Roma Recognised in New Macedonian Constitution

On November 16, 2001, the Macedonian Parliament adopted fifteen changes to its constitution, including the official recognition of Roma and other minorities. The new version of the preamble gives the status of "people" to all citizens belonging to major ethnic groups in Macedonia, including Roma: "The citizens of Macedonia, the Macedonian people, and also the citizens living within its borders that are part of the Albanian people, Turkish people, Vlach people, Serb people, Romani people […]." On November 16, 2001, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that Mr Walter Schwimmer, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, stated, "This important decision will lay the foundations for a better protection of the civil, political, and social rights of all individuals living in the country, regardless of their community and ethnic background." Many are hopeful that the official recognition of Macedonia's minorities as a "people" will ensure greater respect for their human rights in Macedonia. However, Macedonian legal provisions presently require that a minority comprise 20 percent in an administrative unit before language rights provisions enter into force in the given area. Roma comprise more than 20 percent of the population only in the Ĺ uto Orizari municipality, and hence they will only have the right to the use of the Romani language in administrative contexts here. Information on the human rights situation of Roma in Macedonia is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org

(BBC News, RFE/RL)

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