to the Commission on Human Rights
1. Allow me to start by congratulating you, Ambassador Jakubowski, a representative of a country that is an old and constant friend of Romania, for your election as chairman of this august body. We appreciate your hard work to handle such a complex and difficult agenda, under unexpected time constraints.
I would also like to express the gratitude of my Government for the outstanding work done by Mme Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and for her devoted and passionate fight for the universal respect of human rights. Indeed, this position requires courage, determination and passion. The High Commissioner has displayed abundantly all of these qualities. Her departure will be regretted by all of us. We have the duty to live up to the high standards she set up for her Office and for our own Commission.
2. It is a privilege for me to be the first Romanian Prime Minister to address the Commission on Human Rights, a body highly respected in my country. For Romania, the respect for human rights was the omega of the communist regime and the alpha of the democratic regime that we are striving to consolidate since 1989. All developments in our society stem from the fundamental political will to place the values of human rights and democracy at the core of our policies. The political statement of the Romanian government and people is clearly enshrined in Article 20 of our Constitution, which says « Where any inconsistencies exist between the covenants and treaties on fundamental human rights Romania is a party to, and internal laws, the international regulations shall take precedence. »
Romania is, indeed, a party to all six major human rights treaties. We are aware, however, that legislative framework, be it comprehensive and generous, is not enough. We do follow permanently the needs of the society in terms of human rights and we try to steadily enrich the institutional mechanisms that help their translation into practice. We devote no less effort to education on human rights, aiming at constantly increasing awareness and changing mentalities.
3. From this perspective, we fully support the work of all mechanisms and procedures of the Commission on Human Rights. We have received over the years visits of various rapporteurs and representatives. The most recent visit, that of Mr. Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on adequate housing, took place in January this year. Romania launched a standing invitation to thematic procedures and will therefore be ready to cooperate, whenever necessary, with other emissaries of the Commission on Human Rights.
4. Having done so, we did not indulge ourselves into complacency about the human rights in our country.
We encourage the civil society to become a prominent actor in the promotion of human rights, both by building connections at grass roots level and by playing a firm role in influencing our own governmental policies.
We seek to address, transparently and comprehensively, the problems of those segments of Romanian society that have yet to reach full enjoyment of their human rights. Last year, my government embarked upon the implementation of two specific national strategies. The first one is a four-year strategy concerning the children in difficulty. The strategy is aimed at striking a balance between three essential components: child, family, and society. The implementation process is continuously regulated, monitored and updated by the Government, whose line of responsibilities is clearly defined and assumed, as well as that of various other authorities at local level.
The strategy is a profound undertaking of reform, in which the system of the protection of the child in difficulty or at risk is defined by the specific needs of a country whose problems inherited from the totalitarian regime are still not completely resolved. The objectives pursued encompass, among others: preventing and reducing the abandonment of children and the number of institutionalized children, restructuring existing services and residential care institutions, promoting dignified and responsible forms of adoption, improving the system of minimum mandatory standards, as well as professional and administrative-institutional norms, developing a national system for monitoring and assessment. The results do not come overnight, but the first signs are encouraging.
5. The second strategy aims at improving the situation of the Roma population. Based on seven main principles (consensus, social utility, sectorial distribution, decentralization, legal compatibility, identity differentiation and equality), the strategy contains a comprehensive plan of action which touches all sectors of relevance for the well-being of the Roma minority: community development and administration, housing, social security, health care, economic opportunities, justice and public order, child welfare, education, culture and denominations, communication and civic involvement.
The examples I mentioned reflect two of the priorities dealt with last year. Apart from the honesty to recognize that those problems exist, they reflect assumption of the responsibility to use all possible resources of society, in conjunction with available international assistance, to solve difficult situations and to better implement the spirit of the relevant human rights instruments, universal or European.
6. Another serious concern for us - and for you in this Commission - is the trafficking in human beings as a violation of individual dignity and integrity. Romania is situated in an area of origin and transit for internationally trafficked women and girls. In this respect, we not only acknowledge the seriousness of this scourge for my country and for the whole region, but we also are able to report upon firm action by the Romania Government to combat it.
We adopted last year a National Action Plan against trafficking in persons. The Plan requires tremendous legislative efforts, since this crime is historically new for us, as well as huge financial resources in order to strengthen the law-enforcement and other governmental agencies involved in the anti-trafficking struggle. Action by Romania touches not only the national dimension, but also tries to catalyze regional concerted drive. Last year, my country hosted an intergovernmental “Regional Conference against human trafficking and illegal immigration”, as well as a regional forum on “Cooperation in preventing and fighting against trafficking with human beings”. This year, we are working together with the International Organization for Migration on a regional workshop focusing upon irregular movement in the Black Sea area. In addition, I would mention the continuation of anti-trafficking actions undertaken during the Romania chairmanship of the OSCE. I would also add the effective work of the Bucharest-based Regional Center for Combating Cross-border Crime, which dismantled through Romanian-Bulgarian-Greek cooperation, a regional network that trafficked over 1000 persons.
7. All these are ongoing strives. I am very pleased to mention a success story, of a type that one does not come across very frequently. We have all witnessed how the issue of national minorities, if improperly handled, can lead to violations of human rights rather than help build enhanced observance. Nevertheless, there are examples of civilized and constructive ways to solve even the most intricate of controversies.
In its justified interest and effort to help improve the situation of the Hungarian minorities abroad, the Government of Hungary adopted a Law on Hungarians living in neighboring countries. I would not abuse your time with details. One of the provisions of the respective law stipulated the issuing of “certificate of nationality” for foreign citizens, on the basis of which the bearers could have enjoyed some preferential treatment and benefits in Hungary. Romania and other neighboring countries did identify however, some problems associated with that law. Among others, its provisions on the “certificate of nationality” presented a clear potential as a source of discrimination on ethnic grounds and extraterritorial effects. In a broader line, the compatibility of the respective instrument with the European standards was raised.
The mechanism of public debate that followed was an exemplary one. Not only public opinion in the two countries, but also expert bodies and representatives of international organizations participated in the discussion, with passion and/or professionalism. The result was a Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of Romania and Hungary, which, inter alia, clarified the contents of, and gave clear interpretation to provisions of the Law on Hungarian living in neighboring countries. We are grateful to the Hungarian Government for the constructive and creative attitude that made the Memorandum possible. The case also proves the huge potential of democratic societies to solve the most sensitive issues.
We may qualify, after all, the entire exercise around the respective law as an excellent interaction on an interesting human rights puzzle. Hopefully, the working Group on minorities of the Sub-commission on the promotion and protection of human rights will discuss the issue as a case study and conclusions will be beneficial to all interested countries as a matter illustrating the inter-linkage between civil and political rights, on one hand, and of economic, social and cultural rights, on the other, from a human rights as well as from a political perspective.
8. I understand that throughout your very busy agenda there has been an overriding attempt from all countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations, represented here, to assess the impact of the tragic events of September 11th on the human rights agenda. Perhaps some questions have been answered, but still very many remain.
Some conclusions however may be as peremptory as possible, given the circumstances. We are not allowed to undermine a whole system of human rights, so painfully built over decades, principle-by-principle, declaration-by-declaration, treaty-by-treaty. We are not permitted to jeopardize the faith of peoples in human rights and the constant advancement towards universality, not only in terms of norms, but equally important in terms of culture and mentalities.
The international community must take all necessary firm measures against terrorism, but the price should not be paid in human rights violations. Romania joined - immediately and substantially - the international coalition against terrorism, and is determined to bring maximum of its contribution to the eradication of terrorism, domestically and internationally. This would not prevent us to say that the combat anti-terrorism must not be used as pretext for human right violations. By doing otherwise, we would give satisfaction to terrorists who sought to destroy not only material achievements and human lives, but also symbols and values. At this juncture, allow me to say that the proposal of the High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson, to add a dimension of human rights caution to the fight against terrorism deserves a careful attention.
On the contrary, we believe that advances in respect of human rights and of democratic values is the only way to reach efficiently the roots of all manifestations of hatred, violence and conflicts, including those which take the repugnant form of faceless terrorism. Life fully proves that conflicts might not disappear in civilized society, but the ways to settle them become peaceful and more human, and give more saying to the real, ordinary people, who cannot be any longer used as mere cannon fodder.
9. Romania is very proud to have proposed to this body, two years ago, a code of democratic conduct that became the resolution 2000/47 “Promoting and consolidating democracy”, offering a comprehensive description of a democratic government. We do not repeat this resolution every year – and please take it as a possible example to streamline the work of the Commission - but we appeal to you to keep it alive on your governmental or your civic agendas. We are grateful to all members and observers of the Commission on Human Rights who supported this resolution and the related texts that followed. We welcome the initiative of our friends from Peru, in the same line, during the current session.
10. Romania carefully follows other issues of high interest on the human rights agenda. We support the adoption of an Optional protocol to the Convention against torture, and the basic idea behind it, namely prevention of, and deterrent impact on still existing practices of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We acknowledge the need to improve the status of implementation of social, economic and cultural rights and enhance the protection of this category of rights. Therefore, we believe that an Optional protocol to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights deserves further study, provided that we make sure that, instead of pursuing mere political objectives, we attempt to give shape to a realistic, feasible and applicable human rights approach. In the same context, one can say that the recent debates on the operationalization of the right to development reaffirmed the seriousness of the problem in question. Again, the progress in that direction depends on a balanced approach of the topic. The meaning we attach to that notion is the need to assume first national responsibility for how resources for development have been, and will be utilized. A strong domestic commitment to good governance and anti-corruption measures is a better platform for requesting international assistance.
11. Much of the attention and energy of this Commission has been devoted, and rightly so, to the violation of human rights in Middle East. Romania joined the powerful political statements made by Spain, on behalf of the European Union, on Middle East issues.
We are also extremely concerned about the daily loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives, about their despair and hopelessness. We are aware that the Commission of Human Rights cannot solve the numerous and intricate problems that have kept the conflict alive for such a long time. There are resolutions of the Security Council to be implemented, peace initiatives to be supported and peace missions to stop the deterioration of the situation. Nevertheless, let us just imagine, all security and territorial aspects left aside, what a great impact the full respect of human rights of ordinary, innocent Palestinians and Israelis, would have on the overall peace efforts. Territories and security are needed for both peoples to live their lives, and to enjoy their rights. If their basic human rights are grossly violated, if life has no more face value, what is all this fight for, after all?
12. Our vocabulary as politicians is more and more respectful of the notion of human rights, as well as of newer notions like human development, human security, globalization with a human face, and others alike. Still, there is a huge gap between political catchwords and concrete action. Many things will further change if we continue to think in human parameters, in our home countries and as responsible members of the international community. The Commission on Human Rights is an essential mechanism in the human rights international machinery. It is the holder of the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the treasurer of values that should be sacred for all.
Based on this conviction, I would appeal to all of you, to use your goodwill and imagination to maintain the integrity and the original mandate of the Commission on Human Rights, to rationalize its work, to focus on the new value added, to use its potential to consolidate the human rights machinery and improve human rights situation everywhere in the world. I would also appeal to enhance the common effort to strengthen the resources and the institutional capability of the Office of the High Commissioner to face the increasing burden of old and new mandates that are entrusted to it. The responsibility of the Commission on Human Rights is too crucial to be ever considered business as usual.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman