Adopted by the European Union (COCEN group) at the tampere summit, december 1999

Recommendation on the Situation of Roma in the candidate countries: background document, 1999

Guiding Principles for improving the situation of the Roma based on the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Specialist Group of Roma/Gypsy and on the recommendations of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


The present document gives a brief summary of the principles for action in different fields that may be followed in order to improve the situation of the Roma and Sinti (hereafter referred to as Roma). They are mainly the result of the work carried out in the last three years by the Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies of the Council of Europe and by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. The area covered is racism and discrimination against Roma, education, women, economic and employment problems, housing, urban planning and health problems and the international mobility of the Roma.

There is a need to recognise the particular difficulties faced by Roma and the need to undertake effective measures in order to achieve full equality of opportunity, consistent with OSCE commitments, for persons belonging to Roma. There is a need to increase efforts to ensure that Roma are able to play a full and equal part in society, and to eradicate discrimination against them.

The problems faced by the Roma can only be tackled from a multidisciplinary angle. One of the main objectives should be to encourage countries with a Roma minority to adopt a comprehensive approach to Roma issues. Only a long-term vision of the solutions to the problem that gives due consideration to initiatives designed to build bridges between Roma and non-Roma, can lead to a lasting improvement in the situation of Roma.

The establishment of appropriate structures and institutions

    - The establishment of inter-ministerial commissions on Roma issues can be a useful tool to implement national strategies or plans.
    - Equal possibilities of Roma to participate in the political system – as voters, candidates, and representatives in national parliaments – should be encouraged.
    - The institution of ombudsmen for minority issues has proven useful for addressing issues of concern for Roma.
    - The government should make a concerted effort – through, for example ombudsmen, media campaign, and the adoption of multicultural school curricula – to see that issues of concern for Roma are represented to the majority population as concerns of the society as a whole.

The participation of Romani communities in the design and implementation of Roma government policies:

    - The involvement of Roma at the earliest stages in the development of the broad outlines as well as the specific contours of Roma policy is essential to the effectiveness of such policies. Roma should also be included in any formal consultation processes related to the adoption of such policies.
    - Co-operation should not be limited to mere consultation but should be conceived as a partnership on an equal footing. Policies and projects should be adapted to local circumstances, based upon input from Romani representatives and communities.
    - The creation of consultative bodies between the governments and the Roma population in various countries are seen as a positive development.
    - Mechanisms for securing Roma participation in shaping major policy initiatives are most likely to be effective and legitimate if they involve a broadly representative process, reflecting the size and diversity of Romani communities.
    - In view of the central importance of local administrations in implementing national Roma policies, comprehensive national plans should be designed so as to fully involve the local authorities. Roma participation at these levels is essential to the effective implementation of such policies.
    - Roma should be meaningfully involved not only in developing but also in implementing and evaluating the success of programs aimed at improving the conditions of the Romani communities.
    - Donors seeking to enhance Roma involvement in policy-making processes could usefully offer training programmes aimed at improving political, policy making and public administration skills.

    RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION

There is a need for strong national anti-discrimination legislation accompanied by specific measures to make sure that such legislation can be invoked in practice by victims;

    - Violence against and harassment of members of minority communities must be adequately punished and legislation condemning racially motivated violence should be enacted and properly implemented.
    - Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation (addressing racial and ethnic discrimination in all fields of public life, including access to public accommodations, citizenship, education, employment, health, housing, public and social services, etc) should be enacted and enforced.
    - Legislation against incitement to ethnic and racial hatred should be enacted and enforced.
    - Government regulations or other applicable legal norms specifically prohibiting ethnic racial discrimination in all activities undertaken and/or funded by the government should be enacted.
    - The above legal norms should be effectively enforced through promulgation and enforcement of internal disciplinary standards to ensure that public officials, who discriminate, including police, are sanctioned swiftly and appropriately.
    - Policies aiming at improving the relations between the Roma and the police require integrated strategies including

      a. strong commitment by top management
      b. training at all levels in human rights and ethnic relations
      c. punishment of officers guilty of discrimination or violence on ethnic grounds.

    - It is important to ensure that judges and prosecutors are more fully informed about human rights violations against Roma so that they can respond more actively and expeditiously in such cases. Training courses for the judiciary should therefore be regularly organised, as well as training sessions for people involved in legal assistance to Roma communities.
    - It is also necessary to raise the awareness of media professionals of their responsibility in the field of ethnic relations, for example by developing voluntary codes of conduct and suitable training courses. The launching of information and awareness raising campaigns for the wider public could also usefully contribute to the fight against hate speech and prejudices.
    - The international organisations concerned with nationality (citizenship) problems, such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, should be encouraged to pay particular attention to the problems faced by Roma in the field of acquisition or loss of nationality. States, particularly in the case of State succession, should ensure that they respect their obligations under international agreements on nationality questions and that Roma are not arbitrarily deprived of their citizenship and the rights it entails.
    - The very difficult situation of many Roma constitutes a violation of the rights of children in the sense of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. States should make sure that equality of opportunities in all fields of life, and in particular in the field of education, is ensured for Roma children.
    - In addition to the above-mentioned plans, it is important to recall that use should be made of the various international agreements and conventions in order to monitor the human rights situation of the Roma. In particular, lawyers should be made aware of the possibilities offered by the European Convention on Human Rights. Other international instruments (such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities) or instances (such as the UN Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination or the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) represent useful tools in the fight against racism and discrimination.
    - Adopt measures aimed at facilitating access to justice for Roma, including establishing funding and implementing effectively an entitlement to legal assistance for indigent persons, including but not limited to Roma, charged with crimes and/or those bringing civil legal action in order to vindicate legal rights.
    - Establish and implement domestic mechanisms to monitor and report transparently and regularly on progress in each of the above areas.

EDUCATION

The disadvantaged position of Roma in European societies cannot be overcome unless equality of opportunities in the field of education is guaranteed for Roma children.

    - Education should be considered as a priority by States designing policies to improve the situation of the Roma; the disadvantaged position of the Roma in society and, in particular, their often very difficult socio-economic situation, should be borne in mind when designing such policies.
    - States should provide the necessary funding to implement education policies and arrangements in order to close the gap between Roma pupils and majority pupils and ensure equal educational opportunities for Romani children.
    - National law should include adequate provisions banning discrimination in the sphere of education and providing effective remedies.
    - In order to affirm the cultural heritage of all groups within society, and eradicate manifestations of anti-Roma discrimination in schools:

      v Governments should ensure that teachers and other education professionals receive adequate training in multicultural education;
      v Education for all children should have an intercultural approach; governments should ensure that educational texts include material on Romani history and culture, especially in regions and localities with substantial Romani populations;
      v Policies and measures adopted by the authorities responsible for education at national, regional and local level should take account of the needs and aspirations of all groups within society, including Roma.

    - The legitimacy of introducing affirmative action to enhance the quality and effectiveness of education of Roma children should be recognised.
    - National governments must make concerted efforts to eradicate manifestations of anti-Roma discrimination in schools, and to ensure true equality of opportunity.
    - National governments and other authorities with responsibility for education should avoid taking measures which have the effect of separating Roma children from the school population as a whole, particularly the practice of routing Romani children to schools or classes for mentally disabled students.
    - Governments may wish to consider supporting pre-school programmes that help prepare Romani children for primary schools, as well as “booster” programmes that provide appropriate support to Romani children while they are attending regular schools.
    - The basic characteristic of educational policies and actions towards Roma should be flexibility, which is necessary in order to reflect the diversity of the Roma population in European countries.
    - Educational policies should incorporate measures for adult and vocational education.
    - Roma communities as a whole should be considered as a partner when designing educational policies in favour of Roma; governments should utilise or take steps to increase the number of mediators/trainers and teachers recruited within the Romani community, and dialogue between school authorities and families/parents should be supported and developed.
    - Governments should adopt programmes that would ensure that the cost of meals, textbooks, and similar costs related to education are covered with respect to children whose parents cannot afford to pay those costs.
    - Mechanisms should be developed for making a regular assessment of the effectiveness of education policies and measures in improving the educational attainments of Roma children.

WOMEN

    - Roma women often suffer from double discrimination, as women and as Roma. Moreover, young Roma women are often lured or forced into prostitution and may end up as victims of international trafficking. National strategies in favour of Roma should include a specific action plan for women.
    - Priority and financial support should be given to projects carried out by or involving Roma women.

UNEMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC PROBLEMS FACED BY ROMA

The Roma currently face an extremely difficult economic situation, particularly in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Actions should be undertaken by the States in order to prevent the difficult economic situation of large sectors of the Romani population from becoming a threat to the social cohesion of a number of countries.

Training

    - If the very high unemployment rate among Roma populations is to be reduced, training clearly has an essential role to play.
    - Greater access to education is needed, particularly secondary and higher education, as well as vocational training, so that a young generation of well-trained Roma can emerge and be competitive on the labour market.
    - In order to ensure that vocational training produces tangible results in terms of employment, young people must be trained in professions for which there are a local need and the promise of real job opportunities.
    - Innovative forms of training offering unemployed people training in a particular field should be set up wherever possible.

Information

    - Roma should be given information about their rights and duties in the field of employment, about the different forms of help available from administrative bodies and about the functioning of institutions such as social security. Such information, which should be provided by public administrative bodies in co-operation with NGOs should enhance the social integration of Roma. It should also help in the fight against institutional discrimination and racism.

The fight against discrimination

    - Legislation sanctioning racial discrimination in employment is a vital part of any equal opportunities policy.
    - Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that the implementation of these anti-discrimination measures is properly monitored. The judiciary should be given specific training in order to raise its awareness of this issue.
    - Joint positive action by employers and trade unions, regulations and codes of good practice should be undertaken.
    - The extensive work carried out by the International Labour Office in this field should be referred to when designing policies to tackle discrimination in the labour market.

Integration into the labour market

    - Encourage the recruitment of persons from Roma communities by local and national public authorities.
    - Ensure the equality of opportunities for Roma on the labour market.
    - Explore the possibilities for creating jobs in the public sector, making use of the traditional ability of Roma for the provision of services (ie services related to everyday life, services related to quality of life, services related to the environment, etc…)
    - Provide specific training to national and local labour offices to make them more aware of the situation of the Roma.

