MINELRES: Romania: Ethnic Diversity Briefs, No.32

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Tue Nov 19 15:50:05 2002


Original sender: Mediafax <divers@mediafax.ro>

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No. 32 / November 18, 2002

DIVERS
- reporting ethnic diversity -

SUMMARY
 1. EU OFFICIAL ASKS ROMANIA TO STOP ROMA EXODUS
 2. GOVERNMENT PROMISES LAND FOR ROMA PEOPLE
 3. ETHNIC RUSSIANS HAVE NEW PRESIDENT

 FEATURE
 4. AS NATO MEETING APPROACHES, LIGHT SHINES ON HANDLING OF JEWISH
ISSUES

 EU OFFICIAL ASKS ROMANIA TO STOP ROMA EXODUS
 BUCHAREST - The exodus of the Roma people, but not only theirs, towards
the western European countries is a threat for the EU decision to
suspend visas for the Romanian citizens, stated last week the chairman
of the Parliamentary Meeting of the European Council Peter Schieder, in
a speech held before the reunited plenum of the two Chambers of the
Parliament. "We have to appreciate the fact that the authorities are
determined to confront the situation before damaging the image and
statute of the country but any long term solution has to find the means
for convincing the population to stop migrating", the European official
said. He referred to the need for making certain investments including
financial ones for improving access to education and professional
training, to jobs, to social security, as well as to create decent
housing conditions. For achieving all of these Romania receives and will
keep on receiving assistance from the European institutions, he added.
"Together we have the responsibility to build in all our countries a
society in which all citizens regardless of the political options,
religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation should feel accepted, welcome
and safe", added Schieder. (DIVERS) 


 GOVERNMENT PROMISES LAND FOR ROMA PEOPLE
 BUCHAREST - Minister of Agriculture, Ilie Sirbu, announced that Roma
families willing to get lands would be offered to use them for a certain
period of time, according to the strategy of improving the Roma people
condition. At first, the land would to be granted for 5 years time, time
when they are compelled to work it, but no tax will be imposed. (DIVERS)


 ETHNIC RUSSIANS HAVE NEW PRESIDENT
 BRAILA - Within the National Conference of ethnic Russian Community
from Romania (CRLR), deployed in Braila on November 8-9, there was
elected Mrs. Ecaterina Evdochim as the new president. The conference was
attended by 145 delegates, representing the 45 local ethnical
communities of the ethnic Russians in 14 counties of the country.
Ecaterina Evdochim was the sole candidate who presented a coherent
program, its main objectives lying in getting improved the life standard
of the Russian ethnics living in poor communities, in preserving and
promoting the particular cultural values and in strengthening up
relations with Moscow. The number of ethnic Russians living in Romania
is estimated to almost 40,000 people. (DIVERS)


FEATURE

 AS NATO MEETING APPROACHES, LIGHT SHINES ON HANDLING OF JEWISH ISSUES
 By Adam B. Ellick (Jewish Telegraph Agency)
 Later this week, seven nations will clear a crucial hurdle toward full
membership in NATO. But as they embrace a military alliance that seemed
unimaginable during the Soviet era, these nations - Lithuania, Latvia,
Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - will remain under
close scrutiny to ensure they follow through on promises regarding
"value issues," including how they handle Jewish affairs. Jewish leaders
are divided on how the nations will behave after they are formally
invited to join the military alliance during the Prague Summit on Nov.
21.
 NATO demands that candidate countries establish high standards in
treating their ethnic and religious minorities.
 NATO membership is not a foregone conclusion for the seven aspirant
nations. Though invitations will be extended in Prague, nothing will be
final for another 18 months.
 During that time, the legislatures of all 19 NATO members states -
including the U.S. Senate - must approve the additions. 
 During the past decade, Jewish leaders and the U.S. State Department
have used NATO membership as leverage to encourage the aspirants to
confront their Holocaust history. That includes politically sensitive
issues like local collaboration with the Nazis, property restitution,
Holocaust education and commemoration and the prosecution of war
criminals.
 "There will be a greater effort to keep these countries" moving on such
issues "than ever in the past," said Bruce Jackson, executive director
of the U.S. Committee on NATO, a nonprofit group that tracks value
issues among aspirant nations.
 "The pressure to make good on reforms will be pronounced," he said.
"They're young, fragile democracies, and there's a feeling we have to
encourage them to continue the reforms they have promised."Jackson
regards the handling of the 1999 NATO entrants - the Czech Republic,
Poland and Hungary - as a mistake. World leaders failed to anticipate a
slowdown in reforms after the three joined NATO, he says. In Hungary in
particular, he said, leaders were surprised when politicians there
reverted to nationalist themes in elections and tolerated anti-Semitic
remarks by far-right leaders.
 Meanwhile, the seven latest aspirants have taken a number of steps in
advance of the Prague Summit:
 - Estonia declared a national Holocaust Day in its public schools after
two years of stalling;
 - Slovakia ended six years of negotiations by agreeing to establish a
$19 million restitution fund for its Jewish community;
 - Lithuania ended years of controversy in January by giving some 300
prewar Torah scrolls to Jewish officials for distribution to
 communities around the world. It also established a commission to
address the long-ignored issue of property restitution; and
 - After years of international pressure, Romania finally removed
remnants, such as statues and street names, of its revered fascist
leader Marshall Antonescu. "We have seen some very real progress. There
is no doubt things are happening because of the run-up to the Prague
Summit," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, international director of the American
Jewish Committee. "But without question, the full attention of these
countries might not be with us after Prague."Daniel Mariaschin,
executive vice president of B'nai Brith International, doesn't expect
much to change after the summit. "It isn't as if the clock stops on Nov.
21.
 For us, this period goes on through ratification," he said. "It gives
us the time we need to resolve major outstanding issues."Outstanding
Jewish-related issues include communal and private property restitution
in Romania and the implementation of Lithuania's communal property
legislation. There also are concerns about Estonia's ability to address
the issue of local collaboration in the Holocaust. 
 Eastern European leaders acknowledge the importance of Jewish issues,
but decisions are largely unpopular with local populations, most of whom
- due to Soviet propaganda - were never educated about their nations'
Holocaust history. Jewish officials consider the Baltic states absolute
failures when it comes to the prosecution of local war criminals, not
one of whom has served jail time since the post-Communist nations
regained independence in 1991. At a Holocaust conference in the Balkans
last month, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon
Wiesenthal Center, warned that once Baltic and Balkan nations are
admitted to NATO, their motivation to prosecute war criminals likely
would disappear. "Once these countries are in NATO, I fear that their
willingness to cooperate on Jewish issues might be severely reduced,"
Zuroff said this week.
 A "very intelligent case can be made for extending the transition
period," he added. Despite such concerns, the center does not actively
oppose NATO enlargement. But the Israel-based Association of Lithuanian
Jews, which closely follows events in the Baltics, is a staunch
opponent.
 "When Lithuania gets in NATO, they won't care anymore. They are the
biggest anti-Semites," said Joseph Melamed, chairman of the association
and a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto who witnessed Lithuanians kill
thousands of Jews before the Nazis arrived. "I think the conditions to
get into NATO should be very strong. But the Americans want the
Lithuanians in NATO whether we like it or not," he said. "After NATO,
everything will stop. NATO is not a school. They aren't teaching
anything." Melamed acknowledges that the atmosphere in Lithuania has
improved recently. But he also knows the Lithuanian public often erupts
with blatant anti-Semitism after controversial, Jewish-related news
stories.  He also questions the sincerity of public officials, saying,
"They know public relations is one of the most important things."
 Melamed justifies his accusations by pointing to the much-publicized
return of Torah scrolls, all of which were looted from prewar synagogues
in Lithuania. The Lithuanian government returned many scrolls in January
but still hasn't parted with dozens of others, which officials have
declared part of Lithuania's "national heritage."Giedrius Cekuolis,
Lithuania's chief negotiator for NATO entry, insists that the nation's
actions on Jewish issues are sincere. Lithuania is not acting on human
rights and Holocaust issues for NATO, he said: "We are doing them for
ourselves."


DIVERS is a weekly news bulletin edited by the Mediafax News Agency with
financial support from Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center (EDRC) in
Cluj.
For now, the full version of the bulletin is only available in Romanian
and can be found at www.divers.ro
e-mail: divers@mediafax.ro

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