Gypsies in Europe

Doc. 6733
11 January 1993

Report
Rapporteur: Mrs VERSPAGET, Netherlands, Socialist


Summary

            Intolerance of Gypsies and other travellers has long existed. It has mainly been associated with their generally unfavourable social and economic condition and has worsened with the recent changes in central and eastern Europe.

            Much attention has been paid to Gypsy problems by international bodies and in particular the Council of Europe. But little improvement in their situation has resulted in practice.

            The report proposes to replace the socio-economic image of Gypsies by a cultural definition. Gypsies have after all been part of the European cultural tradition for over five centuries. Their culture and language should be respected and promoted as more than simple folklore.

            Gypsies should be recognised as a non-territorial minority. While they should respect the laws of the countries in which they live, they should also be allowed to enjoy equal rights with other citizens of those countries.

            Special measures are necessary in the fields of education, information and everyday life.  As a general principle it is stressed that Gypsies should be consulted over measures that directly affect them.

I. Draft recommendation

General observations

1.         One of the aims of the Council of Europe is to promote the emergence of a genuine European cultural identity. Europe har­bours many different cultures, all of them, including the many minority-cultures, enri­ching and contribu­ting to the cultural diver­sity of Europe.

2.         A special place among the minorities is reserved for Gyp­sies. Living scattered all over Europe, not having a country to call their own, they are a true European minority, but one that does not fit in the definitions of national or linguistic minorities.

3.         As a non-territorial minority Gypsies greatly contri­bute to the cultural diversity of Europe. In different parts of Europe they contribute in different ways, be it by language and music or by their trades and crafts.

4.         With Central and East European countries now member states, the number of Gypsies living in the area of the Council of Europe has increased drastically.

5.         Intolerance of Gypsies by others has existed throug­hout the ages. Outbursts of racial or social hatred however occur more and more regularly and the strained relations between communities have contributed to the deplora­ble situation in which the majority of Gypsies live today.

6.         Respect for the rights of Gypsies, individual, fundamental and human rights and their rights as a minority, is essential to impro­ve their situation.

7.         Guarantees for equal rights, equal chances, equal treatment, and measures to improve their situation will make a revival of Gypsy language and culture possible, thus enriching the European cultural diversity.

8.         The guarantee of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in Article 14 of the European Con­vention on Human Rights is important for Gypsies as it enables them to maintain their individu­al rights.

9.         Specific legislation to protect minorities has been adopted by the member states of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe has adopted several resoluti­ons and recommendati­ons concerning minori­ties. Reference should be made in particular to Assembly Recommendation 1134 (1990) on the rights of minorities. These texts are important to Gypsies, but as one of the very few non-territo­rial minorities in Europe Gypsies need special protec­tion.

10.       In the past the Council of Europe has also adopted several resolu­tions and recommendations specifically concerning Gypsies: Assembly Recommendation 563 (1969) on the situation of Gypsies and other travellers in Europe; Committee of Ministers Resolution (75) 13 on the social situation of nomads in Europe and Recommendation No. R (83) 1 on stateless nomads and nomads of undetermined nationality; Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe Resolution 125 (1981) on the role and responsibility of local and regional authorities in regard to the cultural and social problems of populations of nomadic origin. The imple­men­tation of these resolutions and recommendations, and particularly in the new member states, is extremely important for the position of Gyp­sies.

11.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Commit­tee of Minis­ters initiate, where appropriate by proposals to governments or the relevant local and regional authorities of member states, the following measures:

In the field of culture

i           the teaching and study of Gypsy music at sever­al schools of music in Europe should be stimulated and the development of a net­work of such music schools encouraged;

ii.         a European programme for the study of Romanes and a trans­lation bureau specialising in the language should be established;

iii.         the provisions for non-territorial languages as set out in the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages should be applied to Gypsy minorities;

iv.        the foundation of centres and museums of Gypsy culture should be stimulated and support given to regular Gypsy-festivals;

v.         a travelling exhibition should be organised in the series of European Art Exhibitions on the reciprocal effects of contacts with Gypsy culture.

In the field of education

vi.        the existing European programmes for trai­ning tea­chers of Gypsies should be extended;

vii.        special attention should be paid to the educati­on of women in general and mothers together with their younger children;

viii.       talented young Gypsies should be encouraged to study and to act as interme­diaries for Gypsies.

In the field of information

ix.         information should be provided for Gypsies on their fundamen­tal rights and how they can be secured;

x.         a European information centre should be established on the situation and culture of Gypsies, one of its tasks being to infor­m the media about Gypsies.

In the field of equal rights

xi.         member states, which have not yet ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Poli­tical Rights (New York 1966) or the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (New York 1965), should be urged to do so;

xii.        discrimination against Gypsies in the European Convention on Human Rights should be removed by an appropriate declaration to the effect that the term "vagrants" in Art 5.1 (e) does not necessarily apply to people with a nomadic lifestyle;

xiii.       the provisions of any additional protocol or convention relating to minorities should apply to non-territorial minorities;

xiv.       member states, which have not yet done so, should ratify the Fourth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guaran­t­ees the liberty of move­ment and is as such essential for travel­lers;

xv.        member states should alter national legislation and regulati­ons that discri­mi­nate directly or indirectly against Gypsies;

xvi.       it should be acknowledged that the fact of being the victim of a pogrom or having a reasonable fear of becoming a victim of a pogrom, to which the authorities refuse or prove unable to offer effective protection can, in individual cases, constitute a well-founded fear of persecution for being a member of a parti­cu­lar social group, as indicated in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees.

Everyday life

xvii.      member states should ensure that Gypsies are consulted in the drawing up and application of regulations regarding them;

xviii.     further programmes should be set up in the member states to improve the housing situation, education and labour possibilities of those Gypsies who are living in less favourable circum­stan­ces; the Gypsies should participa­te in the preparation of these programmes and in their implementation;

General measures

xix.       independent research should be initiated into the national legislation and regulations concerning Gyp­sies, and their application in practice, and regular reports on this research presented to the Assembly;

xx.        co-operation should be pursued with the European Community on sub­jects relating to Gypsies, such as education, combatting poverty, safegu­arding the Europe­an cultural heritage, recognition of minori­ties and promotion of equal rights;

xxi.       the Council of Europe should grant consultative status to representative international Gypsy organisations;

xxii.      a mediator for Gypsies should be appointed by the Council of Europe, after consultation with representative organisations of gyspies, with the following tasks at least:

a.         to review the progress made in the implementation of measu­res taken or recommended by the Council of Europe concerning Gypsies,

b.         to maintain regular contact with representatives of Gypsies,

c.         to advise governments of member states in matters concer­ning Gypsies,

d.         to advise the different bodies of the Council of Europe in matters concerning Gypsies

e.         to investigate govern­ment policy and the human rights situation related to Gypsies in member states,

f.          to investigate the position of stateless gyspies or Gypsies with undetermi­ned nationality;

and with the authority:

g.         to receive replies to questions addressed to go­vern­ments or govern­ment representati­ves of member states,

h.         to enjoy full access to relevant government archi­ves and other materi­al,

i.          to question citizens of member states of the Council of Europe,

xxiii.     member states should report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in two years time on the progress made in improving the situation of Gypsies and imple­menting Council of Europe recommendations.

II.  Explanatory memorandum

by Mrs VERSPAGET

Introduction

1.         A group of people known as "Gypsies" has lived scattered all over Europe for about 600 years. Throughout this period this minority has contributed to the European cultural heritage. As always the meeting of different cultures can lead to enrichment or to intolerance. Both aspects can be found in the history of Gypsies.

2.         The recent increase of outbursts of racial hatred against Gypsies is worrying.  The renewed occurence of xenophobia and racism also affects Gypsies, who have throughout the centuries regularly been the victims of prejudice and intolerance.

3.         Intolerance can be connected to the circumstances in which many Gypsies nowadays live: a high percentage is illiterate, many are unemployed, the housing situation of many could be better.

4.         For the purposes of this report the term "Gypsy" is used for all people and groups of people who are by dominant society called "Gypsies", "travellers", "Zigeuner", "Gitanes", "Tsiganes", "Gitanos", or other similar terms. The term is also used here for other people who experience similar treatment as "Gypsies" because of their real or alleged itinerant existence or the supposed itinerant existence of their ancestors, and because of their lifestyle, including people and groups of people who call themselves Roma, Sinti, Kale or suchlike.

5.         With many East European countries now being member states, the number of Gypsies living within the Council of Europe area has increased drastically. Because of the economy changes in these new member states the position of economically vulnerable groups, such as the Gypsies, is getting worse.

6.         The Council of Europe has in the past regularly paid attention to the situation of Gypsies. The need for renewed attention to this minority is self evident as most of Europe's Gypsies live in countries which have recently become members of the Council of Europe.

Gypsies and the Council of Europe

7.         The Council of Europe has aimed from the outset at protecting the rights of the weak, the vulnerable, the persecuted. Equality, tolerance and the acceptance of differences are its guiding principles.

8.         Since 1969 some part of the organisation has always been directly concerned with the situation of Gypsies, most certainly a vulnerable if not a persecuted minority. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) have adopted resolutions and recommendations regarding Gypsies. The Council for Cultural Co-operation has published a report on "Gypsies and Travellers" and has a comprehensive programme relating to Gypsy education.

9.         The different bodies of the Council of Europe have worked on a diversity of subjects with relation to Gypsies. The most important resolutions and recommendations are:

-           In 1969 the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 563 (1969) on the situation of Gypsies and other travellers in Europe, dealing with discrimination, construction of caravan sites, children's education, consultation bodies, social security provisions and medical care.

-           In 1975 the Committee of Ministers adopted Resolution (75) 13 containing recommendations on the social situation of nomads in Europe: governments were invited to take measures to stop discrimination and to combat prejudices, improve camping and housing, education, health and social welfare and social security.

-           In 1981 the CLRAE adopted Resolution 125 (1981) on the role and responsibility of local and regional authorities in regard to the cultural and social problems of populations of nomadic origin: proposals included strengthening the juridical postion of Gypsies, more effective protection of the rights of minorities, designation of a mediator for the problems of nomads, and specific training programmes for teachers of Gypsy children.

-           In 1983 the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation No. R (83) 1 on stateless nomads and nomads of undetermined nationality: recommending governments to take measures to give effect to non-discrimination of nomads, to establish a link with a state, to grant residence and the right of movement to nomads with a link with a state, to reduce statelessness, and to facilitate the admission to a state of the nomad's immediate family.

-           Also in 1983 the ad hoc Committee of Experts for Identity Documents and Movement of Persons (CAHID) was asked by the Committee of Ministers to proceed to a preliminary examination of steps to improve the situation and movement of nomads in Europe. CAHID sent a questionnaire to all member states about possible differences in the treatment of travellers compared to other foreigners wanting to enter a member state. No such differences were reported.

-           In 1985 CAHID prepared a document on the situation and movements of nomads in Europe, a survey of activities carried out or projected by the Council of Europe.  Few of the projected activities have since been carried out.

- CAHID itself does not exist anymore and the Committee which was supposed to pursue its activities is not operational.

- An information map on Gypsies and travellers was to be published in 1985 by the Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) but has not appeared.

- No evaluation of the situation of nomads by the CLRAE has yet been made.

- A document on the problem of nomads containing proposals for concrete action has never been drawn up by CAHID.

- A multidisciplinary colloquy still has to be organised by the European Committee on Migration (CDMG) and CDCC.

- The mediator for Gypsies as suggested by the CLRAE is still a wish.

10.       Apart from resolutions and recommendations with specific relation to Gypsies, more general resolutions and recommendations from the Council of Europe are also important for Gypsies. The most recent are Assembly Recommendation 1177 (1992) on the Rights of Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (November 1992).

11.       In Recommendation 1177 (1992) on the Rights of Minorities the Assembly recommends a suitable mediation instrument to monitor the changes in the situation of minorities in all European states and to take action to prevent open conflict.

12.       The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (November 1992) recognises the contribution of regional or minority languages to the maintenance and development of Europe's cultural wealth and traditions. It gives principles and objectives to protect regional and minority languages. The Charter does not cover non-territorial languages as Romanes and Yiddish. Still some principles certainly apply to non-territorial languages as well.

13.       It is interesting to note that at the present moment several Council of Europe bodies are working on problems relating to Gypsies: for the CDCC, Mr Liégeois is reusing his study on "Gypsies and Travellers" to cover Eastern and Central Europe; the CDMG has issued a memorandum on activities concerning travellers and Gypsies and is considering proposals for future projects; CLRAE has just held a colloquy on "Gypsies in the locality" (Liptovsky Mikulas, CSFR, 15-17 October) and will hold a debate in March 1993; and the Assembly is preparing debates for the next part-session in February 1993 on minorities (Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights) and on the situation of Gypsies (the present report).

Changes in Europe

14.       Over the last years several changes have taken place in Europe. In Central and East European countries authoritarian rule and the planned economy came to an end. These states have either become member states of the Council of Europe or have a special guest status. The majority of Gypsies in Europe live in Central and Eastern Europe.

15.       At the hearing on "The Gypsy population and Europe", organised by the CLRAE in July 1991 “The speakers, members of the CLRAE, leaders of Gypsy associations, editors of periodicals, artists or politicians, all expressed their grave concern over the discrimination and intolerance suffered by Gypsies and their economic, social and political exclusion. The position of Gypsies in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe seems particularly to have worsened due to an increase of racism since the political upheavels which have occurred in those countries since 1989.

16.       During authoritarian rule the existence of Gypsies was often denied. In Czechoslovakia for example they were not defined as an ethnic minority but as a social problem[1]. In Bulgaria the government denied the existence of all ethnic minorities, Gypsies were the first group of "non-Bulgarian origin" to be assimilated[2]. In Romania Gypsies were slaves until the middle of the nineteenth century[3] and in this sense their position can well be compared to the position of Blacks in the USA.

17.       Recent changes in the political system have not improved relations between different groups of people. Alarming is the increase of intolerance towards minorities, which also affects Gypsies. Examples of intolerance and violence against ethnic minorities can be found all over Europe. Press reports of the last few years give information about several violent attacks on Gypsies and Gypsy settlements.

18.       Prejudices against Gypsies are old and well entrenched.  It is only a small step from prejudice to intolerance. This step seems to be taken too often at the moment. Greater attention to the positive side of the presence of Gypsies in European society may prevent more people from making this step.

19.       A concerted approach can lead to a better position of Gypsies in Europe and to appreciation of their culture as a contribution to European cultural diversity.

A European minority

20.       The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mrs Catherine Lalumière, said at the hearing "The Gypsy people and Europe" organised by the CLRAE, in Strasbourg in July 1991, “... You are a truly European people as by definition and tradition Gypsies are nomads, travelling from country to country and without really recognising frontiers in Europe. You are at home in the Council of Europe because for centuries you have already been Europeans.

21.       Gypsies may originate from what is nowadays called India, but solid scientific research into this part of Gypsy history has never been done[4]. The earliest references to Gypsies in European sources date back from the fourteenth century[5]. According to historical sources persecution is an important part of Gypsy history ever since they arrived in Europe. In the fifteenth century in many cities in Europe being a gipsy was reason enough for banishment, flogging or imprisonment. Later, in the eighteenth century Gypsies were outlawed in many parts of Europe[6]. In the twentieth century persecution during the Nazi period led to the death of at least half a million Gypsies. Nevertheless at times Gypsies were appreciated for their contribution to society, be it for their craftmanship, their trade, their fortune-telling or music.

22.       During the ages many Gypsies left Europe, voluntarily or forced by authorities. The majority of Gypsies however still live in Europe. Gypsies can be found in every European country.  In most West European countries Gypsies are not even 1% of the population, in East European countries the percentage is much higher, up to possibly 10%.

23.       Not living in particular areas but scattered all over Europe and not having a country of their own anywhere in the world distinguishes them from any other minority and makes them a true European minority.

24.       As will be explained below it is hard to tell precisely how many Gypsies live in Europe; estimations between 7 and 11 million are known. This means the number of Gypsies living in Europe equals at least the population of Switzerland, and is higher than the number of people living in Norway or Denmark.

Gypsies in Europe

25.       In the past, and partly in the present Gypsies have by their itinerant trades and crafts performed a useful economic function within European society. The ideas of vagrant parasites or people holding on to traditional occupations have been convincingly rejected by recent historical and anthropological research[7]. Well-known examples of Gypsy influence can be found in music. The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok did research into Gypsy music and his compositions were influenced by it. An important European contribution to the development of jazz came from the legendary Django Reinhardt. This year (1992) at the North Sea Jazz Festival the guitarist Stochelo Rosenberg was proclaimed the best guitarist of 1991. And of course the Flamenco from Spain is influenced and developed by Gypsies. These contributions to the European cultural heritage should be judged by their own merits and given room to develop.

26.       If basic human rights are respected, cultures can really develop and flourish, thus contributing to the richness of the European cultural heritage. As formulated in one of the conclusions of the CLRAE hearing of Gypsies in July 1991: "Europe's Gypsies urge that their traditions, culture and languages be respected. This is a legitimate demand founded not only on human rights, but also on the responsibility of Europe as a whole for their safety and their future". The Ministers of Education of the European Community have also acknowledged that Gypsy culture and language have formed part of the common cultural and linguistic heritage for over five hundred years[8].

27.       Travelling is the symbol of Gypsy culture. Certainly only a small percentage of Gypsies are actually travelling, many long for a travelling life. Those who are sedentary and do not wish otherwise, will have ancestors who were Travellers. Recognition of Gypsy culture starts with recogition of travelling as an accepted way of living all over Europe. In this respect Article 5.1 (e) of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is unfortunate and should be modified.  This article states that "vagrants" can like persons of unsound mind, alcoholics, drug addicts or people spreading contagious diseases be deprived of their liberty.  As a revision of the text is impracticable, the Committee of Ministers might consider an appropriate declaration to the effect that the term "vagrants" does not apply necessarily to people with a nomadic lifestyle.  National laws prohibiting "travelling" have also to be changed, in accordance with Recommendation 563 (1969), 8 (i) of the Assembly; Resolution (75), 13 §I of the Committee of Ministers; and Recommendation 83, (1) §1 of the Committee of Ministers.

28.       The majority of Gypsies have little or no education, and do unskilled labour; being the first to be made redundant, their housing is poor and their health is bad. Prejudices against them make them unwanted labourers, their children unwanted pupils. Most parents do not have the opportunities to give their children a better life and the situation of Gypsies worsens with every generation.

29.       The position of many groups of Gypsies can be compared to the situation in the Third World: little education, bad housing, bad hygienic situation, high birth rate, high infant mortality, no knowledge or means to improve the situation, low life expectancy. For example in some parts of former Yugoslavia infant mortality among Gypsies is about fifty per cent and only four percent of the Gypsies will reach the age of 60[9]. If nothing is done, the situation for most Gypsies will only worsen in the next generation.

30.       A positive development is that Gypsies are becoming more and more organised. At local, national and international level Gypsies are taking initiatives to plead for their interests, work on improving their living conditions, on education, on the standardisation of Romanes. For example, the Fourth World Romanie Congress took place in Warsaw in April 1990. Representatives from about twenty countries participated.  The main subject was the stadardisation of Romanes. Many participants argued that the World Romani Union should take a firmer position in the political process.  Later that year, in November 1990, EUROM was founded by representatives of eighteen Gypsy organisations from European countries. EUROM aims to improve the situation of Gypsies in Europe on many levels and is trying to represent Europe's Gypsies.  Granting consultative status with the Council of Europe to representative international Gypsy organisations would be in this respect a good development.

31.       To improve the situation of Gypsies many things have to be done at the same time. Legislation at international, national and local level that discriminates against Gypsies, directly or indirectly, has to be abolished or altered. Measures will have to be taken to ensure education of Gypsy children, to improve the housing situation and to combat unemployment. Language and other aspects of Gypsy culture will have to be recognised as part of the European cultural heritage. For the support of cultural initiatives, co-operation with the European Community is desirable. Existing co-operation with the European Comunity, specially in the field of education, should be maintained.

32.       An improvement of the situation of Gypsies is only possible if their contribution to the European cultural heritage is better appreciated. Only then will their image improve, jobs be created, education stimulated and most of all will Gypsy culture fully contribute to the cultural diversity of Europe. Gypsy culture has a wider meaning than the public idea, kept alive by folklore festivals with women in long skirts dancing round a campfire while men play the violin.  Gypsy culture is better understood as the norms and values of Gypsies, with the diversity due to the fact that Gypsies live scattered all over Europe.  Oral dialects, family ties, flexibility of occupations are just a few examples of Gypsy culture, as explained by Gypsy representatives at the Colloquy "Gypsies in the Locality" organised by the CLRAE in October 1992 at Liptovsky Mikulas.

33.       It can of course be expected of Gypsies that they respect the laws of the countries in which they live. Respect for culture and traditions has however to come from both sides, from the dominant society and from Gypsies.

The position of other organisations on Gypsies

34.       According to the Resolution No. 1991/21 on the protection of minorities, as adopted by the United Nations Sub-Committee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 28 August 1991, “...in many countries, various obstacles exist to the full realisation by persons belonging to the Roma community of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and that such obstacles constitute discrimination directed specifically against that community, rendering it particularly vulnerable.” The sub-committee is “concerned at the existence of these manifestations (upsurge of racism, with accompanying manifestations of prejudice, discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia) against the Roma community,”.

35.       In the final document of the CSCE Copenhagen meeting, June 1990, the “participating states clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone as well as persecution on religious and ideological grounds. In this context they also recognize the particular problems of Roma (Gypsies).” (CSCE/CHDC.43)

36.       The states participating in the CSCE process reaffirmed this point of view in the Final Document of the Moscow meeting, October 1991 and in the Final Document of the Helsinki meeting, 1992.

37.    The European Parliament adopted in 1984 a resolution on the position of Gypsies in the Community (C 172/153).  The resolution states that Gypsies de facto and de jure are the victim of discriminating treatment and asks governments of member states to take appropriate measures.  The Ministers of Education of the European Community adopted in May 1989 a resolution on school provisions for Gypsy and traveller children (C153/3).  The Ministers of Education wish with this resolution to promote a set of measures to develop a global structural approach helping to overcome the major obstacles to the access of Gypsy and traveller children to schooling.

38.       As well as the United Nations Sub-Committee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the states participating in the CSCE-process recognise that Gypsies are often the victim of discrimination, racism and ethnic hatred.

The number of Gypsies in the member states of the Council of Europe

39.       Reliable figures on the number of Gypsies in the different member states of the Council of Europe are not available. Some countries do not register Gypsies, other countries do register Gyspies but use different definitions, so the available figures cannot be compared.

40.       In the European Community Gyspies and Travellers form a population group of over one million persons[10]. The majority of Gypsies live however in the states of Central and Eastern Europe. Their estimated number is six to ten million. Which makes the total number of Gypsies in Europe between seven and eleven million people.

41.       The member states of the Council of Europe with the largest number of Gyspies are probably Spain (approximately 550 000), Hungary (approximately 400 000), Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria (between 400 000 and 800 000).  Even relatively credible figures for Romania range fron 250 000 to 2½ million, which dramatically illustrates how difficult it is to assess Gypsy numbers­[11].

Policy of the Council of Europe regarding minorities and tolerance

42.       The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has in recent years adopted recommendations on the rights of minorities. These recommendations underline the importance of international instruments for improving the situation of minorities.

43.       Those recommendations are also of great importance to Gypsies. Recommendation 1134 (1990) on the rights of minorities reaffirms that states are obliged to fully implement Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the commitments contained in the Helsinki Final Act. Recommendation 1134 also considers a general non-discrimination clause in the European Convention on Human Rights a basic principle on the rights of minorities.

44.       The Assembly, in Recommendation 1134, refers to national and linguistic minorities and gives several obligations for states to secure the rights of national and linguistic minorities. On current definitions this appears to be a pro­blem if Gypsies are considered neither a national minority nor a linguistic.  Their rights as a special minority have still to be secured and in this report it is being suggested that this be by changing (or clarifying) the definitions.

45.       In the report "On the rights of minorities" it is stated that "the special situation of a given minority may justify special legislative or administrative measures ... These measures may be necessary or desirable for its protection or to put it on an equal footing with the majority or other groups of the population."[12] Because of the very special position of Gypsies, measures by the Council of Europe are necessary for their protection.

46.       The report also states that "Some of the most serious conflicts may be retraced back to discrimination, serious errors and gross neglect in the past, rather than to the existing situation"[13]. With Gypsies there are already "serious conflicts"; discrimination, serious errors and gross neglect has been and is their share, as are outbursts of racial hatred and pogroms. It is a common interest to take measures to prevent these "serious conflicts" between Gypsies and the rest of society.

47.       The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (November 1992) has already been noted: it is in fact the first European convention establishing rights of minorities. A further text has been drafted by the European Commission for Democracy through Law in the form of a proposal for a European convention for the protection of minorities (March 1991). The Assembly Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is however pursuing an alternative approach in proposing an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning minorities and their members. What is important is that in either case the term "minority" be defined in such a way as to include Gypsies.  This should be explicitly stated at least in the explanatory memorandum to these texts by a reference to non-territorial minorities.

48.       Furthermore the Assembly Committee on Culture and Education is working on aspects of tolerance.  Here too respect for other cultures and the positive results of the meeting of different world views and concepts of human life are emphasised.

A comprehensive approach

49.       A European Gypsy policy should work on many levels at the same time. Obstacles should be removed and positive measures taken at the same time at different levels. It is an illusion to think the situation of Gypsies will change immediately, therefore it will be necessary to have a Gypsy policy for a longer period. The situation of many Gypsies can be compared to the situation of people in developing countries, as is illustrated by the life expectancy of Gyspies. The work on improving the social-economic situation of Gypsies should make use of the knowledge of development work in underdeveloped countries.

50.       Resolutions and recommendations of the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Standing Conference of Regional and Local Authorities regarding Gypsies should be implemented, if this has  not yet been done, in Western, Central and Eastern Europe.

51.       Resolution 125 (1981) of the CLRAE asks in § 13 (vii) "to consider the possibility of designating, within the Council of Europe, a mediator for the problems of the nomads..." A mediator would guarantee long-term attention to the position of Gypsies. Such a mediator should have the following tasks:

-           to review the progress made in the implementation of measures taken or recommended by the Council of Europe concerning Gypsies;

-           to maintain regular contact with representatives of Gypsies;

-           to advise governments of member states in matters concerning Gypsies;

-           to advise the different bodies of the Council of Europe in matters concerning Gypsies;

-           to investigate government policy and the human rights situation relating to Gypsies in member states;

-           to investigate the position of stateless gyspies or Gypsies with undetermined nationality.

The mediator must also have sufficient authority to carry out these tasks.

52.       The position of women should be taken into account. Projects should be set up to let mothers and children attend school together. Compulsory education should be maintained. Ambitious and talented young Gypsies should be given a chance to be trained as intermediaries.

53.       Gypsies should be engaged in the implementation of the resolutions and recommendations regarding them. They should be consulted and involved whenever authorities want to take measures that directly affect them.

54.       Two years after this report is accepted member states should report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe about progress in implementation of the recommendations  made and on the situation of Gypsies in their country.


Reporting committee: Committee on Culture and Education.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.

Reference to committee: Doc. 6525, Reference No. 1762 of 25 November 1991.

Draft recommendation: adopted unanimously by the committee on 17 December 1992.

Members of the committee: Mrs Fischer (Chairman), Mr de Puig, Sir Russell Johnston (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Alegre, Arnalds, Bauer, Berg, Berti, Bonnici, Bratinka, Cem, Danev, Dhaille, Mrs Err, Mr Ferrari, Mrs Fleeetwood, MM. Galanos (Alternate: Hadjidemetriou), Gül, Mrs Hawlicek, MM. Hunault, Jessel, Lemoine, Liapis, Baroness Lockwood (Alternate: Sir Keith Speed), MM. Lopez Henares, Malachowski, Mesoraca, Monfils, Muehlemann, Müller, O'Keeffe (Alternate; Ferris), Pahtas, Mrs Persson, Mr Pilarski, Mrs Robert, Mr Roseta, Mrs Ryynanen, MM. Schädler, Schmidt, Seeuws, Soell, Ms Szelenyi, MM. Tatarella (Alternate: Caldoro), Tummers, Verbeek (Alternate: Mrs Verpaget).

N.B.: The names of those who took part in the vote are in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: MM. Grayson and Ary.


[1]   Report from the Insitute for Labour and Social affairs Bratislava, Analysis of the situation of ethnic minori­ties in Czechoslovakia, July 1992.

[2] Destroying Ethnic Identity, The Gypsies of Bulgaria, Helsinki Watch, New York, June 1991, p. 8.

[3] Kenrick & Puxon, The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies, New York 1972, pp. 51-54.

[4] Leo Lucassen, En men noemde hen zigeuners, Amsterdam/den Haag 1990, p. 21.

[5] J.P. Liégois, Gypsies and Travellers, Strasbourg 1987, p. 14.

[6] O. van Kappen: Geschiedenis der Zigeuners in Nederland, Assen, 1965.

[7] J.Okely, The Traveller-Gypsies (Cambridge 1983); D. Mayall, Gypsy-travellers in nineteenth century society (Cambridge 1988), L. Lucassen, En men noemde hen zigeuners, (Amsterdam/Den Haag, 1990).

[8] Resolution of the Council of Ministers of Education mee­ting within the Council, 22 May 1989 on school provisions for gypsy and traveller children (89/C 153/02).

[9] 'o DROM',1/90, p. 18.

[10] Resolution of the Council of Ministers of Education mee­ting within the Council, of 22 May 1989, on school provisions for gypsy and traveller children (89/C 153/02).

[11] Spain: Helsinki Committee report 1990;  Hungary: report on Eastern Europe, 20 May 1990;  Czechoslo­vakia: Struggling for Ethnic Identity, Czechoslovakia's Endangered Gypsies, Helsinki Watch, New York, August 1992;  Bulga­ria: Destroying Ethnic Identity, The Gypsies of Bulgaria, Hel­sinki Watch, New York, June 1991. André Liebich: "Minorities in Eastern Europe, Obstacles to a reliable count" RFE/RL Research Report. May 1992.

[12] Doc. 6294, page 12.

[13] Doc. 6294, page 9.