Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Presents Report on Romania

13 November 2006

On 29 March 2006, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, then Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, presented a report to the Council of Europe Com mittee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly on his official visit to Romania between 13 and 17 September 2004. The report provided an analysis of actions undertaken by the Romanian government following an initial report issued by the Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002. In the 2002 report, the Commissioner "recommended allocating the necessary resources to develop the national strategy on behalf of the Roma, particularly by improving their circumstances, and their access to the labour market, and by facilitating access to identity documents." The 2006 report offered the following assessment of progress made to date:

"55. According to the Romanian NGOs, the national strategy for improving the situation of the Roma, established in 2001, has thus far had only a limited impact. Apart from the creation of implementing bodies, like the National Roma Office, the strategy has brought few tangible changes, owing to the lack of funds allocated. Some progress was none the less noted, in particular in the form of the recruitment of social mediators within the Roma community by the municipal services. The visit by the members of the Office of the Commissioner to a Roma district in Bucharest revealed that these persons are establishing a link between the community and the municipality which allows both sides to deal better with any difficulties. They also facilitate access to the public services and approaches to the administration.

56. From a general point of view, the Roma situation continues to be a cause for concern. The NGOs and the representatives of the Roma community continue to report violence on the part of the police and discrimination and state that a negative image of the Roma is spread by the media and a part of the political class. As regards the living conditions of a large part of the Roma community, they have developed only slightly since 2002: rudimentary or improvised electrical services, housing which is unfit for habitation or unsuitable for a large family, no heating or water supply. Although access to the health services has improved, significant progress remains to be made. In order to respond, the national authorities decided to give priority to the implementation of specific projects at local level. Various forms of social assistance have also been introduced for Romanians in greatest need.

57. As regards access to employment, the Roma, who are often little qualified for work, suffer directly from unemployment and indeed discrimination. It is for that reason that the National Employment Agency has adopted a range of measures aimed at the Roma. In 2004, 9,079 Roma were thus employed through specific programmes and the Employment Agency hopes that 6,440 Roma will be hired before the end of 2005. Job fairs are also organised and in August 2005 a mobile job fair visited 200 areas in Romania in order to provide information on the programmes for the Roma developed by the authorities and also on the jobs available. While these initiatives must be welcomed, for the time being they affect only a limited number of Roma.

58. As regards access to identity documents, the Ministry of Administration and the Interior has adopted a certain number of measures with the competent local authorities to facilitate the issue of identity cards or civil status documents to the Roma. Thus, according to the information supplied by the Ministry, almost 2,500 unregistered Roma were entered in the civil status registry between December 2004 and March 2005. Nevertheless difficulties in registering the newly- born seem to persist.

59. The precarious material and social situation of Roma families has consequences for access to education by their children. Statistics indicate that the drop-out rate during the elementary stage is very high among Roma children, in spite of certain local initiatives. Primary education is free in Romania, but families are required to purchase the school materials. The cost of doing so, which may appear derisory, is a significant reason for dropping out.

60. Some municipalities have set up specific educational support programmes for children and even provide free meals in order to encourage those least well off to attend school. Romania has also undertaken to provide classes and courses in the Roma language. […] the Ministry of Education has developed a programme for needy children and offers bursaries and places reserved for Roma children in certain schools and universities. In September 2004, a programme concerning prior ity access to education by disadvantaged children was begun in 74 nursery and primary schools in ten regions. In June 2005 the programme was extended to 12 other regions."

The Commissioner concluded by welcoming actions by the Romanian government to date, but stressed that "significant efforts remain to be made to allow members of the Roma community to have full access to medical services, civil status and a good quality education. These improvements, like better access to the job market, will come about through the full implementation of an ambitious action plan. Finally, programmes to allow everyone to have access to essential services such as water and electricity must be intensified."


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