New leadership of the International Romani Union

03 October 2000

The International Romani Union (IRU), the oldest and most-established international representative body of Roma, held its first congress in ten years in Prague, July 24-28, 2000. The IRU was founded in 1977 as the successor organisation to the Comite International Rom (CIR), founded in 1971. The IRU has an informal consultative status with UNESCO. The last Congress (number 4) was held in Warsaw in 1990. Delegates attended the Prague Congress from Albania, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo), Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States. Poorly or not at all represented were, notably, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, and all South American countries. The results of the congress, in brief, were as follows:

First of all, the IRU adopted a new charter, expanding the organisation structurally to comprise: Congress, Parliament, Presidium, Court of Justice, President. Secondly, delegates elected the following persons as the new leadership of the IRU:

President: Emil Ščuka (Czech Republic)

Vice-Presidents: Stanislaw Stankiewicz (Poland), Viktor Famulsson (Sweden), Nadezhda Demeter (Russia), Florin Cioba (Romania)

General Secretary: Khristo Kyuchukov (Bulgaria)

Treasurer: Zlatko Mladenov (Bulgaria)

Voting for the positions of Vice-President and General Secretary went to second rounds as a result of challenges to first-round voting. Various committees of the IRU reported to the general assembly of the Congress. Themes which aroused discussion among participants in the main hall of the congress were, especially, the Romani language and Kosovo. The language committee was reportedly dominated by an argument over the reinvigoration of Romani through the infusion of Sanskrit words. This idea was not very popula r during reporting to the main session, but the subject of the Romani language as a whole inspired much emotive speech, with Mssrs Emilian Nicolae and Zoran Dimov speaking of the language as "our treasure" and Mssrs Rajko Djurić and Nicolae Bobu speaking o f the need for a "reconstruction" of Romani. The Kosovo committee produced a one-page document with 11 recommendations. Following a speech by Mr Hadžija Zylfi, the Rom presently in the Kosovar administration, the Congress took up a collection for Roma in Kosovo and raised the value of several thousand euros in various denominations.

Czech and international press made much of the heavy use of the language of nationhood used by delegates and organisers. OSCE Officer for Romani Affairs Mr Nicolae Gheorghe, speaking in the Czech Senate on June 28, summed up the Congress as follows: For the first time, Roma have a legitimate and democratically elected leadership, chosen in quite an open and fair way. It is not the best, and not the strongest, but it is legitimate. Now, possibly, Roma can start to overcome the stereotype that its leadership is disunited. Mr Gheorghe noted that this Congress marked a change in the IRU from an NGO to a different type of organisation, a partially governmental structure. He noted that the IRU had set out in 1971 to achieve recognition as an NGO, and that it had succeeded in that goal and that the 2000 Congress marked a break and the initiation of a new course. He said that politics will be different in the 21st century, and that the primary task ahead was to initiate a struggle for emancipation without territorial claims.



Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities