folklore in Ireland had initiated a study on the Travellers’ culture;
Extended family networks.

By Mr. Robert Huber, President of Traveller People, Switzerland

Swiss “Gypsy” people, often light-skinned.
about 35,000 Yenish in Switzerland (5,000 still travelling).
They were discriminated against (education, etc.).
Language:Yenish language (most of Yenish are fluent in Swiss-German).


As Mr. Liégeois stated in his introductory remarks that the objectives of this session were: “…inter alia to examine the terminology used for names, to determine what they encompass and to identify the components of identity and otherness;

for the participants, vis-à-vis their social and political surroundings, this means trying to discern / discover / comprehend, as part of a collective, consensual process;

the challenge, and it is a crucial one, is to steer a middle course between respect for diversity which forms the basis of identity for groups who have no geographical boundaries, and for whom socio-linguistic and cultural factors are consequently of fundamental importance, and the need for affinity and alliances, to arrive at a common political position in a world that has always used differences to deny the legitimacy of a Roma/Gypsy partnership, according to the classic strategy of “divide and rule”;

the dilemma facing the Roma/Gypsy communities is a major one: whether to adopt a common name, for political reasons to do with visibility, recognition and institutional realism, or whether to retain their diversity, perceived by the outside world as disparity, at the risk of undermining their position and suffering the kind of political, social and cultural fragmentation that can be used by the outside world to cast the Roma/Gypsies into political, social and cultural oblivion.

in other words, is it possible to reduce the gap that exists between socio-cultural tradition and new political imperatives?”

By Prof. Marcel COURTHIADE, Professor at INALCO, Paris, France

Prof. Courthiade’s statement was one of the core inputs to the seminar. On the second day of the seminar, he presented one of the many theories concerning the history and migration of the Roma. He also explained the sub-division of the Roma into various groups according to the traditional professions of those groups and according to the languages and dialects they spoke.

Since I consider Prof. Courthiade’ statement particularly interesting and informative, I have appended it to this report verbatim.

By Mr. Michael GUET, Migration and Roma/Gypsy Division

Mr. Guet began his statement by presenting the purpose of the session, which was, on the one hand, to discuss the question: “Which terminology is being used at the Council of Europe and in other international fora?”; and on the other hand, to examine the possibility of coming up with a more general term useable by international actors. The OSCE-ODIHR is indeed using the terminology “Roma and Sinti”, while the Council of Europe is using “Roma/Gypsies” or more recently “Roma, Gypsies and Travellers”. However, due to the absence of participants from other international organisations, the discussion focused on the terminology used at the level of the Council of Europe.

The following points were reflected in Mr. Guet’s presentation.

The terminology used at the CoE has varied a lot since early 70s: “Nomads”3, “Persons of Nomadic Origin”4, “Gypsies”5, “Rroma (Gypsies)”6, “Roma”7, “Roma/Gypsy”8, “Roma/Gypsies and Travellers”9, “Roma and Travellers”10.

The terminology “Roma/Gypsies” was chosen by the Council of Europe during many years as both terms together were covering most of the areas and situations in Europe. Indeed, in Central and Eastern Europe the term “Roma” is largely used while “Gypsy” is considered by many as pejorative. In Western Europe (United Kingdom, France, Spain, etc.) and in Hungary, “Gypsy” or better said its national equivalent (“Tsiganes”, “Gitanos”, “Cigan”, etc;) is more tolerated and/or adapted. More recently, the term “Travellers” was added to respond to specific needs of “itinerant” (rather than “nomadic”) populations, and the slash was replaced by a coma (“Roma, Gypsies and Travellers”). The new trend in the Council of Europe is “Roma and Travellers”.

“Roma” has been usually considered in CoE documents as a generic word for all minorities present at this Seminar. However, it did not always meet the request of the persons concerned who felt sometimes that this terminology was exclusive or created confusion. Therefore, both CoE and OSCE-ODIHR adopted a footnote in their joint Stability Pact project on Roma in South East Europe, which said: “Though the title only refers to Roma, this Project also targets Roma-related groups such as Ashkali, Egyptians, Rudari, Beashi, etc.”. This was also the case in many documents and recommendations where the terminology used had to be defined/precised.

Furthermore, there is a certain discrepancy in the translation of these terms. For example, “Gypsy” is usually translated by “Tsiganes”, which has in fact not the same etymology. “Gypsies” should have been translated into “Gitans” in French or “Gitanos” in Spanish, especially as the word “Gypsies” has a very negative connotation for most Roma. Also the wording may cover, on the one hand ethnic groups like “Travellers” (Ireland, United Kingdom, Nordic countries), while its French translation “Gens du voyage” correspond to an administrative category in French legislation, hence the difficulty in drafting recommendations, which should satisfy all member states. It is also not quite clear whether we should use in French “Gens du voyage” or “Voyageurs”, as both terms seem to coexist in French-speaking countries.

Mr. Guet concluded that it was difficult to come up with a clear definition. He challenged the participants to pinpoint a terminology capable of embracing all names.

Reflection of the current use of relevant terminology within the Council of Europe and specifically by the MG-S-Rom
By Dr. Andrzej MIRGA, Chair of the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM)

The MG-S- ROM is addressing problems shared by many groups, not ethnic definition.
The terminology chosen, i.e. “Roma/Gypsies” and later “Roma, Gypsies and Travellers”, allows MG-S-ROM to take into consideration in its work all various groups, situations and geographical specificities.
The variety of persons and their identity should not constitute an obstacle.
MG-S-ROM has no legitimacy in interfering in the issues related to culture.
Mr. Mirga refers to two reports produced by Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) in which Roma were referred to as a nation. The perception as a nation was not the same as recognition as a nation.
The right to self-recognition faces sometimes the terminology used at international level for pragmatic reasons, which is considered by certain persons as a too narrow definition.
Mr. Mirga underlines the need to keep a certain level of clarity whatever the terminology is used.


Mr. Rudko KAWCZYNSKI, Roma National Congress, Germany started his statement by emphasising the continuing extent of stereotypes concerning Roma and Sinti people in Europe. In relation to that he advocated political maturity from the Council of Europe.

Mr Kawczynski felt that the problems of other groups present at the seminar such as Travellers, Balkan Egyptians, etc. were not transnational problems like those facing the Roma. He therefore considered that the problems of these groups should be primarily addressed by the governments of the States where these national minorities resided.

Furthermore, the speaker stressed that to deal with the problems of various minorities by simply labelling all groups with the same name and placing them all in the same basket was not only inappropriate but also politically incorrect.

Mr. Kawczynski underlined that the name “Tsigoiner” (Gypsies) meant a criminal nation and should not be used in the terminology of the Council of Europe.

As a possible way of dealing with this situation Mr. Kawczynski proposed that the CoE establish a Commission for national and transnational minorities to address the issues faced by the Travellers, Balkan Egyptians, Beashi and other groups.

Finally Mr. Kawczynski stated that it was obvious that the Roma and the Sinti in Europe had a common culture, language, history and identity and as such were part of the same nation. He asked the CoE to start focusing on the problems of the Roma and the Sinti in Europe, as their problem required special recognition.

Mr. Dominique STEINBERGER, ARPOMT, France, made a few important remarks in the discussion:
He stressed the importance of the discussion for preparing concrete recommendations. He therefore stressed the importance firstly of the participants’ agreeing on terminology and secondly of looking at how this discussion could highlight issues relevant to the establishment of the European Roma and Travellers Forum.
Another issue he raised was that generally there was little information about groups with a mobile lifestyle and that unfortunately even the Roma lacked awareness that the lifestyle of these groups should be preserved and ensured.
According to Mr. Steinberger, there was some ambiguity in the discussion between the individual and collective identity, and this problem should be taken into consideration.
Finally, he emphasised that the present terminology used by the Council of Europe - “Roma, Gypsies and Travellers” was still appropriate. Any attempt to change this title was liable to contradict the fundamental principles of the Roma nation, which incorporates all differences.

The statements by both these speakers were followed by lively discussions and contributions, which are reflected below.


In his closing remarks Mr. Jean-Pierre LIÉGEOIS, University René Descartes - Paris – Project Director, put forward some thoughts on the Project “Education of Roma/Gypsy children in Europe”, DG IV11.
His comments concerning:
The importance of school education;
An encyclopaedia and
A European Training Centre, are reproduced in the report sections – “Conclusions and recommendations” and “Concrete proposals for projects/activities”.

The following are Mr. Liégeois’ remarks on the outlook for the Education Project:

“…• on several occasions during the discussions, the question of funding came up; as you know, the Council of Europe has few financial resources. State should therefore be asked to make voluntary contributions, and we should draw on the activities being conducted by governments at national level to create a leverage effect;

• in this sense, the School Education Project is no way intended to replace existing programmes, but aims to make them complementary, better adapted and more effective, through co-ordination, synthesis, evaluation, information and training measures. The idea is to foster national initiatives, help design and implement new methods of working, encourage the most promising new measures and, by allowing partners to work together as part of a coherent whole, to prevent projects from becoming too thinly spread, with all the sapping effects that that brings.

• the idea, in other words, is to provide member states with any assistance they may require to honour their commitments to improve the lot of the Roma/Gypsies. The project developed by the Council of Europe is thus aimed, as part of the above-mentioned process of co-ordinating, documenting, linking and evaluating certain activities, at providing states and NGOs operating in this field with instruments designed to assist them in their work.”

The Seminar ended with the closing remarks of Mr. Michael Guet, Council of Europe, Roma/Gypsies Division. Mr. Guet declared that he was satisfied with the holding of such a meeting, which had been regarded as a challenge. It was predicted by many as impossible to organise, or even dangerous. In fact, it proved to be a good forum of discussion and exchange of views and participants and Mr. Guet thanked participants for their open-minded and active participation in the discussion. Mr. Guet also thanked governmental officials and representatives of Permanent Representations in Strasbourg for showing interest in the subject. He recalled that this meeting was very important in the context of the Finnish initiative to set up a European Forum for Roma and Travellers. He also used this opportunity to thank the Finnish government for its voluntary contribution, which served inter alia to organise this event.

Mr. Guet also recalled also the intervention by Claudia Sciotti from ECRI who said that she had already different identities due to her background and learnt during this seminar that she had another one: gadjo – although noone ask her about this. This proves that identities are multiple. Mr. Guet felt interesting the fact that Roma do reproach that Gadje impose certain terms, such as “Gypsy” or “Tsigane”, while noone has been addressing yet the use the generic (and not so friendly term) “Gadje” to all non-Roma populations.

Mr. Guet finished by underlining that the Romani culture is very rich and keeps very old traditions, which are not so different from those of our ancestors (grand-parents and older generations). He noted for example the strong relationship among generations, and particularly with elderly people. He pointed out that a country such as France – where during last summer – thousands of old people died because of the heat but also because they were abandoned by their families and the society as a whole – should probably learn from the Romani culture, as the Romani culture has to open itself to the majority. Mr. Guet finally gave the floor to Mrs. Miranda Vuolasranta who joined the team of the Roma/Gypsies Division a year and half ago. One of her objectives was to open the discussion on Romani culture and traditions. She declared herself very satisfied with this meeting and called for follow-up discussion on this matter.


Roma culture is often perceived as mystic and enigmatic. It is important to change this image, which is not actually created by the Roma themselves. Descriptions and various publications on the topic already exist, but they may not be very popular or accessible for the wider public.

There are a number of stereotypes about the Roma culture, which are based on lack of information or lack of understanding of it. The main stereotypes include: (the following point are abstract from the input of Ms. Grigore)

Considered as an inherent part of the Rroma culture, a sign for a „real Rrom”, present in non-Rroma literature as a symbol of Rroma’s freedom, exotism and romantic life, Rromani nomadism is still in the forefront: it was caused by the historic social exclusion and expulsion of Rroma by the majority society, but it can be also recognized as an ethnic identity pattern, a lifestyle and a collective state of mind. Both explanations are equally valid because if something is imposed by outsiders for long enough; in time it becomes a habit, a fact that you begin to feel as normally yours and which will absolutely influence the collective pattern of living and thinking.

During the seminar there was lively, though fairly inconclusive, discussion on the question whether “nomadism” was a cultural expression or whether it resulted from political oppression. It was also restated that mobility is by no means a basic feature of the Romani identity.

Seen as the main feature of Rromani culture, music is actually a skill and a trade, one of the Rroma survival strategies. Specialists drew a clear distinction between the non-Rroma folk music played in the Rromani manner and real Rromani traditional music – Rromane purane gilia. In fact, traditional Rroma, such as the Kalderash Rroma, hardly sing or play music at all, with the exception of such special occasions as family customs: birth rituals, wedding, burial.

Considered, especially in literature, as a symbol of Rroma’s exotic romanticism, dancing is not a genuine feature of Rromani traditional culture: Rroma do not habitually dance: they do so only during very special family celebrations such as weddings or christenings. Even on such occasions, dancing is mainly reserved for the guests.

Traditional crafts:
Because one of the most important Rroma traditional craft was metalwork, this was seen as an exclusive feature of Rromani culture. Outsiders say that Rroma know the secrets of iron and of copper. In view of the fact that one specific Rroma craft is also woodcarving, we can say that Rroma also know the secret of wood. Actually there are no real secrets, but only very developed skills, practiced as complementary crafts, indispensable for an economy based on agriculture, as also in the case of the sedentary populations.

Traditional costume:
Flowers and the colour red are features of traditional costumes throughout the East, from India and Iran up to the Balkans, they are not specific to Rroma, as ignorant, so-called “common sense” would have us believe. As a significant colour present in marriage customs, red is not the symbol of love, as poetry describing Rroma says, but it is the symbol of the individual sacrifice for the collective weal. Instead of individual selfish love, traditional marriage blesses the long-term alliance between families, which become hanamik (in-laws).

Early marriage:
First of all, early marriage is not a feature peculiar to the Rromani culture; all traditional cultures share this custom. Considered as a sign of an archaic way of seeing marriage as an arrangement between two families, early marriage actually tries to shield the young from the difficulties and frequent trauma of seeking and changing partners and to free them from the enormous worry of looking for the proper match in life. Included in the receiving family from an early age, before the onset of the deceptive feeling of individual love, the girl will have enough time to adapt to the new way of life and to understand the new family. The result is a lifelong marriage, with fewer risks of break-ups than in modern marriages, which are based on the partners’ free choice. The traditional community wants to control and protect a fact, which is in any case seen to be happening in the modern lifestyle too, viz the early beginning of sexual life. The difference is that in modern society, this onset of sexuality is uncontrolled, mainly happening in secret, without family acceptance or blessing, and so it can be a potential danger both for the individual and for the community. In the traditional society, the sexual fact is protected and controlled, blessed by the family in a complicated customary system of rituals, meant to purify and support the couple. More than that, after marriage, both families continue to feel responsible for the good development of the new couple, they have the right and the duty to smooth the way for the new established family, to become involved whenever difficulties occur, and to help the husband and wife forward to reconciliation and mutual understanding. This is just another way of keeping the family united for a lifetime.

Bartered brides:
The girl’s family sells the girl as a bride and the boy’s family buys her. This is how it sounds from the outsider’s point of view on the Rromani traditional marriage. Actually the process has nothing to do with what could be called a commercial transaction. Nobody is selling anybody. The so-called bride’s price is a symbolic way of honouring the bride’s purity/virginity and her family. Traditionally expressed in gold, it is not a trade value, but, on the contrary, it is a value of representation and a symbol of honour. You cannot sell this gold and buy something else in its exchange, because this gold is not for sale; it is the pakiv (respect, honour, trust, honesty, faith) of the family. Another issue is that not all Roma groups practice this custom.

Roma women’s inferior position in the family:
The Rroma woman has an inferior position in the traditional male-ruled families, says another stereotype. Actually, the traditional community, being based on preserving the experienced pattern, its balance and harmony, ensures that the man and woman play specific complementary roles in the family, none of them inferior, but different. Becoming a mother - dai -, in other words becoming responsible for her children, the woman gains social status and power. Liberated from the impurity of sexual life and of giving birth, the old woman – i phuri -, becomes a real authority, possessing secret magic powers which allow her to see the future, to cure diseases and to protect the community against evil.

Children’s freedom:
Rromani education pattern for children is based on freedom, in that children are treated as small adults, parents speak with them seriously at an early age and nothing seems to be verbally forbidden for them, but the reverse side of this relative freedom is the early responsibility assigned to children.

These stereotypes have repercussions not only on social relations between Roma and non-Roma, but also on policies, programs and working methods vis-à-vis Roma issues.

Despite some minor differences in terminology or even variation in customs, the different Roma groups throughout Europe still share the main elements of the Roma culture and its fundamental principles such as:
Recognition of diversity;
Complementarily between men and women;

This also applies to the fundamental values of the Roma such as:
The family = community
Children, etc.

The Rromanipen (the Roma culture) is of greater importance for the Roma than cultures usually have for the corresponding communities. This is due to the fact that the Roma culture has developed as the survival strategy of the Roma, and that nowadays it still plays a crucial role in regulating the everyday life of the Roma as well as their relations inside and outside the community.

A number of concepts in the Roma culture are quite similar to the Eastern (oriental) ones and therefore are substantially different from the corresponding Western concepts. This can be an obstacle to the successful implementation of various programs aimed at improving the situation of the Roma community throughout Europe and therefore should be considered by the various operators working on Roma issues:

The Notion of “Purity”:
The Roma notion of purity is the oriental one, meaning that it concerns not only physical but also spiritual cleanliness. This concept and its real implications not only in the everyday life of Roma and the way they take care of their houses but also on some very important customs related to childbirths, death and funerals, etc. Finally it also affects intergenerational relations as well as relations between Roma men and women, as well as the perception of the elderly and children. (see the input of Ms. Vuolasranta)

Dualism in the Communication:
The Roma mode of communication is a special skill. The Roma do not speak directly each other and yet they understand each other very well. But the non-Roma frequently misunderstand this dualism in communication. Therefore they often have difficulty understanding the real meaning of what the Roma are saying. (see the input of Mr. Stankiewicz)

The Notion of Time:
The Roma have a very different conception of time from other groups. They have a pre-industrial vision of time, a more static (oriental) one. Time is a continuous “horizontal” flow in, very flexible in its application, without rigid parameters or particular duties. (see the input of Mr. Spinelli)

Another issue of which the non-Roma are unaware, thus confusing their interpretations, is that in the traditional Roma family everyone is entitled to express an opinion.

Health is one of the most important values for the Roma. But the Roma cultural specificities are often challenging for the health institutions. There are already positive practices in some countries such as Finland, were these differences have been successfully taken into account by the health care institutions.

The Romani Kriss is one of the basic features of Roma culture. Unfortunately some of the elements of this unique system have now been lost. Worse still, some communities no longer practise it. Justice as administered by the Romani Kriss is not punitive, but rather reconciliatory.

It has to be recognized that the Roma culture is changing in terms of language, customs, traditions, etc. This development/evolution of the culture is a normal process and should be encouraged. The important thing is to maintain the Roma identity and to protect the existence of the Roma culture.

Some relevant questions for further reflection are:
The clash between Roma traditions and modernity.
The acceptance of the Rromanipen (the Roma culture) by the majorities.
The balance between the Roma and majority cultures.

The Roma culture is not an obstacle to modernization. Therefore, neither the Roma culture nor diversity aspects should be used as arguments to divide the Roma.

Finally, two very relevant questions for reflection:
How to strike a balance between the Roma culture and the neighbouring non-Roma culture
Acceptance of the Roma culture as one of the national cultures.



This meeting was possibly the first ever international event at which Roma had the opportunity to discuss their own culture. It was an initial step towards discussing the issues raised during the seminar. Therefore implementation of other activities relevant to the topic of the seminar is clearly needed and strongly recommended.

Open discussions on the topic as well as concrete projects at local and national level are still either lacking or insufficient to address the existing needs. Therefore local and national authorities should be encouraged to foresee and implement such activities. Where appropriate, the their implementation should be supported by the international institutions/organizations.

Education and culture are interlinked concepts. The relevant national authorities do not yet take account of this fact, and as a result the relevant educational policies are still lacking. Therefore, national governments should be strongly advised to develop relevant educational policies covering the teaching of Roma history, language as well as leaving room for intercultural education.

Moreover, the importance of school education on the topic of the seminar can be considered as following:

• School education plays a significant role in preserving, developing and promoting identity, with which it is inextricably linked;

• It is worth remembering that there are powerful determining factors to be considered, such as socio-economic conditions, housing conditions, political conditions: we cannot really talk about intercultural education without situating it in a broad intercultural context;

• The Directorate of Education – DG IV, is publishing a booklet (including in Romani) listing and examining the relevant key instruments (adopted by the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the CLRAE12, etc.). It is important that we familiarise ourselves with these instruments and use them to guide and support our activities.


The adequacy and sufficiency of the existing means and standards for protection of the Roma cultures and identities must be assessed. Therefore such assessment should be initiated and supported.

MG-S-ROM should advise and stimulate the governments to support processes of definition of Roma identities and cultures.

Moreover, development of Cultural policies within the National policies/strategies on Roma, where such tools exist, should be ensured. In the member States, which lack national policies on Roma, development of Roma Cultural policies should be strongly recommended. Among the elements that should be considered in those policies should be:

Promoting the actual application of the existing relevant legal instruments;
Supporting activities aimed at changing the present image of the Roma culture;
Improving the prestige of the Roma language among Roma children as well as among non-Roma;

Furthermore, the resources for implementing such measures must be ensured and provided by the national governments.

A number of concrete proposals for projects or activities aimed at preserving and development of the Roma culture as well as at strengthening the Roma cultural identities were proposed at the seminar. We must consider how these activities can be implemented and what kind of support the Council of Europe can provide in particular. (see the report section on “Concrete proposals for projects/activities”)


Within the Council of Europe the terminology used in the work on Roma issues has evolved throughout the years. This evolution is on the one hand due to the development of the work undertaken by the CoE in this field and the developments of the Roma issues in Europe as well as the development of the Roma movement. The need has emerged to assess the adequacy of the terminology used at the Council of Europe, but this must take place only as an indispensable part of the CoE political framework on Roma issues.

The discussion on terminology at the Council of Europe launched at the seminar did not reach any final conclusion. The MG-S-ROM has therefore to decide whether further discussion is needed and if so what form it will take.

Despite the fact that this session produced no concrete conclusions, during the seminar many participants expressed a range of different opinions and suggestions. One view was that Roma and Sinti should no longer be placed in the same political basket with such other groups as Travellers, Balkan Egyptians, Beashi, etc., in order to improve our response to Roma problems. Another was that the Roma and Sinti should be able to have a separate relation with the institution as well as with the other groups. Finally, some considered that no new terminology is needed, as the names currently used are appropriate;

One rather obvious conclusion can be drawn here, namely that at present not all actors are satisfied with the terminology used and that a solution must be found to this problem;

One possible solution mentioned was to replace the expression “Roma/Gypsies” or “Roma, Gypsies” by “ Roma and Sinti”;

Concerning other groups without compact territories, as well as the terminology concerning the Roma populations, Prof. Courthiade proposes below a terminological approach that might be used by the CoE.

Mr. Ivan VESELY, Dzeno Association, Czech Republic, has recommended that the MG-S-ROM:
conduct evaluation/analysis of the work carried by the Roma/Gypsy Division with a view to assessing its quality, quantity, appropriateness and sufficiency;
to conduct evaluation/analysis in order to identify cases where the interests of the Roma are affected, ie where the Specialist Group is dealing with other groups such as: Travellers, Yenish, etc.;
Mr. Vesely suggested that the Specialist Group also change the paradigm on Roma issues.

Among the proposals put forward to improve the structures of CoE bodies dealing with Roma issues as well as with issues of other minorities, the following proposals were put forward:
Ensure the establishment of database concerning groups without compact territory;
Ensure a separate relationship, on the one hand between the mentioned above groups and the CoE, and on the other hand between the Roma and Sinti and the institution.
examine the possibility of establishing a separate Roma/Gypsy Division and setting up a Department on Groups without compact territories.


In order to approach the "Gypsy" issue, it seems more relevant to develop a category of European people with no compact territory than to retain the outsiders' racist concept of "Gypsies", whatever name is given to this concept, including the serial names of the kind "A, B, C, D and others". Such serial names are never exhaustive and are merely an attempt at putting a politically correct label on the same concept.

As far as the English and French terminologies are concerned, the paper proposes the following solution:
a) to call "Rroms" the whole of the Rrom people as a globally conceived European nation of Indian origin
b) to call "Balkano-Egyptians" the Ashkali, Evgjit, Jevg etc… as a globally conceived Balkan population of probable Egyptian origin
c) to call "Boyash" the Beás, Rudar, Lingurari and Bunjaš (note that Banyash is more common in French studies)
d) to call "Yéniches" the Yéniches, Karner, Laninger, Keßler, Fecker or Spengler
e) to call "Travellers" the Travellers (formerly Tinkers)
f) to call "Sápmi" (or alternatively "Saami") the Sápmi
g) to call "Aromanians" the Aromanians or Macedo-Romanians
h) to call "Western Armenians" the Western Armenians
i) to call "Yiddish-speaking Jews" or "Ashkenazi" the Yiddish-speaking Jews or Ashkenazi and "Djudyo-speaking Jews" or "Sefarades" the Djudyo-speaking Jews or Sefarades, when they recognize Europe as their motherland.

In connection with the main inner branches of the Rroms, the following terminology might be proposed:
1) to call "Rroms" the Rroms speaking Rromani, possibly with an appropriate qualifier (Eastern, endajutne, mainbone, sensu stricto, etc…) where necessary.
2) to call "Northern Sinté" the Sinté groups which were formed in German-speaking areas (Manouche may be used in France)
3) to call "Southern Sinté" the Sintés groups which were formed in Romance-speaking areas
4) to call "Kalé" (or alternatively Gitanos) the Kalé (Ibero-Rroms)
5) to call "Kaalé" the Kaalé
6) to call "British Rroms" or "Romanichals" the British Rroms

Labels like Bohemians, Hungarians, Yugoslavs or Romanians (Fr. Bohémiens, Hongrois, Yougoslaves or Roumains) to identify Rroms should be definitively eliminated from the political vocabulary except in quoting historical texts.
The words Gypsy (and tsigane) should be used only in two contexts:
i. to quote declarations referring to an object identified as Gypsies (and tsigane) by the authors of these declarations, which may be of historical or racist nature
ii. to refer to a specific type of music, developed mainly during the 19th century in Austro-Hungary (in this last case, the spelling tzigane is recommended)

Serial labels should be avoided and, when a categorical approach is needed, priority should be given to the notion of "peoples with no compact territory" which includes all the peoples in this peculiar situation, irrespectively if they have been initially viewed or not as Gypsies by unlearned local populations.

In addition, a collective naming should be applied to citizens with a mobile lifestyle, whatever their origin and motivation are, including therefore majority people leading a mobile life (fair people in the U.K. and Forains in France). They could adequately be called "itinerant professionals" ('or "groupes itinérants" in France) and encompass only persons who actually lead an itinerant life-style. The cases of discrimination faced by settled itinerants should be addressed specifically at the local level and do not justify a European-wide treatment in terms of ethnic policies. It can be solved simply through awareness-raising education to alternative life-styles, irrespectively of the ethnic belonging.

A similar updating should be carried out in all European languages while trying to render the local specificities but also to adhere as far as possible to the European guidelines as suggested above for English and French. This could be done in co-operation with specialised groups mentioned by the author and circulated through school education. The author also suggests establishing at the Council of Europe a database covering all European peoples with no compact territory.


Reliable funding is needed to support research on the Roma science;
Scholarships for Roma students in history, language and other fields, enabling the Roma students to acquire the academic skills which are needed for really effective involvement in political, administrative, scientific or productive life;
Research about the occupational profiles of the Rroms in history and to the possible connections with Indic caste system;
Establishment of data base about nations/groups without compact territory;
To revive the encyclopaedia project;
Romological centre based in the Balkans;
University departments/Academy;
Language courses;
Courses on Roma history;
TV and radio programs;
To examine the racism against Roma expressed in classical literature;
CoE to organise training of police officers on issues related to the Roma culture.

In his closing remarks Mr. Liégeois focused upon two of the proposed concrete projects/ initiatives. Below is his statement related to the proposal on:

An encyclopaedia

“…• A great many of you stressed the need for an “encyclopaedia” on Roma/Gypsy culture and history. This point is related to the production of teaching materials, history textbooks and teacher training modules, which are particularly important given that Roma/Gypsies do not have a state of their own to provide all the material required for school education. This is especially apparent in states which have education policies for minorities: all minorities apart from Roma/Gypsies can obtain textbooks in their reference state; it is thus the job, and the duty, of international organisations to compensate for the fact that Roma/Gypsies have no state, and to arrange for the production of linguistic, historical and cultural materials so that the Roma/Gypsies enjoy the same opportunities as other people;

• the notion of an encyclopaedia has been around for some time and needs to be given form and substance. I would simply point out here that as part of the Project Education of Roma/Gypsy children in Europe, it is planned to develop this idea, mainly in the form of teacher training modules, with teaching notes for history, language and culture. An encyclopaedia of this kind would:

- meet the need to reflect the cultural diversity widely invoked during the seminar;

- allow new material to be added over the years, since it is impossible to do everything at once;

- satisfy the need to tailor provision as closely as possible to actual conditions in schools, since these do not all require the same content, and the content is likely to vary according to the place and the socio-cultural make-up of the pupils;

- make it possible to respect the different views of the various Roma/Gypsy groups, some of whom may not want to see disseminated aspects of their language and culture, which they consider to be strictly private;

- have the merit of making the material accessible to everyone, in keeping with the very principle of intercultural education; the idea is not to create the kind of over-specialised provision that, in its extreme form, can turn the classroom into a ghetto, but rather to ensure that Roma/Gypsy history and culture form part of the known and recognised heritage of all European and world cultures, both inside and outside school;

- recognise the importance of enlisting the help of leading authorities on the different subjects covered, including notably experts from the Roma/Gypsy communities: at this point I would like to repeat the call which I made during the opening session for co-operation; many of you are among the top specialists in your field and any assistance you can provide under the Education Project in producing high-quality information would be greatly appreciated.

- A European training centre

• Another idea that kept cropping up during the seminar concerns the setting-up of a training centre for young Roma. Some spoke of an “academy”, others of a “cultural centre”;

• at this stage, we should certainly be considering what form such a centre should take, a network-type operation being more conducive to diversity and geographical extension throughout the countries of Europe. In the meantime, though, I would like to give you some encouraging news:

• in 2002, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1557 on the legal situation of the Roma in Europe; quite apart from its title, this instrument is much concerned with education, and in this respect, the PACE recommends that a European Roma study and training centre be set up “to facilitate the efficient exchange of positive experiences” and “to promote the co-ordination of the training of Romany and majority specialists” (point 16).

• in reply to the Parliamentary Assembly text, the Committee of Ministers adopted an instrument in June 2003 (CM/AS (2003) Rec.1557 final). The Ministers say that this point will be discussed within the framework of the Education Project, and that proposals for this “European Roma study and training centre” will be submitted at the end of the Project, in the general policy paper requested by the Steering Committee for Education;

• the exploratory phase of the Education Project is now in full swing, and one of the things that we are asked to do as part of the Project is to submit proposals for such a centre.”


This seminar has significant role for all participants as well as for the CoE and its work on Roma issues.
The complexity and the success or failure of this seminar will depend on its multi-purpose nature.

The participants at the seminar also had multiple expectations. Those who were present at the 15th MG-S-ROM meeting expected discussion exclusively focused on the current terminology used by the Council of Europe, as it was the initial proposal made by Mr. Gheorghe – (OSCE-ODHIR). Another large group of participants was interested in analysing the current needs and possible projects/activities related to the possible strengthening of the Roma culture in Europe. On the other hand at the meeting were present many non-Roma who work on Roma issues and for whom the seminar was additional opportunity to learn directly from the source about the specificity of the Roma culture.

On the basis of the experience from this seminar, one can clearly conclude that more, and more focused, follow-up activities related to the topic are relevant and needed.

The success of the seminar is on one hand due to the enormous range of issues, reflections, questions and proposals raised, related to all expectations. It is also due to the specific conclusions, recommendations and suggestions for future activities produced, which all can be used in the future work of the MG –S – ROM, the Roma Division and the CoE in general.

The failure of the seminar was that the participants finally had no sufficient time to explore the issue of terminology and therefore, there were not many concrete conclusions on this matter and especially no real consensus.

Another aspect of this issue was the absence of other international institutions and organizations working on Roma issues, which were originally expected to contribute. This was rather problematic due to the fact that one of the purposes of launching the discussion on the names of these groups was also to identify common terminology usable by all international institutions that are working on Roma issues.

Therefore the Rapporteur has prepared the following conclusions based on the discussions, which may be used by the MG-S-ROM:
Despite some minor differences, it is clear that the Roma and Sinti in Europe share the same culture.

They also have a common origin, history, language and share a common identity, which on the one hand incorporates all internal diversity and on the other hand is exclusive to external cultural influences. This common identity has only two names, which are recognized in and by the community and therefore are politically correct - these are Roma and Sinti. (The Kale in Spain and the Kaale in Finland also recognise themselves as Roma).

The Roma and Sinti in Europe are a transnational minority, which is present in almost all member states of the Council of Europe.

Their communities are facing specific problems and have also specific needs, which need specific policies and working approaches to address them.

A small percentage of the Roma and Sinti in Europe (mainly in Western Europe) still have a mobile lifestyle, and this has to be preserved as an integral part of our rich cultural diversity. Despite their different lifestyle, most of them recognise their Roma and Sinti origin. As a matter of fact there is less information and analyses of their problems and needs than for settled Roma. But what has to be specifically stressed is that often there is confusion in the terminology used to define these groups, and they are often called Travellers. As a matter of fact the Travellers are an ethnic group of Celtic origin, as it was clarified in the presentation of Mr. O’Caolin during the seminar. The confusion actually comes from the dichotomy in the translation of the French “gens du voyage”, which is an administrative definition - into “Travellers” in English, which is an ethnic name.

Due to the complexity and the specificity of the Roma and Sinti issue in Europe, a separate relationship should be ensured with the institutions. This is a fact, which is based on the historical development of the work undertaken by the institution, but as well on the evolution of the Roma movement and issue in Europe. Such an approach will contribute to the development of clearer policies, activities and working approaches based on the particular needs and specificity, which can eventually result in an improved approach to the Roma issue.

Therefore the issue of the current terminology cannot be addressed in isolation from the current policy of the Council of Europe or that of the MG-S-ROM, or at least without reviewing these policies. This means that MG-S-ROM should clarify whether it is an organ of the CoE which is exclusively dealing with Roma and Sinti issues, or whether it is a Specialist Group dealing with issues of Roma and Sinti and other national minorities. In the latter case it should be clearly defined and stated who these groups are and what kind of relation they have or want to have with the Specialist Group.

The term “Gypsy” is in most cases unacceptable for the Roma and Sinti in Europe as it is considered as an exo-name, which is equivalent to all the negative and paternalistic stereotypes still existing throughout Europe about the Roma and Sinti in Europe.

Nor is the word “Gypsy” acceptable to any of the other groups represented at the seminar (Travellers, Balkan Egyptians, Beashi, Ashkali, etc.), which might currently be considered as such by the institution, but which more importantly do not consider themselves as such. One can easily conclude then that the definition “Gypsy” is not only out of date, but is presently also meaningless and, what is more, politically incorrect.

Obviously some of the cultural elements of those groups represented at the seminar are identical to those of the Roma and Sinti.

It is clear that these groups often face similar problems to those faced by the Roma and the Sinti in Europe, but it was also made clear that they are also advocating a separate relation with the institution in order to secure a more focused attention and efforts for addressing of their problems.

Nevertheless it was clear that there is a spirit of solidarity among Roma and Sinti and the representatives of the other groups, as well as empathy due to the similar challenges experienced. But those attitudes should not be mixed with the clear awareness about the specific problems faced and the specific policies, activities and approaches needed to address them.

Finally there are a few issues that MG-S-ROM should clearly discuss and agree upon. Those are:
The Group should decide whether further discussion about the current terminology used is appropriate, and if so, whether it should be considered separately or discussed only in respect of the MG-S-ROM’s political framework. It is not clear that the Group sees this as being similar problems faced by different groups rather than the identity issue.

To examine the relevance of the use of the definition “Gypsy”: if it is still considered as relevant we must define who is considered as such.

If the definition “Gypsy” is defined as irrelevant and should not be used any longer, to consider if it is appropriate to replace the current terminology used: “Roma/Gypsies”, “Roma, Gypsies” by “Roma and Sinti”.

To clarify and pinpoint who are the MG-S-ROM’s target group/groups and explain the agreed terminology, which will be used in future, in the framework of its policy.

To examine the possibility/ies for providing for a separate relation between the institution and the Roma and Sinti on the one hand and with the other groups on the other.

To decide on the institutional follow-up to the conclusions and the recommendations produced within the seminar as well as to the concrete proposals for projects/activities.

To decide on the follow-up to the seminar.

* * * * *

TEL.: (33) (0)3 90 21 49 63
FAX: (33) (0)3 88 41 27 31


Rromanipen – The Roma Culture;

Phralipen – Brotherhood;

Pakiv - Faith / Belief (including in God);

Baxt - Fate, Destiny, Luck;

Bibaxt – Bad luck;

Ciacipen - Truth, Sincerity;

Ujo - Pure;

Mahrime – Impure;

Rromani kriss - Customary justice, traditional juridical system and reunion;






By Prof. Marcel COURTHIADE, INALCO, France

A question which keeps occurring insistently among Rroms and people interested in Rromani matters is how to understand the issue of the various Rromani groups or clans, which are usually called in Rromani "rromane endanǎ" (or endaja", according to the dialect). In fact some introductory remarks appear to be needed before we present the whole structure.
the identification of groups as such is not uniform all over Europe: in some areas, mainly in former Yugoslavia or Southern Hungary, almost every single local community bears a specific name even when they do not display any evident difference in dialect and occupation, while in other areas, as in Slovakia, the Rroms distinguish only two groups: the old-settlers and the 19th century "new-comers". This does not mean that Yugoslav Rroms are more diverse between themselves than the Slovak Rroms, but just that people are more sensitive to detail grouping and labelling in the Balkan than in the Carpathian area.
In most cases, the names of the groups in question are exogenous, i.e. they have been given by others rather than by themselves and therefore they can describe a characteristic trade, religious affiliation, or other geographical or historical reference, usually in a Gadjikani language, rarely in Rromani. In a society which has inherited the principle of sons following on in their father’s trade from the Indian caste system, there is a certain degree of logic behind names based on characteristic trades, mainly "coppersmith", "tinker", "basket-maker" and "bear-leader". However, there is nothing to prevent entirely different groups, speaking entirely different dialects, from practicing the same trade, and it is indeed very often the case. In addition the occupation-based names are but a small part of the various names given to Rromani groups.
The inclusion of different groups under a single heading is also quite frequent with designations such as "tent-dwellers", "new-comers", "exiles", "old-settlers", "true Rroms" and the like. Such names may convey an unambiguous meaning at the local level (village or district) but they loose any relevancy at the European level.
In some cases, some Rromani groups share a common name with local groups who are not Rroms, as for example in Kosovaqi Mitrovica, local Egyptians are called Arlìura "old-settlers/settled" whereas this word refers to Rroms in Prishtina and in Bulgaria. Similarly, Oláh Cigányok refers to Beás who are most probably not of Rromani origin in Southern Hungary, while this word designates the Rroms of 3rd stratum elsewhere. The same population is referred to as Rudari "miners" in Eastern Romania (or Ludari in Mexico), while this word designates a sub-group of Ćergar Rroms in Bosnia and Italy.
Religious affiliation is even less indicative in this regard. Not only do we find a great variety of dialects spoken by groups known as Muslim (Xoraxane) or Orthodox (Dasikane or Gadjikane) Rroms, but often the groups in question have converted to a different faith after being named so and the name has no more relevance to the culture in question – a phenomenon particularly widespread in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Greece. On the other hand, a given dialect may be common to groups with different religious affiliations inhabiting neighbouring regions, where they have adopted the respective local faiths.
As for names based on historical references, such as "newcomers", "exiles", or "strangers", it is clear that, given population movement, these bear no relation to origins: the "exiles" of one region become the "newcomers" or "strangers" of another, often retaining this description even if they are followed by other groups. Similarly, the terms "White Gypsies" and "Black Gypsies", used in Bosnia and Poland, are more symbolic references than descriptions of skin colour.
The meaning of the various names should be taken with great caution, since it is not always the one most apparent. For example, the etymology of the name Lovara based on Hungarian "horse" seems to be quite questionable. Another example is given by the name of the Albanian Rromani group Mećkars, meaning "bear-leaders" in South-Slavic (from mečka "bear" – cf. Ursari in Romanian, from ursu "bear"), while these Rroms have never been involved in taming bears and are not present in the South-Slavic area; the explanation can be twofold: the name may have been transferred to them from another group, now extinct, but consisting in genuine bear-leaders or more probably it refers to a family totem, as Rajko Djurić suggests, a tradition quite common among Balkan people, where bears and wolves are the most widespread totems. In fact, the name Mećkar was eventually albanised under the form Arixhi (fem. Arixhofkë or Arixheshkë) and still designates in Albanian all Rroms, even not belonging to the Mećkar group.
One should also bear in mind that each person could self-identify in various ways according to the circumstances and interlocutor, a phenomenon known as "mimicry" or "expected answer". Basically every Rrom receives during hi/her youngster's life several perceptions of his/her identity: from the family tradition, from the surrounding non-Rroms, from the school and other persons viewed as "authorities", including the field-researchers etc. and when using these names he/she will conform to the interlocutor's expectancies in order to achieve the best possible dialogue with him. In most cases, a specific name is used in specific circumstances, for example a Rrom from Northern Hungary may self-identify as Muzsikus to local peasants, as Romungro to other Rroms in a national association, as Magyar Cigány to the authorities and as Karpáti Rrom to ethnologists. In some cases, the very person concerned intermixes various names to test which one is the most effective for his communication purpose: this is very common in France, where Rroms are aware of the great confusion prevailing among non-Rroms about the various Rromani groups; accordingly they can begin a conversation, for example with a journalist, with the word Tsiganes, a while latter they say they are Gitans or Manouches, before telling "we, the Rroms" etc. It is clear that such an attitude reinforces the general confusion and the young generation mistakes all these words.
A same and single group may shift to another name at a point of its life, due to an external event or any other reason. For example, Kelderash and Lovara are basically the same group in terms of language, tradition, social structure etc. while at the local level, in Scandinavia for example, they distinguish sharply from each other on a family base and invoke some hardly perceptible lexical differences, mainly recent borrowings, to substantiate the distinction between themselves. However, it is well known that Kelderash families migrating from Russia to Austro-Hungary used to change their name to Lovara and the way around. Even without moving from their traditional place, some Rroms change their name for prestige purpose: in Hungary, a well known Rromani family of Colara background has been putting forward for years a Lovari identity just due to the prestige of the latter, although their dialect belongs obviously to a non Lovari group; they just changed the negation na to Lovari ći, which is anyway a prestige marker among many Rroms, due to a greater dissimilarity from local languages negations (ći is less similar to Hungarian nem, Slavic ne or Romani nu than na).
Even the name "Rrom" may be used more or less encompassing among various Rromani traditions: many Rromani speaking Rroms in Hungary refer only to themselves as "Rroms" and deny, at least in familiar context, this name to Hungarian speaking Rroms, whom they call only Romungre. Similarly, many Kelderash groups consider they are the unique ones entitled to be called "Rroms", while all others are "Lejàśi" – a category sometimes more avoided than the non-Rroms. Many French Sintés called "Hongrois" all Rromani speaking Rroms, even if they come from Greece or Russia. Several other groups consider they are the only "ćaće Rroma" (true Rroms) as opposed to the others. This attitude is common in many human groups and has been occasionally exploited by authorities, often with the help of ethnologists and other field researchers, to undermine the coherency of the people concerned.
At the individual level, the way how persons originating of mixed marriages (including a Rromani spouse and another from the majority) are perceived, varies considerably from one local context to another but in many cases the perception is negative, especially in Western countries, and would deserve a specific study.

One can distinguish the main following groups, listed after their historical background and linguistic features (we use the Rromani plural of the names):
A) archaic groups referred to as "1st stratum"
1) endaja in the Balkan sub-group
Yèrli (Istanbul, Üsküdar), Sepetçies (mainly İsmir; means "basket-weavers"), Erlides (Sofia and Küstendil), Kalajdjie (Lom and Kumanovo; means "tinkers"), Kovàčǎ or Arabadjìe (Kumanovo; mean "blacksmith" and "carter"), Bugurdjìe (Cossovia), Drïndarǎ (Sliven and surroundings), Topanlìe (Tophana area of Skopje), Konoplǎrǎ (Skopje; means "rope-sellers"), Mohadjèrǎ (in Prishtina; means "exiled), Arlìe or Thare Gone (Southern Serbia and Cossovia; means "hot bags"), Kohrane Rroma (Cossovia), Mećkàrǎ (Albanian Myzeqe; means probably "bear-totem"), Kabudji (Central Albania, with subgroup Vakërde), Rupane Rroma and Bamìðǎ (Southern Albania), Baćòrǎ and Fićìrǎ (Greece, also called Turkòjifti by the majority), Spoitòrǎ and Xoraxane Rroma (Southern and Eastern Romania), Kirimìtika Rroma (Crimean Rroms, Ukraine), Zargàra (Iran)
2) Carpathian sub-group
Ursàrǎ (Romania; mans "bear-leaders"), Kiśinvci (Moldova; means "Chişinau-dwellers"), Gurvàra (mainly Hungarian area of Kiskunság), Karpati (Northern Hungary, Slovakia, Poland – also referred to in Poland as Bergìtka Rroma or "black Gypsies, Degeś", both to be avoided)
3) Vendetika Rroma (Southern Hungary, Slovenian Prekmurje and Austrian Burgenland – mainly referred to as "Rroma")
4) Balto-Russian sub-group
Polska Rroma (Poland – also referred to as "white Gypsies"), Xaladitka Rroma (Russia and Belarus; means "Russian/soldier Rroms"), Servìtka Rroma (Russia and Ukraine), Ćuxnìtka Rroma (Latvia), Lalorìtka Rroma (Estonia), Finitika Rroma (old form, formerly used in Finland and part of Sweden).
5) Welsh sub-group (extinct)
B) intermediate groups of 1st stratum with the mutation
Cerhàra (Hungary; means "tent-dwellers"), Colàra (Hungary: Kapośvar and Budapest), Hohere (Transylvania; occasionally referred to as Gabor), Maćhàra (Hungary)
C) groups formerly split from main trunk (1st stratum)
1) Sinto Northern (Germanic) sub-group
gàdjkene Sinte ("German" Sintés: Germany, Austria, but also France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Udine area in Italy), pràjśtika Sinte ("Prussian Sintés": Germany, Elsaß), vàlśtika Sinte (or "Romance" Sintés: mainly France), Lalère (ex-DDR, Tyrol ‒ almost extinct), Sàstike Sinte (Hungary, former USSR ‒ probably extinct)
2) Sinto Southern (Italic) sub-group
Sinte piemontese (mainly Piedmont and Provence), Sinte Lombardi, Venete
3) Rrom di Abruzzi e di Calabria
4) Rromhorvat (Milano)
5) speakers of Ibero-rromani
Catalan Kalo, Andalusia Kalo (with a Portuguese sub-branch), Euskaran Kalo and Occitan Kalo (both extinct)
6) speakers of Anglo-Rromani
7) Lajuse Rroma (Estonia)
D) groups referred to as "2nd stratum" (past tense and copula 1st person in "em")
Gurbètura (Serbia; means "exiled"), Filipidjies, Xandùrǎ and Kalpazàja (İzmir and Greece; Filipidji means "from Plovdiv"), Thamàrǎ (Southern Serbia), Ćergàrura (Bosnia, Montenegro, some areas of Serbia, Croatia; often called Gabel in Cossovia and Montenegro; Ćergar means "tent-dweller"), Djambàzura and Madjùrǎ (Macedonia; Djambàzi means "horse dealer"), Śkodrànǎ (Albania, also called Ćergàrǎ; Śkodràni means "from Shkodër"), Vlaxìčko (Bulgaria, also occasionally referred to as Karderar), Sastërnenqe Rroma (Rîmnicu Vîlcea and surrounding area, Romania; means "iron workers", in Romanian "fierari")
E) groups referred to as "3rd stratum" (similar to 2nd stratum, but with the mutation)
Lovàra (basically in Hungary but also in Poland, Scandinavia, Belgium etc...)
Drizàrǎ (Hungary; means possibly "rag-collectors")
Kelderàśa or Kelderàra (basically in Romania and Russia, but also in Yugo-slavia, Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, France, the USA, Latin America etc...)
"olašski cigáni" (Slovakia).

Further remarks on how to handle with these groups

In all human societies, there are forces of convergence and merging in opposition to forces of divergence and separation. Each kind of forces can be prevailing according to the context: in a wider context, the convergence forces of mutual recognition usually predominate while at the local level the divergence forces tend to exaggerate the differences between the communities. The identities are the result of a healthy balance between the two. However, some external influences can tend to smooth out or even erase the differences between the groups; this can be for example the result of a commonly perceived discrimination, bringing several groups into a common hostility to racist majority. On the other hand political manipulations can magnify occasional variations and create distinct, or even antagonistic, identities out of slight differences. The saddest and probably most famous example is that of Rwanda, where the distinction between Hutus and Tutsis had remained anecdotic until colonization times but was eventually turned into an official and administrative category, which lead decades later to the genocide of 1995 with 500.000 persons slaughtered. As a matter of fact, the difference between Hutus and Tutsis had not been made up by the European colonizers, it was a remnant of an earlier occupational an cast system, but the European politicians, with the help of the ethnographers and missioners, turned it into an "ethnic" distinction (although it was by no means ethnic), which served as a pretext to a power struggle, with the criminal effect we all know. Similar attempts are made in various populations among differing denominations or confessions, as in present day Iraq between Shiites and Sunnites, not creating indeed differences already existing but fostering the streams of hostility between them, while pretending just to stick to reality, instead of promoting a policy of good common life. Similar policies were noted in the past in Albania between the three faiths coexisting in this country but they failed. Nowadays, the overemphasizing of religious differences among Rroms, with the creation of specific representatives for them in international bodies, not only is radically contrary to the Rromani tradition, which has inherited from the Indian wisdom a spirit of mutual respect and affection between denominational differences, but can also lead to unwished struggles for power and harmful splits among Rromani groups.

In this respect, one should be alerted by the long-lasting policy of division developed in Hungary by authorities on the basis of existing differences between old-settlers Rroms, called "Hungarian Gypsies" [Magyar Cigány]), on the one hand, described as good sedentary farmers, hard-working, well-to-do, well-integrated people who have supposedly forgotten Rromani, and 19th century new-comers (or perceived as such), on the other hand, called "Vlax", (i.e. the "Wallachian") Gypsies [Oláh Cigány], and seen as highly mobile, lazy, poverty-stricken outsiders who "talk Gypsy". In fact they combine all the stigmas attached to both peoples Hungarian peasants most despise, namely Gypsies and Romanians. The slightest friction between "Hungarian" and "Wallachian" Rroms is exploited by the authorities to weaken any sense of common identity between the two, although both are victims of history, the first of the forced assimilation policies of the Austro-Hungarian imperial machine, the second of the crushing effects of five centuries of slavery. In terms of dialect, the "Vlax/non-Vlax" split is all the more irrelevant in that every linguist who attempts to employ it adopts different criteria to extend it to dialects which did not come into the original reckoning. As a result, depending on who is doing the classifying and the criteria adopted, a given dialect may be seen as both "Vlax" and "non-Vlax" by different linguists, while within Romania itself the distinction loses all semblance of relevance. It should thus be seen as a purely historical trait, reflecting the order in which different Rromani groups spread to countries bordering Romania: "non-Vlax" being those established since the Middle Ages, "Vlax” those who arrived around the time that slavery was abolished in Romania (1856). In addition, the areas where Romanian was formerly spoken, and therefore the Romanian linguistic influences, reach far beyond the current Romanian state frontiers, what makes the whole issue even more complicated. Anyway, no inferences of a linguistic, or cultural, and especially political, nature may be validly drawn from these facts. Unfortunately, this opposition, which is in the final analysis an overt expression of some peasants' ethnic prejudices, is still to be found in most publications devoted to the Rroms.

Currently in Yugoslavia another parting is attempted on a dialectal background, namely between so-called "Arlìa" and "Gurbet" Rromani dialects. These are popular names (meaning respectively in Turkish "old-settlers/settled" and "exiled") of local varieties of Rromani but they are now extended to designate the speakers of respectively the Balkan variety of the 1st stratum and of the 2nd stratum of the Rromani language, which are separated by hardly half a dozen dialectal features. This reminds of the situation twenty years ago, before the unity of the Rromani language had been evidenced thanks to the lexico-statistical method and is probably due to the ignorance prevailing in Yugoslavia about recent outputs of scientific research in the Rromani realm. However, everyday speakers of these Rromani dialects know very well that the Balkan variety of the 1st stratum and the 2nd stratum are closely akin and that both can be used with total mutual understanding, without any obstacle. In fact, some individuals tend to impose their own person through a particular dialectal form and their attempt is supported by various authorities, for various reasons.

In fact, insisting on sub-group identities and especially on dialectological divisions mirrors less the natural differences between Rroms of various geographic backgrounds than the difficulty of the majority population to perceive the Rroms as a regular people among others and Rromani as a real language. Although the variations between the Rromani dialects propriae dicti are nor greater than those existing within the Bask (Euskara), German, Italian or Rhaetic languages for example, many persons still prefer to view Rromani as a cluster of dialects (or even, like Yaron Matras in his project backed by the PHARE funds, as a possible "hidden jargon") than as a real language, because this perception suits better to the obsolete image they have of a "wild" population with elusive dialects than the notion of language, which they correlate to the idea of a "civilized" nation. Many persons, even in good faith, are hindered in changing their minds and accept with great difficulties to update their information. Some others consider it more profitable to stick to outdated views.

The various group and sub-group identities make up indeed a cultural wealth, but they should not be exaggerated at the expense of the feeling of Rromani commonality, which is axis of the rromanipen. On the other side, a solid solidarity has to be developed not only within the Rromani people, but also with other minority peoples, be they without compact territory as the Beás-Rudari, the Travellers, the Western-Armenians, the Ashkalo-Egyptians, the Aromanians, the Yeniches etc. or with a territory of their own, and obviously beyond these groups, with the majority populations and with all kinds of other identities in Europe in order to promote a real harmonisation of all the components of our societies.

Nous sommes un peuple qui a peut-être perdu ses lois écrites,
mais qui ne les a pas oubliées.

En ce siècle où l ‘image est reine, nous gardons en nos âmes des empreintes
qui valent bien des milliers d’écrits.

Nous avons une telle capacité d’amour que lorsque nous sommes amoureux
Il nous arrive même d’oublier de vivre !

Nous sommes un peuple d’hommes et de femmes allègres attristés par la douleur de l’holocauste de nos aieux..

Nous sommes un peuple patient et pacifique mais il arrive que notre colère éclate
transgressant le bien et le mal.

Nous sommes un peuple avec des racines, des traditions et des croyances et de solides piliers profondément incrustés dans une société où tout semble devenir tristement relatif.

Nous aimons la terre qui nous a vu naître, mais au cours de nos pérégrinations séculaires des sédiments de vertus ont fécondé nos gènes, enrichi notre langue et notre culture.

Nous sommes un peuple qui conçoit la société comme un ensemble d’êtres humains profondément attachés à la défense de leur honneur et de leur dignité.

Nous sommes un peuple qui déteste la vulgarité, l ‘inélégance.

Nous sommes un peuple d’artistes par essence, amoureux des beaux-arts, de la musique et de la danse, et nous nous efforçons d’être un peuple sage, car nous savons que la terre tourne que nos connaissances sont fragiles et notre foi s’abreuve d’espérance.

Il y a en chacun de nous, riche ou pauvre, anonyme ou célèbre, un être humain à la recherche de l’œuvre d’art qu’est notre vie, défi constant et utopique séduction.

Notre quête d’identité dépasse nos légendes, nos peurs et nos illusions, elle consume nos énergies au rythme de nos rencontres ou de nos prières communes … et se renouvelle chaque printemps à travers nos chants en célébrant notre fraternité : .Sa o Roma prala



1 For the purposes of this text the rapporteur is using exclusively the term Roma (and Romani), but this reference should be considered as also covering Sinti (including the Spanish Kale and the Finish Kaale). The rapporteur uses the term “Gypsy” only when quoting institutional definitions and documents.

2 Some of the speakers used the word “vitsa”, which is actually of Romanian origin. The rapporteur has replaced this word with its Romani equivalent – “endaj”.

3 Resolution No. (75)13 of the Committee of Ministers on Social Situation of Nomads in Europe (1975) and Recommendation No. (83)1 of the Committee of Ministers on Stateless Nomads and Nomads of Undetermined Nationality (1983).

4 Resolution 125(1981) of CLRAE on the Role and Responsibilities of Local and Regional Authorities in regard to the Cultural and Social Problems of Populations of Nomadic Origin (1981).

5 Resolution No. 249(1993) of CLRAE on Gypsies in Europe: the Role and Responsibility of Local Authorities (1993) and Recommendation No. 1203 of the Parliamentary Assembly on Gypsies in Europe (1993).

6 Resolutions No. 11 and 16(1995) of CLRAE, Towards a Tolerant Europe: the Contribution of Rroma (Gypsies) (1995).

7 Resolution No. 44(1997) of CLRAE, Towards a Tolerant Europe: the Contribution of Roma (1997).

8 Recommendation No. R(2000)4 of the Committee of Ministers on the Education of Roma/Gypsy Children in Europe (2000); CoE Cordinator for Roma/Gypsies and Group of Specialists on Roma/Gypsies (1995); ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 3 on Combating Racism and Intolerance against Roma/Gypsies (1998).

9 Recommendation No. R(2001)17 of the Committee of Ministers on the Improving the Economic and Employment Situation of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers in Europe (2001); Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (2002).

10 European Forum for Roma and Travellers.

11 DG IV - Directorate General IV – Directorate of Education

12 CLRAE – Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe.