The 59th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
The Romanian Government continued the developments regarding both legislation and institutional building process, in the attempt to update the Romanian system for the protection of national minorities, to comply with the relevant international standards. The governmental body coordinating at national level the national minorities policies, is the Department for Interethnic Relations (DIR) within the Ministry of Public Information.
Due to limited time, I would like to stress only the most important steps the Government took on this field of action, and for further information and details there is a report of the Department on the information desk. At both legislative and policy levels the progress made is notable.
One of the most important legislative accomplishments of the past year is the Law (501 for the approval of the Government's Emergency Ordinance 94/2000) on the restitution of property confiscated or expropriated from religious communities.
As you already know, Romania signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 1995 and considered ratification of this instrument ever since. After a series of meetings with the Council of National Minorities (an NGO`s body, representing the organisations of the minorities living in Romania), the Department for Interethnic Relations was able to put together the necessary documentation, containing the draft law and the explanatory statement, in accordance with comments and proposals form all the minorities organisations and advanced it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as co-initiator, and to the Ministry of Justice for further consideration.
A new institution has been set up with the main contribution of the Ministry for Public Information, and started activity in August 2002 - the National Council to Combat Discrimination. This new institution addresses all forms of discriminations, not only the national minority cases, therefore there is a very close cooperation between the Department for Interethnic Relations and the National Council to Combat Discriminations. The Council already has had some palpable results, and fines are given for many of the discrimination acts brought to its attention.
Accomplishments were also recorded in the field of education. The Ministry of Education Order (3699/2002) on facilitating the access of Roma to faculties and colleges raised the opportunity for the allocation of 390 places for Roma higher education candidates. Affirmative action was implemented to ensure greater access of Roma to high schools and vocational schools, therefore two places out of a number of 30 per class were allocated for all specialisations in those units where Roma candidates applied in 2002.
Negotiations with the European Union on the Chapter 13 - Social Policy and Employment - was completed in 2002. Since the negotiations on this chapter were provisionally closed, DIR has been participating in the monitoring of the obligations assumed by Romania in the position paper.
In the beginning of 2002, DIR joined the negotiations on Romania's participation in the Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination (2001-2006). Just a few days ago, the Government approved the participation of Romania in this programme, for 2003 and approved of the payment of the relevant contribution.
The cooperation with the Council of Europe has also been stimulating. In 2002, the Council of Europe financed three projects on national minorities initiated by DIR. All these projects developed with good results and responded to practical issues for a better protection of national minorities.
Also, the Department reported upon 2002 Romania's progress in the field of national minorities rights, as part of the political criteria and anti-discrimination as part of the social policies and employment towards European accession. As a result the EU 2002 Regular Report on Romania's Progress towards Accession referred to the positive developments in the field of national minorities.
The Romanian Government will continue to support and develop the legal and institutional framework necessarily for progress in the area of the protection of national minorities and for the positive development of interethnic relations.
I thank you
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