    Creation of small income-generating enterprises

This is probably the only genuinely promising way of creating jobs and sources of stable income on a large scale and at the same time of promoting the empowerment of the Romani communities. The development of income-generating projects should therefore be strongly supported by the member States.

    Income-generating projects should aim to:

    a. Meet basic needs (so-called “survival” projects);
    b. Develop small family or community enterprises;
    c. Promote local development in general.

    - Facilitating access to bank loans, and in particular to micro-credits, is a strategy which has been used in various parts of the world, often successfully, to alleviate poverty while encouraging the participation of the groups concerned, especially women within those groups.
    - In the long run, the setting up of national support funds, involving players as diverse as the government, the communities concerned, via representative NGOs, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Council of Europe’s Social Development Fund, national banks and local authorities, can help income-generating projects develop rapidly by providing increased access to funding and improving the guarantees given to financial institutions.

Land ownership

    - The question of land ownership arises mainly in Central and Eastern Europe and is one of the important issues at stake in the setting up of income-generating projects. Access to land ownership for Roma should thus be facilitated and supported.

Participation

    - The issue of the involvement of the Romani communities in the elaboration, design, implementation and monitoring of innovative solutions to their economic and employment problems is crucial. Proper use should therefore be made of the competence and resources which exist within the Romani communities in order to maximise the efficiency of the actions undertaken and guarantee that they are well accepted by the groups concerned.

HOUSING, URBAN PLANNING AND POVERTY PROBLEMS FACED BY ROMA COMMUNITIES

Many Roma live in extremely poor housing conditions which form an important component of their wider socio-economic deprivation. The following principles should be considered:

    - Roma housing should be part of the housing system of society as a whole.
    - Roma housing problems should be considered and resolved within the context of other aspects of their life in general; housing policies and projects should be part of integrated schemes to improve the situation of Roma. A comprehensive approach does not, however, mean uncritically “attacking” all problems at the same time. On the contrary, priorities should be established and housing projects should be integrated in well planned programmes involving different aspects, such as training, education, job creation, education, etc.
    - Legalising illegal Roma living environments should be a priority.
    - An individualised approach to solving Roma housing problems is needed and possible, as in most cases, Roma living communities are relatively small.
    - Full participation of the Roma in housing improvement process (design of housing policies, construction, rehabilitation, and/or maintenance) is an indispensable prerequisite and condition for sustainable improvements.
    - A management group should be set up for every project, involving representatives of the Romani community, of the local authorities and NGOs concerned and of the national authorities.
    - All steps in the process of solving the Roma housing situation, and the process as a whole, should be conceived so that their ethnic and cultural identity is preserved.
    - While respecting the free choice of particular Romani communities to live with other roma, governments should ensure that housing policies do not foster segregation. One approach that may be productive is to provide financial incentives for housing projects whose intended beneficiaries include a mix of Roma and non-Roma.
    - Housing standards that apply to others should apply to the Roma.
    - The legality of the rehabilitation or improvement processes should be controlled in order to ensure that the interests of all participants in the projects are safeguarded.
    - Financing of housing projects should stem from various sources. Considering that the cost for the projects is often a restrictive factor to its implementation, it should be borne in mind that while the borderline cost is a question of the national economy’s strength, the distribution of this cost is a question of social policy and market mechanisms, and ultimately a question of the relations between partners in the housing process;
    - Governments should show greater readiness to assume the risk of guaranteeing loans that may be available from international institutions and financial institutions for housing projects.
    - Foreign donors should consider funding feasibility studies on specific housing projects, which may in turn encourage local and national authorities to apply to thee same donors for loans to implement larger housing projects.
    - The period of carrying out a housing project being relatively long, accurate plans of work and financing should be elaborated in order not to create false expectations on the part of the communities concerned.
    - Governments must ensure that Roma are not victims of discrimination in respect of housing. Where such legislation does not yet exist, states should enact laws that prohibit discrimination in housing and provide effective remedies in case of violation.

    HEALTH

The health needs of many Romani communities merit concerted action and commitment of resources. Some of the measures that could be usefully considered.

    - Governments should take immediate steps to address the high incidence of disease and malnutrition among Romani communities.
    - Governments should take steps to ensure equal access of Roma to public health care.

Governments should give special attention to the particular situation and needs of women in taking measures, including inter alia, adequate housing.

THE INTERNATIONAL MOBILITY OF THE ROMA IN EUROPE

    - There is a need to distinguish between issues concerning the situation of groups with an itinerant lifestyle, and the problems of Romani migration, when discussing the mobility of Roma.
    - Special consultations measures should be set up to help prevent clandestine existence and marginalisation of recent Romani migrants from Central and Eastern Europe already living in the West.
    - In order to tackle the root causes of migration, measures must be taken to increase confidence in and identification with existing societal and political structures in the countries of origin. A necessary step in this direction is the strengthening of self-confidence and the fight against discrimination. This could be achieved by supporting networks which help monitor the human and civil rights situation of Roma, and by encouraging Romani representation and participation in decision-making processes.