The 57th Session of the Commission on Human Rights


Item 14(b):
Specific groups and individuals - Minorities
Geneva, 11th of April 2001

Mr. Chairman,

The issue of promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities is of particular importance for the countries in South-Eastern Europe. For more than a decade, we have been witnessing in this part of the world the dramatic consequences of the political mismanagement of interethnic relations. The cycle of violence has resulted in hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and refugees, affecting each and every country on the European continent. The maintenance of a conflict environment has become a security problem and a threat not only for countries directly involved, but also for the stability of an entire region

We must be aware, as recent history has shown, that it is difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to contain the spread of violence and social disturbances within the borders of a specific country. Rather it affects whole regions and can have long-term effects upon the relations between neighbouring states. Along with the efforts deployed by the countries from the region, the international community should act vigorously, in a coherent and determined manner, in addressing such situations whenever they occur.

These very days, in the midst of continued tension and violence in Kosovo, FYROM and Bosnia-Hertzegovina, Romania - in its capacity as Chairman in Office of the OSCE - is working closely with its partners in the European Union and NATO, in an attempt to encourage sound channels of communication, to help build confidence and the culture of cooperation in solving common problems and addressing common concerns.

In other areas of crisis and conflict of the OSCE area - especially Central Asia and the Caucuses, the OSCE is working in the field with other relevant institutions - UNHCR, IOM, UNHCHR, the Red Cross - in a cooperative and mutually reinforcing manner.

Mr. Chairman,

The Romanian Government is of the strong view that the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or religious minorities is one of the most significant aspects in the human rights realm. Over the past years, Romanian society has considerably enhanced the institutional infrastructure and legislative framework to address the legitimate concerns and needs of national minorities and a series concrete steps and measures have been taken in this direction.

At the political level, in accordance with the Romanian Constitution, all national minorities are granted representation in the Parliament allowing. Their representatives are thus ensured a distinct voice in the legislative body and the opportunity to take an active role in the political life of the country not only in the matters of special interest to them but also in the general public affairs. In 1996, for the first time, the party of the largest minority community - the Hungarian UDMR- became a major partner in the governmental coalition. Today, after the November 2000 elections, it continues to bring a significant contribution to the process of economic reform, as well as to the promotion of the major objectives of Romanian foreign policy.

Education for national minorities has become a central component for preserving and promoting national identity. Legal norms in Romania provide for education in the mother tongue at the level of primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and faculties within public universities. Multicultural universities have also proven to be successful and extremely efficient tools building trust and dialog among various ethnic groups.

Special attention is paid to the particular problems facing Roma community. In this regard, we should mention the fruitful results achieved in the process of convening the National Strategy on Roma Issues, elaborated by the governmental Department for the Protection of National Minorities, with direct support from Roma associations and representatives. Education is one of the main topics addressed by the Strategy. This includes the development of a network of Roma teachers, the encouragement of better attendance by Roma children in public schools, access to study in their language, as well as measures of positive discrimination, in the form of special places and facilities at admission to university and colleges. The main aim is to help the Roma community form its own intelligentsia, which in turn would bring an invaluable contribution to the overall efforts of enhanced social inclusion among Roma.

In local administration a large number of representatives of the national minorities have been elected as mayors and councillors, including some hundreds Roma. It allows them direct involvement and responsibility in identifying and addressing the specific problems of their communities.

Taking into consideration the situation of interethnic relations in Romania today, we would state our astonishment with regard to the assertions made in this very Commission by the delegation of a friendly country. In a statement on civil and political rights, it accused the Romanian authorities of "isolating Roma children from educational system" and "undergoing a policy of Apartheid". I personally was struck by the terms used, which do not reflect in any way at all realities on the ground. My delegation would invite the interested delegation to consult the documentation available in this regard, so that it may fill in the missing data that regrettably conducted to such misled allegations.

Mr. Chairman,

I think that, if anything, Romania joins a number of other countries of the region as living proof of the fact that what was once coined as "the powder-keg of Europe" does have the chance - with vision, commitment, hard work and within a comprehensive framework of partnership and integration - to finally find its way back to the family of free, democratic and prosperous nations.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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