Romano Centro Letter to the Austrian Chair of the OSCE


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Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 17:14:44 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Romano Centro Letter to the Austrian Chair of the OSCE

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org>

Romano Centro Letter to the Austrian Chair of the OSCE


On January 10, 2000, the Vienna-based non-governmental organisation
Romano Centro sent the following letter to the Austrian Ambassador to
the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dr
Jutta Stefan Bastl. Austria acceded to the chairmanship of the OSCE in
January. In the letter, Romano Centro appealed to OSCE to take
seriously the precarious situation of Roma in Central and Eastern
Europe and urged the Austrian government to take a leading role in
engaging OSCE member states in addressing the situation of Roma in
Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The letter was not addressed to the
Foreign Minister, the Austrian representative at the OSCE, because
Austria does not now have a government. The views expressed in the
letter are not necessarily those of the European Roma Rights Center
(ERRC). The text of the letter follows:
 
Dear Ms Ambassador,
 
Romano Centro is an organisation with good contacts with other Romani
organisations, above all in the former Communist countries, and an
extensive library and documentation centre. We therefore believe we
are well-informed on the situation of Roma in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe.
 
We are placing high hopes in the Austrian chair of the OSCE this year,
and we urge you not to underestimate the threatened situation of Roma.
We expressly wish to assure you that the migration wave of Slovak Roma
is only the first such wave of desperate Roma seeking anywhere where
there are bearable living conditions. In many countries hatred of
"Gypsies" by "Gadje" (non-Roma) has massively increased, making help
urgently necessary. Not only the situation of Romani refugees from
Kosovo - welcome nowhere - but also Roma in the ghettos of Slovakia,
Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary and the Czech Republic believe
they can escape their situation only through flight. The states
presently applying for European Union membership have to date been
largely successful in hushing up the problem. Laws aimed at the
improvement of the situation are not observed or are entirely
impossible to implement. International observers often profess
satisfaction with such false solutions. In our opinion these observers
underestimate the potential for violence slumbering beneath the
surface.
 
Because we are aware that it is very difficult to plan effective
projects, allow us to submit several proposals and to declare
ourselves prepared to assist in the development of such ideas:
 
1. Mr Nicolae Gheorghe, who has been employed by the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights urgently needs support.
Interns, who until now have been assigned to help him for several
months at a time, do not seem to us very useful. We believe that Mr
Gheorghe requires the assistance of a person with at least knowledge
of English, office experience and knowledge of Roma. We would be
willing to assist in a search for a qualified person, but would need
to know under what conditions, and above all for how long such a
person could be engaged.
 
2. A short while ago, a Romani delegation traveled to Slovakia with
financial assistance from the European Commission in order to gain a
deeper understanding of the situation of Roma there. After studying
recent laws and the report of this group, we could imagine the
usefulness of an independent observer from the OSCE to report for a
period of several months on the situation in Slovakia. We believe that
now is the proper time for such a mission. The OSCE should become
aware to a much greater extent than it has been to date that Slovakia
alone cannot resolve the problems of Roma and that these problems
demand international engagement. Austria would certainly not stand
alone if it adopted a more active role, as the actions of the United
States at the OSCE meeting in Istanbul clearly show.
 
3. The original idea of Ms Avalone to send an observer to Kosovo to
gain a better understanding of the particular situation of Roma there
was worthwhile, as should be evident from the decision of Germany to
adopt this idea and send Mr Stephan Muller to Kosovo. Sending a second
person with knowledge of Romani and Serbian would distinctly assist Mr
Muller's mission. We have recommendations for possible candidates for
a second position.
 
4. The OSCE membership of Yugoslavia is at present suspended; because
of the unfavorable economic situation in Yugoslavia, most of the
Romani refugees there from Kosovo are in an especially difficult
position. Desperate, many of them would like to leave, but the
situation of Roma who have fled Kosovo to countries such as Macedonia,
Montenegro and Italy is also fairly hopeless. Perhaps a useful step
would be to determine a reasonable count of the number of Roma who
cannot ever, or at least for a long period of time, return to Kosovo,
in order to encourage humanitarian programs by other countries.
 
We urge you, Madame Ambassador, not to underestimate the potential for
conflict that the ever-growing Romani population presents in many
countries, and to present this letter to the Foreign Minister.
Austria, as neighbouring country and first target-country for
refugees, seems to us predestined to convince the other member states
of the importance of paying attention to the Romani issue.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dragan Jevremovic
Chairman

Renate M. Erich
Secretary
 
Persons wishing to express similar concerns to the Austrian delegation
to the OSCE are urged to direct correspondence to:
 
Ambassador Dr Jutta Stefan Bastl
Foreign Ministry of Austria
1010 Vienna
Austria
Fax: (43 1) 53 18 53 27
 
Romano Centro can be contacted at:

Romano Centro
Urschenbockegasse 8
1110 Vienna
Tel/Fax: (43 1) 749 6336
e-mail: romano-centro@magnet.at
Romano Centro maintains an internet website at:
http://www-gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/romani
 
Information on the situation of Roma in Kosovo is available at the
internet website of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) at:
http://errc.org/publications/kosovo.shtml
 
Information on the situation of Roma in Slovakia is available at the
internet website of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) at:
http://errc.org/publications/reports/index.shtml
 
*****************
 
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://errc.org.
 
European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
 
Telephone: (36 1) 42 82 351
Fax: (36 1) 42 82 356
 
*****************
 
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individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its
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European Roma Rights Center
Budapest Bank Rt.
99P00402686
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1
Hungary

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