Cablegate: Osce Discusses Roma/Sinti Integration

DE RUEHVEN #0196/01 2111408
R 291408Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: On July 10-11, the OSCE and
civil society representatives discussed Roma and Sinti
Integration, highlighting the need for increased Roma/Sinti
participation, taking an integrated approach to addressing
the root causes of discrimination, and more comprehensive
data collection. Discriminatory practices in Italy sparked an
impromptu NGO protest and a side event on the same issue
elicited only a weak Italian governmental response. The
meeting was useful in reviewing limited progress on the
implementation of the Roma/Sinti Action plan and highlighted
that there remains a clear lack of political will from many
participating States for full implementation. End Summary and

2. (U) The OSCE held the second of three annual
Supplementary Human Dimension meetings (SHDM) in Vienna on
July 10-11, 2008 to discuss Sustainable Policies for Roma and
Sinti Integration. Participants included representatives
from participating States and civil society. The working
sessions discussed the role and responsibility of regional
and local authorities, good practices at the local level, and
policies that facilitate equal access to public services. The
meeting also included three side events on recent European
Court of Human Rights judgments, building partnerships
between Roma communities and local authorities, and
fundamental rights and freedoms of Roma in Italy.

Civil Society Recommends Advisory Councils

3. (U) At a civil society roundtable side event, Roma/Sinti
civil society representatives shared concerns about the lack
of political will in implementing the OSCE Roma/Sinti Action
Plan. Their recommendations, presented to the participating
States at the opening sessions, included encouraging
increased participation of Roma/Sinti in decision making such
as through the establishment of Roma Advisory Councils,
encouraging disaggregated data collection, and implementing
existing commitments, laws, action plans.

Experts Agree

4. (U) At the first working session on the role and
responsibility of regional and local authorities to assist in
integrating Roma, Dr. Joachim Ott, Coordinator of the Roma
Action Group from the European Commission, outlined the need
for targeted activities that take an integrated approach
linking housing, education, discrimination, and other issues
affecting the integration of Roma. He advocated Roma
involvement at all stages of the decision making process at
the local, regional, and national levels and asked the OSCE
to hold countries accountable at the next Human Dimension
Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw.

Sharing of Best Practices Encouraged

5. (U) The second working session discussed good practices
and major challenges in improving the situation of Roma at
local levels with examples from municipalities. Mr. Juan
Ramon Vilchez-Enriquez presented Catalonia as a success story
outlining an Interdepartmental Commission and a Roma People's
Advisory Council whose projects addressed education, health,
and cultural mediation. Recommendations from the working
session included the establishment of a data base on best
practices, integrating programs, appointing qualified Roma to
public offices, supporting capacity building efforts for
local authorities and NGOs, and encouraging local authorities
to provide transport to schools as well as waiving school
registration fees when necessary. While examples from
municipalities were cited as good models, it was acknowledged
that one formula cannot be universally applied.

Access to Education and Social Services Needed
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (U) The third working session discussed policies to
facilitate equal access of Roma/Sinti to public services with
particular emphasis on social services and education. Ms. Eva
Rizzin called for the integration of the Romani language and
history into the curricula for Roma and non-Roma children in
order to facilitate cultural mediation. Participants
frequently emphasized that disadvantages for Roma children
start before kindergarten, underscoring the importance of
pre-K education. While education was cited as important, many
remarked that it is not a "silver bullet" or "magic cure" and
that approaches to integrating Roma/Sinti must link education
with other issues, including housing.

Italian Fingerprinting Sparks NGO Protest

USOSCE 00000196 002 OF 002

7. (U) Roma NGO representatives erupted in a spontaneous
demonstration at the July 10 opening session. The NGOs held
up photographs and called for Italy to discontinue its policy
of mass fingerprinting of Roma. The room broke out in
applause following the unscheduled intervention.

8. (U) Later, at a side event on the Fundamental Rights and
Freedoms of Roma in Italy, NGO representatives offered
stirring testimonies on the state of the Roma population in
Italy. One ethnic Roma activist described the beating by
Italian police of a young Roma girl, winner of a UNICEF
painting competition, and her family; the refusal of two
schools in Milan to register fifty Roma students; and the
Italian government's requirement that Roma who accept
government-assisted housing sign a contract stating that they
will have no visitors. A representative of the Italian
government acknowledged that the Roma face poor living
conditions in Italy but did not accept blame. When pressed
about the Italian ordinance calling for the mass
fingerprinting of Roma, the Italian representative denied the
claim, stating that the fingerprinting is not directed
towards a specific ethnic group but rather at individuals who
do not have permanent residence in Italy.

Judicial Remedies for Roma Outlined

9. (SBU) A side event on the Effective use of the European
Court of Human Rights judgments focused on two court cases -
the D.H. and others v. Czech Republic and the Hadereni case
from Romania. In the first case, the court ruled against the
Czech government's apparent policy of segregation of Roma
children into remedial schools. The representative from the
European Human Rights Center complained that the subsequent
disbanding the remedial schools has led to largely cosmetic
improvements. The Czech representative from the Office of the
Council for Roma Community Affairs privately agreed with this
assessment. In the Hadereni case the court ruled that Roma
face systematic discrimination in the judicial system and the
ruling resulted in judiciary reform in Romania though there
continue to be problems in implementation.

Local Partnerships Highlighted

10. (U) A side event on building partnerships between Roma
communities and local authorities was poorly attended
probably because it was held at the same time as the event on
Roma in Italy. NGOs in Albania, Italy, and Bulgaria
reiterated the persistent problems of child trafficking, high
drop out and illiteracy rates which lead to high unemployment
rates, and poor living conditions faced by the Roma/Sinti
populations. NGOs presented peer educator programs where
youth are trained to help street children and their families
navigate the education and public services systems. A
Bulgarian Roma activist described his efforts to get Roma
issues into the local budget by getting elected to the City

11. (SBU) Comment: The meeting was useful in evaluating the
limited implementation of the Roma/Sinti Aciton plan and in
highlighted some successes and good practices. According to
most interlocutors, many participating states still lack the
political will to address key issues of Roma integration.
Italy was roundly criticized for its Roma policies,
especially its fingerprinting program but was unapologetic.
End Comment.

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