On 14 May 2007, I was appointed rapporteur by the
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to prepare a report
on the situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities of the
Council of Europe (Doc. 11206
This report has been prepared thoroughly following various complementary
steps. Two hearings on this subject were organised before the Sub-Committee
on Rights of Minorities: one at its meeting in Bratislava on 22
followed by a second
on 26 June 2008.
further hearing was held before the plenary committee on 18 May
2009 in Targu Mures, more specifically on the situation of Roma
the rapporteur carried out fact-finding visits to Denmark (28-29
May 2008) and the Czech Republic (17-18 March 2009).
2. Despite a great deal of work at the international level, including
particularly active efforts in the Council of Europe, the situation
of the Roma is a general problem that affects every Council of Europe
In my initial introductory memorandum, I already described
extensively the relevant activities of the Council of Europe and
underlined its pioneer role in improving the situation of the Roma.
This document has since been declassified by the committee and is
available on the Assembly’s website.
consider the information therein as being an integral part of my
report and will not repeat it here (though I will use it to underpin
certain recommendations). The present second part of my work will
examine specific aspects of the current situation of the Roma in
Europe. Furthermore, since the Committee on Migration, Refugees
and Population and the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women
and Men are both seized for opinion, I will not tackle issues falling
within their competencies.
2. Definitions and figures
The terms “Roma” and “Travellers” are defined as
follows in the appendix to Committee of Ministers Recommendation
Rec(2008)5 on policies for Roma and/or Travellers in Europe: “The
term ‘Roma and/or Travellers’ used in the present text refers to
Roma, Sinti, Kale, Travellers, and related groups in Europe, and aims
to cover the wide diversity of groups concerned, including groups
which identify themselves as Gypsies.”
this report, the term “Roma” covers both Roma and Travellers within
the meaning of the above definition.
5. The Roma population is estimated at between 10 and 12 million
people throughout Europe. In some member states, they make up close
to 10% of the total population. The Roma constitute the largest
minority in Europe and are present in virtually all Council of Europe
It is also important to note that the Roma are Europe’s largest
minority without a compact territory and, unlike other national
minorities, do not receive any support from a kin-state. In some
countries, the Roma minority is not recognised as such even though
it has been established there for several centuries.
3. An alarm signal
7. I have wondered how best to describe the seriousness
of the situation in my report. I have decided to let the facts speak
for themselves and to outline recent outrageous events and circumstances
of which Roma people have been victims in a wide range of Council
of Europe member states. These events – in which a number of basic
human rights of Roma people are infringed – tell the story better
than a long analysis.
8. It must be borne in mind that the following are only a handful
of shocking examples, reflecting an increasingly widespread trend
in Europe towards anti-Gypsyism of the worst kind.
9. Looking at these examples, it appears clearly that the process
of Roma integration has not reached its objectives during the last
20 years. Integration has not reached a level which would prevent
the Roma population from becoming an easy target for extremist and
3.1. Racially motivated violence/hate speech
Extremism is rising throughout Europe; the economic
crisis has considerably worsened the situation. As European Union
Commissioner for Equal Opportunities, Vladimir Spidla, has rightly
pointed out “It seems that the Roma have become the target of organised
racist violence – fed by political populism, hate speech and media
hype. In some cases, Roma are being made scapegoats for wide societal
11. Extremists accuse their countries’ police forces of failing
to protect citizens from “Gypsy crime”. Several provocative marches
have been organised by radical nationalist groups/parties in some
Council of Europe member states (for example, Hungary and the Czech
Republic) in areas inhabited by Roma.
The rapporteur was informed during his visit to Litvinov (Czech
Republic) that such a march was organised there on 17 November 2008
by the Czech workers party (DS). A group of 500 neo-Nazis intended to
march through Janov (an area mainly inhabited by Roma, which the
rapporteur visited). The police managed to stop them, but the street
fights lasted hours. Reportedly, the police discovered dozens of
weapons in the extremists’ cars. In the following months, several
marches of this kind took place in the Czech Republic. In its report
published in September 2009, ECRI notes that “anti-Roma slogans
have been used as part of election campaigns, especially at local
level, and inflammatory statements against the Roma appear at times
to have been rewarded by appointments to higher office”.
his visit, the authorities confirmed to the rapporteur that there
is a qualitative shift on the part of extremism: its increasing
professionalism (approach of the public, actions well organised
from a media point of view). This is a very dangerous trend to which
the Czech Government is trying to respond in an organised way, also
by means of a media campaign. An anti-extremism platform – not only
under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and of
the police but also of other relevant entities – has been put in
place to ensure a co-ordinated response. As the rapporteur was told
by a representative of the authorities, there is also a need to
develop a tool to prevent systemic and overall infiltration of extremists
in the police, in the army and in the prison administrations.
13. Besides anti-Roma marches, Roma are increasingly victims of
brutal attacks in a number of member states.
14. In Bulgaria, in August 2007, a group of around 12 skinheads
assaulted six Roma as they were returning to their homes in Fakulteta,
a predominantly Roma neighbourhood of Sofia. Four people were injured
and one of them required hospitalisation. The victims were interviewed
by the Romani Baht Foundation, a Roma rights organisation, which
said the victims had telephoned for help to the district police
but the police had refused to send a patrol car.
In Croatia, it was reported that racist hate speech appeared
online following the announcement that a Muslim Roma man had been
chosen by viewers as the winner of the popular television show Big
Brother. This was of a disturbingly violent nature and appeared
online on a white supremacist forum.
16. In the first half of 2009, violent racist attacks against
Roma involving Molotov cocktails occurred in the Czech Republic.
In April, Molotov cocktails were thrown into Robert Kudrik’s family
home in the village of Vítkov. The fire completely destroyed their
home and seriously injured the parents. Their 2-year-old daughter, Natálka,
went into a coma with serious burns covering 80% of her body. Following
this attack, the police arrested four men alleged to be the perpetrators,
charged them with attempted murder, and took them into custody.
In May 2009, arsonists attacked another Roma family in the village
of Zdiby, near Prague, throwing two Molotov cocktails at their home.
Czech television reported no injuries. The family succeeded in putting
out the fire in time. The authorities assume that the fire was racially
motivated. Several attacks resulting in injuries of Roma took place
17. During the rapporteur’s visit, the authorities underlined
that the Ministry of the interior had achieved a lot in recent years,
for instance through pilot projects such as hiring Roma police assistants
in Ostrava (as well as in five other cities in the country). It
has also recently become compulsory for the police to look into
possible racial motives for each crime. In Litvinov, the rapporteur
was told by the authorities that – for a long time now – there have
been Roma policemen in the city.
18. In France, in the second half of 2009, a Roma camp was approached
by state officials who stamped people on the hand or arm so that
they could be “better tracked”.
19. On 24 July 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Committee
found, in the case of Andreas Kalamiotis v.
Greece, that the Government of Greece had violated Article
2, paragraph 3 (right to an effective remedy) together with Article
7 (prohibition of torture) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights. The case concerned the lack of an effective
investigation into allegations of police brutality against Andreas Kalamiotis,
a Roma man, on 14 June 2001.
In February 2009, the Hungarian Prime Minister warned that
verbal attacks on Roma, Jews and Gays were becoming an “everyday
to media reports, since the beginning of 2008 there have been –
in Hungary – at least 15 incidents of Roma houses being firebombed,
and two Roma homes attacked with hand grenades. During this time,
at least six people of Roma origin were murdered in these and other
incidents, and others were seriously injured. In most of the cases,
the police confirmed that the killings were racially motivated.
21. On 23 February 2009, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the
house of the Csorba family. As Mr Csorba tried to escape the fire,
carrying his son Robi and holding the hand of his 6-year-old daughter,
he and his son were shot dead. On 22 April 2009, a 54-year-old Roma
man, Kóka Jenő, was shot dead in front of his house in Tiszalök.
On 3 August 2009 the violence again reached a critical peak when
a 45-year-old Roma woman, Maria Balogh, was shot dead and her 13-year-old
daughter Ketrin seriously injured in an attack on their home. The
police investigation established a link between these attacks.
22. On 11 May 2008, the Italian newspaper La
Repubblica quoted Mr Roberto Maroni, Italy’s Minister
of the Interior, as saying that “All Roma camps will have to be
dismantled right away, and the inhabitants will be either expelled
or incarcerated”. The rhetoric fight against insecurity has led
to obvious abuses in Italy. The authorities have, amongst other
measures, fingerprinted the Roma, photographed Roma children, brutally
evicted Roma from their camps and left unpunished numerous arson
attacks on the sheds serving as their homes.
On 12 May 2008, three Italian boys set the entrance to a Roma
camp in Ponticelli, Naples on fire after pouring petrol around it.
A number of isolated shacks were also set on fire. On 13 May, a
group of about 300 to 400 locals attacked one of the biggest Roma
camps in the district, which was home to 48 Roma families. That
night, another camp in Ponticelli was evacuated, and its inhabitants
were moved to temporary shelter in a school. On 14 May, two clusters
of shacks were burnt down before a cheering crowd of locals.
24. Further reported incidents include the following: On 20 June
2008, a Roma missionary for the Pentecostal church was brutally
assaulted by four policemen for having reported on television an
assault on his 12-year-old daughter, two days earlier. On 29 June,
a young Roma was beaten up and chased away from the city of Pesaro
and another young Roma threatened with death in Fano; a Molotov
cocktail was thrown at a Roma camp at Magliana, near Rome, on 23
July; a small Roma camp in Pisa was completely burnt down on 26
July, and the inhabitants lost all their belongings; on 28 July,
a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Roma camp of 20 vehicles inhabited
by Italian Sinti in Tuscany; on 19 August, a small camp in Mestre
was set on fire and, on 2 September, a camp near Padova inhabited
by Italian Sinti was burnt down and two young people were burnt
For more information, the rapporteur refers to the comprehensive
reports of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
who visited Italy several times following these worrying events.
number of other serious incidents have taken place since 2004.
26. In 2008, some municipalities in Romania, like Brasov, have
built walls to separate the Roma from the non-Roma community. A
similar wall was recently built in the district of Beja, Portugal.
27. On 10 September 2007, masked men broke into the home of a
Roma family, the Lyalikovs, in Ordzhonikidze, Ingushetia (Russian
Federation), and shot dead the father and two adult sons. Police
told the media that the crime was motivated by “ethnic hatred”.
Furthermore, on 10 November 2005 in the town of Iskitim, in Russia’s
Novosibirsk region, two Roma houses were burned in apparent arson
attacks. One Roma woman sustained severe injuries and her 7-year-old
child died three days later as a result of the arson attack.
28. The United Nations Committee against Torture has considered
the case of violence and racial abuse against a Roma man and, on
8 May 2009, issued a decision finding Serbia to have been in violation
of a number of provisions of the Convention against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Mr Osmani
was beaten and verbally abused by what were believed to be plain-clothed
police officers, in the presence of uniformed officers during a
forced eviction and demolition operation at the “Antena” settlement
in New Belgrade, the home of some 107 Roma. During the incident
Mr Osmani’s 4-year-old son was also hit.
29. In the Slovak Republic, in Kosice, in April 2009, six Roma
children (aged between 11 and 16) became victims of police abuse.
They were forced by police officers to undress, slap and kiss each
other. The police officers filmed the scenes.
In its report published in September 2009, ECRI “notes with
concern that there have been cases of anti-Gypsyism in Switzerland
in recent years, especially through remarks made by local or national
politicians, which have been repeated in the media”.
31. In the regions of Chernigiv and Odessa in Ukraine, announcements
were posted on the streets asking people to immediately call the
police if they saw a Roma.
32. In June 2009, the Roma diaspora in South Belfast (United Kingdom)
fell victim to violent racist attacks. Over 100 people were driven
from their homes as a result of these incidents, which involved
gangs smashing windows of houses and attacking cars.
3.2. Discrimination in the field of education
33. Everyone agrees that access to education is fundamental.
However, Roma children remain excluded from quality education in
many member states. They are either segregated into Roma-only classes,
unjustly considered unfit for normal classes (and shunted into schools
for disabled children) or – even worse – they cannot even attend
school at all. Language and geographic isolation are further barriers
Roma have to face in order to access education.
34. As long as Roma are limited in their access to school, their
prospects of future employment will remain limited. As a consequence,
it will remain extremely difficult for them to improve the community’s
involvement in economic and political life, and therefore to improve
its situation as a whole.
35. Access to quality education is a key element to help significantly
improve the situation of Roma in Europe. Lack of proper education
makes it difficult to have access to a proper job. It is the authorities’ responsibility
to break this vicious circle, with the close co-operation of Roma
minorities all over Europe.
36. The rapporteur welcomes in this context the noteworthy efforts
of several states to enrol Roma children in schools or to dismantle
segregated schooling (several good examples of which are mentioned
below). In many member states, however, segregation of Roma children
in schools is still a reality.
In the Czech Republic, Roma segregation in primary education
remains a serious concern. Roma pupils are often assigned to special
schools “designed for children and pupils aged 3 to 19 who are mentally
and/or physically handicapped, with impaired hearing, vision and/or
speech, with developmental disorders”.
Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has condemned the
Czech Republic in the case of D.H. and
Others v. the Czech Republic,
considering that there
had been a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 2
of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) because the applicants had
been placed in special schools because of their Roma origin.
judgment is all the more important as the practice of special schools, which
has been condemned for some years now, is very widespread. During
the rapporteur’s visit to the Czech Republic, the authorities underlined
the role of pedagogic assistants, which is considered a success.
Following the so-called “Gabal report” (conducted by an independent
consultant) and the Court’s ruling, the role of and the need for
preparatory schools has been reassessed. The Ministry of Education
is in favour of positive discrimination and affirmative action to
enhance Roma access to education. However, pointing out the lack
of ethnic data, the authorities were not able to tell the rapporteur
whether the measures taken so far had proved successful. This is
the reason why additional research was commissioned by the Ministry
of Education on the education of Roma and their opportunities to
be educated in mainstream schools. It is obvious that children from
Roma origin should have access to pre-school/early care and this
is the focus set by the Ministry of Education who would like to
enhance the measures towards “socially vulnerable” children aged
from 0 to 4 years. In addition, the authorities underlined their
will to also tackle the issue from the point of view of the teachers.
Teachers are not sufficiently familiar with the living conditions
of “socially vulnerable” children (including Roma); the Ministry
of Education therefore intends to promote better preparation of
teachers during their university studies. The positive role of educational
assistants of Roma origin has been highlighted.
38. It is of particular concern that the continuing existence
of Roma-only classes, even in mainstream schools, was confirmed
to the rapporteur. Another area of concern is that, at present,
the legislation only allows “special schools” to receive financial
support for “socially vulnerable” children. The Deputy Ministry
of Education has assured the rapporteur that the authorities wish
to amend the law so as to allow mainstream schools to receive this
kind of financial support, too.
On the issue of the “special schools”, NGO representatives
consider that the 2004 reform (the new School Act 2004 – Law No.
561/2004) was merely cosmetic: the schools changed their names but
remained the same.
However, one big
step has been taken: it is now possible to pass from “special” primary
schools to “mainstream” secondary schools (although this will probably
remain very difficult in practice).
In Bulgaria, too, enrolment rates of Roma children in schools
are significantly lower than those of children from the rest of
the population. Furthermore, segregated schools (with mostly Roma
children) have poorer infrastructures and less resources and materials
than the mainstream schools.
to the 2001 census, 18.1% of the Roma were illiterate.
41. In Denmark, the practice of Roma-only classes in the city
of Helsingor (where there is the biggest Roma community in the country
– approximately 200 Roma families) was considered in 2004 unlawful
under the Act for Public Schools. Although these classes have been
closed down since 2005, NGO representatives report that in reality
the segregation remains. In Helsingor, local authorities have decided
to reduce financial allowances in cases where the children do not
attend school. Following a decision of the city council, finding this
practice unlawful, the law was amended to legalise the practice
provided certain very narrow criteria are fulfilled. The teachers
now receive training to be able to teach Danish as a second language.
With the help of “morning-ladies” (consultants from the city council
whose responsibility it is to pick up at home the children who do
not appear at school), the local authorities hope to improve school
attendance of Roma children. The local authorities have indicated
to the rapporteur that there are so far no initiatives to preserve
the Romani language.
ECRI, in its third report on France, highlighted concerns
that some Roma children had been unable to enrol in schools in France.
Indeed, the Commissioner for
Human Rights, in his memorandum of November 2008 following his visit
to France, reported that despite the schooling obligation and a
growing request from French Travellers to send their children to
school, certain municipalities continue to refuse to admit these children
to primary schools, using excuses such as the short schooling period
due to a nomadic lifestyle, an ongoing eviction procedure or the
lack of space in the classrooms. In February 2007, the High Authority
for the Struggle Against Discrimination and for Equality (HALDE)
handed down a decision concerning a mayor who refused 14 French
Traveller children access to school.
In its report on Greece,
in September 2009, ECRI “notes with concern that Roma remain at
a great disadvantage with regard to education. There are still cases
of schools refusing to register Roma children …”.
44. During the hearing before the committee in Targu Mures, some
progress was reported by NGO representatives in the field of education
in Romania, mostly thanks to 400 school mediators (Roma themselves) and
Roma school inspectors. Places are also set aside for Roma in secondary
schools and universities. A new programme called “Nursery education
for all”, which should cover 8 000 children who do not currently
attend nursery school, to prepare them for direct entry to primary
school, was due to start in August 2009. Reportedly, the issues
of discrimination in education and of school segregation are regularly
on the agenda of the Ministry of Education. The ministry has adopted
an order forbidding school segregation and a methodology aimed at preventing
it in practice.
According to Amnesty International, Roma children in Slovakia
are identified as students from “socially disadvantaged environments”,
and as such are perceived as having special educational needs alongside “students
with disabilities”. The Slovakian Government’s Policy on the Roma
Minority does include a goal to differentiate Roma children from
students with disabilities; however, the Education Act 2008 still
fails to include this important distinction. This lack of a clear
definition leaves school placement of Roma children susceptible to
46. In Spain, incidents of vehement opposition to the inclusion
of Roma children in schools by non-Roma parents have been reported.
3.3. Discrimination in the field of housing
In October 2009, the Fundamental Rights Agency of
the European Union concludes that “it is clear … that large numbers
of Roma and Travellers in the EU do not enjoy equal treatment in
this respect and are living in substandard conditions which fall
far below even the minimum criteria of adequate housing”.
In its Status Report
2008, the OSCE notes that “the dire housing and living conditions
of large numbers of Roma and Sintis remain an urgent problem” and
is worried by an increase in the number of forced evictions and
dismantling of settlements.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights shares these views
and, while recalling that Roma are among those facing major difficulties
in this respect, he has issued a recommendation on housing rights.
In this context, he underlines
that the right to housing is indeed of central importance to the effective
enjoyment of most human rights and that housing rights must be implemented
in full compliance with the principle of non-discrimination. In
the aforementioned report, the Fundamental Rights Agency even considers
that housing segregation is sometimes “the result of deliberate
48. Lack of security of tenure (in conjunction with forced evictions),
lack of permanent and transient halting sites, racism and discrimination
are the most acute problems faced by Roma in the field of housing.
49. During his visit to the Czech Republic, the rapporteur visited
the dormitory for the “inadaptable” (one can question the appropriateness
of this word), U Bileho sloupu, in Litvinov. The rapporteur witnessed
that the dormitory – more or less huts with very basic amenities
– (probably one of many in the country) was not in a good state
of repair. While regular heating and electricity problems have been
reported (and confirmed by the authorities), the rapporteur is very
surprised at the amount of rent, 3 600 kronas per adult (approximately
€140) and 300 kronas per child. This seems very high compared to
the average salary in the Czech Republic, with the obviously very
limited resources of its inhabitants and, last but not least, with
the state of repair of the dormitory. The rapporteur was informed
by the government that 60 projects have been developed in order
to fight against social exclusion of Roma, one of these foresees,
for instance, the revitalisation of housing for Roma in Prěrov.
This is greatly needed.
50. The rapporteur is also particularly concerned by a practice
reported to him by the local authorities during his visit to Litvinov.
According to them, the noticeable increase of Roma inhabitants in
the city resulted from a practice by the housing agency in Prague,
which consisted of paying off the debts of Roma families; in return, the
families concerned accepted to leave their flats in Prague and move
to smaller towns such as Litvinov, and especially Janov. Apparently,
this would enable the housing agency to regain access to flats in
certain areas of Prague for the purposes of rehabilitation, leading
to higher rents.
In its third report on France,
noted that there had been allegations of forced collective evictions
of Roma families from their camps without any alternative accommodation
being offered. They also noted their alarm at reports that these
evictions had been violent, and followed by the immediate destruction
of the property, with personal belongings left inside.
The Council of Europe
Commissioner for Human Rights also noted that evictions are a particularly
problematic issue, plunging families into a climate of fear, particularly
as they are not usually subject to any prior negotiation, and the
inhabitants do not receive any warning. The Commissioner for Human
Rights also noted that most Roma groups in France live in squalid
shanty towns, often without access to water or electricity. Rubbish
was collected only sporadically, and sanitary conditions often deplorable.
Some camps did not even have toilets.
However, the rapporteur is
pleased to note that French law obliges local authorities to make
equipped sites available to Roma.
In a letter of 19 December 2007 to Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos,
Greek Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation,
Mr Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
voiced his concern about the situation in the Athens municipality
of Votanikos, where a large number of Roma were facing imminent
eviction. Also, while encouraging the Greek authorities to continue implementing
the housing loan scheme for Roma, ECRI expressed concerns about
the living conditions which “fall unacceptably below international
standards” in the settlements of Aspropyrgos and Spata, near Athens.
Amnesty International reports that in Italy, in March 2009,
the Roma people living under the Bacula overpass north of Milan
were forcibly evicted by local authorities. According to local newspapers,
70 out of about 150 Roma people living there were dispersed without
illegal police raids into Roma homes and camps, and several instances
of high profile mass evictions/demolitions of Roma camps were reported
in the first half of 2008.
Substandard housing conditions are common in Montenegro and
large numbers of Roma live in makeshift or unofficial settlements,
which often lack basic utilities and services. Eviction from illegal settlements,
and sometimes legal residences, remains a serious problem.
In Serbia, around 250 Roma people, including small children
and the elderly and infirm, were evicted from a temporary settlement
in New Belgrade on 3 April 2009. Bulldozers accompanied by police
officers arrived to clear the site early in the morning before the
formal eviction notice was even presented to the community. At least
50 of the makeshift dwellings were torn apart while their former
occupants could only watch. Temporary alternative accommodation,
in the form of containers, was provided in another neighbourhood
of Belgrade, but local residents attempted to set them on fire in
order to prevent the Roma from moving in.
ECRI reports that in the United Kingdom Roma people who acquire
sites of their own find it very difficult to obtain planning permission.
As a result of the difficulties encountered in accessing housing
that meets their needs, today a considerable part of the non-settled
Roma population live in unauthorised camps, often situated in unsuitable
locations with no access to basic services and facilities.
3.4. Discrimination in access to employment
57. Lack of education and of qualifications are some
of the reasons for the significantly higher rates of unemployment
of Roma in comparison with the rest of the population. In this area,
the rapporteur urges the member states to fully implement Committee
of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2001)17 on improving the economic
and employment situation of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.
ECRI noted widespread discrimination against Roma in Denmark
in the employment sector, finding that many of them were relegated
to menial jobs.
Helsingor, two social workers had been assigned by the labour market
department to work specifically with Roma. Roma were always directed
to them, notwithstanding the purpose of their enquiry. This measure
– ostensibly aimed at providing better responses to the needs of the
Roma – was not optional: it was compulsory for Roma to address themselves
only to those two persons. This measure was therefore considered
59. In Latvia, on 25 May 2006, the Jelgava City Court issued a
finding of discrimination in access to employment in a civil case
brought by the Latvian National Human Rights Office (LNHRO) on behalf
of a Roma woman. At the end of 2005, the Roma woman approached the
LNHRO after she applied for work at the Palso Company as a salesperson.
The woman, who was sent for the interview by the Latvian employment
bureau, claimed that her interviewer told her that she was not appropriate
for the position, allegedly because of her accent when speaking
Latvian, without even considering her qualifications. The Roma woman
believed the interviewer’s response to be the result of her ethnicity,
so, failing to achieve a conciliatory agreement with Palso, the
LHNRO filed the civil case, seeking compensation for moral damages.
In its decision of 25 May, the Jelgava City Court ordered Palso
to pay 1 000 Latvian lats (approximately €1 420) in damages to the
Roma woman in question.
According to ECRI, Roma suffer in the United Kingdom from
discrimination in recruitment and from harassment in the workplace.
Roma people are also disadvantaged in the labour market, linked
with the lack of a permanent address, especially as concerns the
setting up of private businesses.
61. Examples of good practices have emerged over recent years.
Among others, in Bulgaria, “Roma employment mediators” have been
established and trained, while “Job fairs” – aimed at promoting
access to the labour market for Roma – have been established in
Romania. Ireland’s Special Employment Initiatives for Travellers,
launched by the National Training and Employment Authority (FAS)
in 2005-2006, as well as the establishment of “Traveller Interagency
Groups”, in charge of the promotion of local co-ordination of competent agencies
and Traveller representatives, or the resolution adopted in 2008
by the Government of the Czech Republic to promote the Agency for
Social Inclusion of Roma and the Dobra project – which reportedly
enabled the reduction of Roma unemployment in the city of Janov
(from 900 to 500) – are examples of best practices worth highlighting.
It has been underlined that one of the key ideas of the Agency for
Social Inclusion of Roma is to build upon local partnerships, better
placed to assess the needs and implement the programmes at local level.
The rapporteur also notes with interest the establishment – in five
Labour Offices in the Czech Republic so far – of “ethnic friendly”
certificates for employers who submit to an audit of their rules
and procedures. The “Travellers Internship Programme” in the civil
service in Ireland is also a particularly interesting initiative.
62. To be successful, projects and measures aimed at integrating
Roma in the labour market need to take into account the needs and
the difficulties of the Roma population – not only due to often
long-term unemployment but also due to cultural diversity and lifestyle
– as well as the specificities of the local labour market in the
area where they live.
3.5. Discrimination in health care
As stated by the OSCE in its Status Report 2008,
“the average lifespan of Roma is lower than the majority population
by around ten years”. This demonstrates the obvious inequality between
Roma and the rest of the population in terms of access to health
services and preventive health care. Once again, the question of access
to health care is interlinked with other problems Roma are facing
(lack of education, poverty, social exclusion, etc.). Furthermore,
Roma who live in segregated areas and ghettos (many of which lack
basic amenities like running water, electricity and sanitation)
are facing much greater difficulties in accessing health services
than those living in cities among the majority population. A recent
study has shown that geographical isolation and language barriers
also play an important role in the lack of access to health services
and of understanding of health reforms by Roma.
to this study, poverty emerged as the most important barrier for
Roma to access health services (because of the cost of public transport
to reach the nearest health facility and because of the prohibitive
cost of drugs).
The European Committee of Social Rights in 2008 found a violation
of the European Charter on Social Rights by Bulgaria due to a failure
to provide adequate medical assistance (Article 13.1). In its decision
in ERRC v. Bulgaria
, the committee
found that Bulgaria had failed to protect the health of its Roma
population in particular. They held that “there is sufficient evidence
which shows that Roma communities do not live in healthy environments.
This situation can in part be attributed to the failure of prevention
policies by the State, for instance the lack of protective measures
to guarantee clean water in Roma neighbourhoods, as well as the inadequacy
of measures to ensure public health standards in housing in such
neighbourhoods”. Specific examples of discrimination presented to
the committee, including the refusal to send emergency aid ambulances
to Roma districts, the segregation of Roma women in maternity wards
or the use of racially offensive language by doctors, were accepted
as reinforcement of “the committee’s overall conclusion that Roma
in Bulgaria do not benefit from appropriate responses to their general
and specific health care needs”.
65. However, Bulgaria has adopted a health strategy for ethnic
minorities, and some progress is tangible in this regard, such as
measures to ensure vaccinations for Roma children as well as provisions
for special care for children and mothers. Furthermore, between
2003 and 2007, up to 113 Roma health mediators were trained and
certified and mobile health clinics were set up.
The intolerable lead contamination in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica
(Kosovo) is considered to be “one of the biggest medical crises
in the region”.
Roma living there have been exposed to lead contamination since 1999.
This situation requires immediate action from the authorities to
relocate the camp’s inhabitants to stop further aggravation of their
already critical health situation.
67. The issue of forced sterilisation – which was reported to
the rapporteur during his visit to the Czech Republic – raises great
concern and will be dealt with thoroughly in the opinion of the
Committee on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men.
4. Governmental actions or lack thereof
4.1. Action plans and policy strategies
68. Many governments have become more and more aware
of the need to develop and adopt national strategies for improving
the situation of the Roma. This is a positive change which has to
be welcomed. I will refer specifically to the three cases studied
more thoroughly in the framework of the preparation of this report: Denmark,
the Czech Republic and Romania.
69. In the Czech Republic, the government has adopted a very comprehensive
Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 National Action Plan. However,
much to the rapporteur’s surprise, his interlocutors from the different ministries
did not seem very familiar with this document and no one was even
able to mention any concrete positive result based on this action
70. In Denmark, an action plan on combating discrimination is
in place since 2003 (an updated action plan will be prepared in
the near future). The authorities have recognised, however, that
there is a need for additional resources in order to really co-ordinate
the action and initiatives taken in the different ministries.
71. In Romania, the actions and initiatives to improve the situation
of Roma fall within the framework of a ten-year Government Strategy
for the Improvement of the Situation of Roma (adopted in 2001 and
amended in 2006). During the hearing before the committee in Targu
Mures, no one complained about the strategy as such (even considered
by the speakers to be – “on paper” – the best one could expect)
but there were many complaints about its insufficient implementation.
The speakers agreed that the impact of this strategy still needed
to be addressed, while underlining difficulties in measuring its
impact. Roma and NGO representatives, while welcoming the setting
up of the National Agency for Roma, complained about its chronic
lack of funding and staff. Also, according to information gathered
during the said hearing, a ten-year Education, Housing and Employment
Plan for Roma has been pending before parliament since 2007 and
the implementation of existing decrees is reportedly hampered by
the failure of labour inspectors to pass on data about segregation.
72. It is noticeable that, while framework programmes are in place,
there is still a lot to do as regards the financial and institutional
aspects in order to ensure the implementation of the national plans
and policies. Also, as stated in the OSCE 2008 status report, “too
often …, the implementation process suffers from lack of political will
at the national level, and from failure to implement policies at
73. During his visit to the Czech Republic, the rapporteur heard
complaints from Roma and NGO representatives, pointing out the lack
of continuity and strategy of certain projects. Projects developed
on an ad hoc basis have little chance of reaching their goal and
the lack of continuity in the funding – often causing several months
of interruption in the payment of subsidies – endangers their success.
74. Many initiatives remain too isolated and too limited (both
time-wise and geographically) – therefore offering only partial
responses – to be effective. National policies which foresee an
integrated approach stand a better chance of ensuring an effective
and sustainable impact.
75. Accordingly, it would be important to ensure that each ministry
and decentralised or local government institution have effectively
functioning structures capable of developing, implementing and monitoring
social inclusion measures that give sufficient recognition to Roma
issues. It is crucial that relevant ministries act in a concerted
way, as the problems faced by Roma in the different fields indicated
above are inextricably linked with one another.
4.2. Avoiding responsibility due to lack of ethnic
statistics – lack of reliable evaluation mechanisms
76. Unfortunately, whilst a number of states have introduced
national plans for Roma integration, these seem to be, in numerous
instances, merely illusory. During my fact-finding visits to Denmark
and the Czech Republic, I systematically raised the question of
whether these national plans had brought any positive, concrete
results. To this, I received a single reply: “perhaps, but we cannot
assess the results because we are not allowed to gather statistics
based on ethnicity”.
This is also, for example, the case in Germany where the authorities
regularly refer to the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court
banning the collection of ethnic data to explain the lack of any
official data on the situation of the Sinti and Roma minority.
In France, the
proclaimed unitary character of the republic does not accommodate
the notion of a “minority”, and accordingly no ethnic data collection
Denmark, the rapporteur was also informed that, because of a long-standing
principle, no specific data or statistics based on ethnicity are
collected. These are just three examples indicative of the trend
across many Council of Europe states. However, the rapporteur is
convinced that many governments do indeed collect such information,
even if it is not made public.
78. Such data based on ethnic statistics are of utmost importance
in order to assess the results of national and local policies aimed
at better integration of Roma. As pointed out in the OSCE Status
Report 2008: “The failure to keep good statistical data that is
carefully analysed over time makes it difficult to see whether there has
been any change and to show where problems are most acute and therefore
where resources should be prioritized.”
79. In order to enable governments to assess the situation in
relation to Roma people, I feel it is necessary and pertinent to
reopen the debate surrounding the collection and use of ethnic statistics.
In this context, it is worth noting the position of both the Advisory
Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National
Minorities and ECRI.
The Advisory Committee stated that: “Comprehensive data and
statistics are crucial to evaluate the impact of recruitment, promotion
and other related practices on minority participation in public
services. They are instrumental to devise adequate legislative and
policy measures to address the shortcomings identified. The collection
of data on the situation of national minorities should be made in
accordance with international standards of personal data protection,
as well as the right for persons belonging to a national minority
freely to choose to be treated or not to be treated as such. Representatives
of the national minorities concerned should be involved in the entire
process of data collection and the methods of collection of such
data should be designed in close co-operation with them.”
Moreover, ECRI is “of the opinion that the collection of ethnic
data is a beneficial instrument for shaping sound policies against
racism and racial discrimination and for promoting equal opportunities.
This data can provide baseline information on the situation of minority
groups, which will then form the basis for social policies and later
help in evaluating their progress. Collecting ethnic data helps
to monitor discrimination and the implementation of anti-discrimination
policies that have been put in place by governments. It also serves
to assess whether these policies are effective, so that any necessary
changes and adjustments may be made”.
82. There is, therefore, strong support for the collection and
use of ethnic statistics. However, this position is not a universal
one. Concerns about the evil ways in which ethnic statistics have
been historically abused, and the often simplistic categorisation
of people that it involves flourish in some states. One also has
to be aware that many Roma are themselves reluctant to identify
themselves as such in censuses or surveys, due to a long history
of discrimination precisely based on their ethnic origin. Such concerns
have to be duly taken into account.
Still, I would strongly advocate collecting relevant ethnic
statistics as the only means of enhancing the effectiveness of programmes
put in place by the authorities. As was very rightly pointed out
by Vera Egenberger:
can policies be properly targeted when governments do not even know
how big the Roma communities in their countries are? How can educational
strategies be helpful when school authorities do not know how many
students of Roma origin are finishing primary schools and under
which circumstances they leave school at an early stage? How can
programmes for the integration of Roma in the labour market be successful
if employers do not know the ethnic composition of their work force?”.
These questions apply to all chapters of the various national action
plans promoting a better integration of Roma.
Whilst the collection of ethnic data must – and already is
– accompanied by strict safeguards in order to avoid any misuse,
it is indeed allowed under international law. Sensitive personal
data can only be collected with the explicit (freely given and well-informed)
consent of the person concerned.
4.3. The “excuse-shield” of European (if not European
85. More and more, decision makers and representatives
of national authorities pass on to the European level the responsibility
of the problems encountered by the Roma community.
86. Whilst it is true that the Roma minority is probably the only
minority that is represented on the territory of all member states,
that does not mean that it becomes the entire responsibility of
87. During the hearing before the committee in Targu Mures, some
members – considering that the solution was to be found at European
level – advocated the setting up of a European agency for Roma.
Others, on the contrary, considered it an evasion of national responsibility
for the well-being of their own citizens.
The rapporteur is convinced that, while an important number
of actions are rightly already undertaken (and financed) at European
level (Council of Europe, OSCE, European Union), the main responsibility
lies with the member states. The rapporteur would not advocate the
setting up of a European agency for Roma, but for more and better
co-ordination between the (Roma and non-Roma) actors both at national
and local level. At European level, the role of the European Roma
and Travellers Forum (ERTF) can and should be developed further.
5. The true need for an enhanced representation and
participation of Roma people in public and political life
89. In its Status Report 2008, the OSCE notes that visible
progress has been made in this area “with many states setting up
administrative structures to represent Roma in local and national
government”. However, Roma remain by far under-represented in elected
bodies (often not represented at all). Only very few Roma have been
elected as members of national parliaments of Council of Europe
member states, even though they represent between 7% and 10% of
the entire population in some of them.
According to estimates, only some 10 members of national parliaments
and around 20 mayors
are Roma. These figures – encompassing all Council of Europe member
states – are extremely low and reflect the need to enhance political
participation and representation of Roma. In this context, the rapporteur
draws attention to the judgment in the case of Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina
which the European Court of Human Rights has found the provisions
of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibiting a Roma
and a Jew from standing for election to the House of Peoples of
the Parliamentary Assembly and for the State Presidency to be in
violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
At European level, there is currently one member of the European
Parliament of Roma origin. None is present in the Parliamentary
in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of
Europe. This is obviously both a bad record and a bad example. Of
course, our composition reflects that of national parliaments, but
we shall think of ways and means of enhancing representation and
participation of Roma within our own structures. This would be a
Article 15 of the Framework Convention for the Protection
of National Minorities requires states parties to create the necessary
conditions for “effective participation” in all areas of life, in
particular in those affecting the minority. The Advisory Committee
on the Framework Convention has prepared a commentary on Article 15
of the Framework Convention in which it explains how the enjoyment
of this right should be realised.
Article I.2.4 on equality and
national minorities of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters,
adopted by the Venice Commission, states, inter
, that “constituency delimitations and quorum regulations
must not be such as to form an obstacle to the presence of persons
belonging to minorities in the elected body” and that measures taken
to ensure their minimum representation (e.g. reserved seats, waiving
of the quorum) do not infringe the principle of equality.
93. Several legal and practical obstacles limiting the political
participation and representation of Roma have been identified. Amongst
them: the lack of will of some Roma communities to form political
parties (or their small size) although the legislation authorises
it; the unclear legal status of many Roma (lack of identity documents
or of proof of residence); poverty/isolation; illiteracy/lack of
education; mistrust in state institutions and in political parties;
prejudice from non-Roma; institutional discrimination and legal
barriers (such as a high number of signatures required for the registration
of a political party).
94. At national level, a fundamental effort has to be undertaken
to provide the members of the Roma population with identity documents,
especially refugees and IDPs. As long as they do not have such documents,
they will not be able to take part in the electoral process.
95. Several states have established consultation mechanisms, such
as minority councils, in which the Roma minority is represented,
some of them have established Roma councils (like, inter alia, in Finland and in Serbia).
The Czech Republic has established inter-ministerial commissions
for Roma affairs. In Helsingor (Denmark), an integration council
aiming at the co-ordination of the whole integration process has
been established at local level. Roma (and other minorities) can
elect their representatives. But despite efforts by the local authorities
to encourage the creation of an association representing Roma, this
96. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic,
Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, “the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, as well as Kosovo, there exist
one or more “ethnic” political parties or parties specifically defending
the interests of Roma. The existence of such parties does not of
course prevent Roma from participating in mainstream political parties.
There is evidence that they do; but Roma candidates on the lists
of mainstream parties are usually not placed on the lists in an
97. There are undeniable improvements, but one fundamental point
remains: it is obvious that the level of education of Roma has to
be enhanced to enable them to participate more actively and effectively
in public and political life. Roma representation and involvement
are every bit as important as official action to improve the situation
98. In Italy, Roma campsites have been burnt down; in
Hungary; Roma have been killed in an attack on their home; in Slovakia,
Roma children have been sadistically ill-treated and humiliated
by members of the security forces; in Serbia, entire Roma families
have been made homeless following summary evictions; in the Czech Republic,
members of a Roma family have been seriously injured in a house
set on fire by Molotov cocktails, etc.
99. Taking advantage of the financial crisis, extremist groups
capitalise on fears deriving from the equation made between Roma
and criminals, choosing a scapegoat that presents an easy target,
as the Roma are among the most vulnerable groups of all.
100. The inflammatory views expressed by such extremists in several
member states have led to aggressive manifestations of hostility,
posing a genuine threat to members of the Roma community. One cannot
tolerate that criminal acts committed by certain individuals are
used to discredit the Roma community as a whole.
101. The excessively passive stance of the authorities and the
tacit consent of part of the population when faced with this intolerable
situation are reminiscent of the darkest hours in Europe’s history.
The Council of Europe was born out of a categorical desire to prevent
those dark hours from repeating themselves. Ever since, the European
Court of Human Rights has regularly condemned states in which Roma
have suffered from abuse or discrimination.
102. Member states must shoulder their responsibilities and do
everything they can to extinguish this dangerous flare-up of anti-Gypsyism
as promptly as possible.
103. So far, a lot has been undertaken at different levels to improve
the situation of Roma. However, these actions remain merely on paper
since, at this stage, the results of positive measures are still
unclear, because there are no indicators of their efficacy. Too
much theory without practical evaluation tends to make one lose touch
104. Effective and sustainable access to education and proper housing
are the first necessary steps to be undertaken to break the vicious
circle of discrimination in which most of the Roma are locked.
105. Furthermore, the representation of Roma in state institutions,
as well as their active and co-ordinated participation in the decision-making
process, are also key elements in the defence and in the implementation of
their rights, and for the successful integration of their community.
We should all urge the Roma community to be as active as possible.
106. Reserved seats in parliament are a helpful measure. Positive
measures are one part of the answer to get rid of discrimination.
There are positive instances where local authorities are taking
an active role, but far too few. Local and regional authorities
have a key role to play.
107. The current situation of Roma in Europe gives rise to great
concern, not least because of the enormous gulf between the situation
of the Roma and that of most other minorities. It is always hard
to break out of poverty, and harder still when one suffers discrimination.
The member states, the Council of Europe and the Roma themselves
still have a long way to go before the situation of the Roma is
improved sustainably. The draft resolution and the draft recommendation
are drawn from both the present explanatory memorandum and the introductory
memorandum of 3 September 2008.
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Reference to committee: Doc. 11206 and Reference
3340 of 20 April 2007
Draft resolution and draft recommendation adopted
by the committee on 26 January 2010, respectively with five votes
against and two abstentions and unanimously
Members of the committee:
Mr Christos Pourgourides (Chairperson),
Mr Christopher Chope, Mr
Christoph Strässer, Mr Serhiy Holovaty (Vice-Chairpersons), Ms
Marieluise Beck, Ms Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc, Mr
Petru Călian, Mr Erol Aslan Cebeci,
Ms Ingrida Circene, Ms Ann
Clwyd (alternate: Mr John Prescott),
Mr Agustín Conde Bajén, Mr
Telmo Correia, Mr Joe Costello, Mr Arcadio Díaz
Tejera, Ms Lydie Err, Mr Renato Farina, Mr Valeriy Fedorov, Mr Joseph Fenech Adami,
Ms Mirjana Ferić-Vac, Mr
György Frunda, Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto, Mr József Gedei, Ms Svetlana
Goryacheva, Mr Neven Gosović, Ms Carina Hägg,
Mr Holger Haibach (alternate: Ms Anette Hübinger),
Ms Gultakin Hajibayli, Mr
Johannes Hübner, Mr Michel Hunault, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr
Shpetim Idrizi, Mr Aliosman Imamov,
Mr Želiko Ivanji, Ms Kateřina Jacques,
Mr Mogens Jensen, Mr András Kelemen,
Ms Kateřina Konečná, Mr Franz
Eduard Kühnel, Ms Darja Lavtižar-Bebler,
Mr Pietro Marcenaro, Ms Milica Marković, Mr Dick Marty, Ms Ermira
Mehmeti Devaja, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili (alternate: Mr Akaki Minashvili), Mr Philippe Monfils,
Mr Felix Müri, Mr Philippe
Nachbar (alternate: Mr Yves Pozzo di
Borgo), Mr Adrian Năstase, Ms Anna Ntalara, Ms Steinunn Valdís Óskarsdóttir, Mr
Valery Parfenov, Mr Peter Pelegrini (alternate: Mr József Berényi), Ms Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, Mr Valeriy
Pysarenko, Mr Janusz Rachoń, Ms Mailis Reps (alternate: Mr Aleksei Lotman), Ms Marie-Line Reynaud,
Mr François Rochebloine, Mr Paul Rowen,
Mr Armen Rustamyan, Mr Kimmo Sasi,
Ms Marina Schuster, Mr Yanaki Stoilov, Mr Fiorenzo Stolfi, Lord John Tomlinson, Mr Tuğrul Türkeş, Ms Özlem Türköne, Mr Viktor Tykhonov (alternate:
Mr Ivan Popescu), Mr Øyvind Vaksdal, Mr Giuseppe Valentino,
Mr Hugo Vandenberghe, Mr Egidijus Vareikis,
Mr Miltiadis Varvitsiotis,
Mr Luigi Vitali, Mr Klaas de Vries, Ms Nataša Vučković, Mr Dimitry Vyatkin, Mr Marek Wikiński, Ms
Renate Wohlwend, Mr Jordi Xuclà i Costa
NB: The names of the members who took part in the meeting
are printed in bold
Secretariat of the committee:
Mr Drzemczewski, Mr Schirmer, Ms Szklanna, Ms Heurtin