05BUCHAREST1336 / 2005-06-10 07:08:00
Embassy Bucharest
                UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001336 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, RO, minority rights 
1.  (U) Summary: Representatives from the Government of 
Romania, NGOs, international institutions, and academia met 
in the Embassy Public Diplomacy auditorium June 1 for a half- 
day seminar on the progress of Roma human rights issues. 
Some seventy attendees interacted with panels addressing a 
wide range of Roma concerns, including health, education, 
and under-employment.  GOR representatives highlighted the 
early progress the center-right government has made towards 
addressing ROMA concerns.  Civil society representatives, 
however, asserted that these efforts generally look much 
better on paper than in reality -- good laws, but 
inconsistent implementation.  Visiting Congressman Chris 
Smith (R-NJ) also addressed the conference, noting the 
strong interest of the U.S. Congress in ensuring full 
respect for the rights of Roma and securing their full 
inclusion in society.  End Summary. 
2.  (U) Embassy Bucharest June 1 hosted a half-day seminar 
titled "Promoting Human Rights for the Roma."  The event was 
organized by resident Fulbright scholar and Roma expert 
Elena Roemer with the support of the Embassy. 
USAID Director of Democracy and Social Sector Reform and CAO 
jointly gave opening remarks, emphasizing the significance 
of the recently inaugurated "Decade of Roma Inclusion" (DRI) 
initiated by eight Central and Eastern Europe governments 
and signed in Sophia in February 2005. Romania will be the 
first to chair the International Steering Committee of the 
DRI starting this July. 
International Institutions: Big Goals, Tight Budgets 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
3.  (U) The first panel included local representatives of 
the World Bank and the Council of Europe's Commission 
against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).  World Bank 
operations officer Ana Maria Sandi cited a number of 
programs funded by the Bank for Roma, most notably a USD 41 
million "Roma Education Fund" aimed to integrate Roma in 
mainstream schools.  The World Bank also has in place four 
"social inclusion" programs focused on emergency 
intervention and poverty alleviation, co-financing of 
domestic social projects with NGOs and host governments, 
leveraging EU funds for social projects working with Roma, 
and capacity-building.  Sandi lamented that this last goal 
is admittedly the most difficult, as strengthening local 
institutions and improving human capabilities requires a 
long-term commitment and "the process has just begun." ECRI 
representative Raluca Besteliu focused on the reporting 
carried out by ECRI, including a special report on Romania 
due out in June 2006.  She noted that ECRI also makes policy 
recommendations based on its findings, and it works closely 
with local civil society.  More information on ECRI on Roma 
programs is available at www.coe.int/t/E/human_rights/ecri/. 
Government Officials: "We're doing a lot" 
4. (U) The panel of Romanian national institutions included 
Presidential Counselor Renate Weber, and officials from the 
Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Labor (MOL), National 
Agency for Roma (NAR), and National Council for Combating 
Discrimination (NCCD).  Panelists emphasized that the 
Bacescu-led government is making a concerted effort for Roma 
integration into mainstream society, at both the policy and 
program level.  They acknowledged a lack of funding for some 
efforts but conveyed an overall sense that Romania is 
providing ample and readily-available services.  They 
specifically noted improvements since the new government 
came to power in late 2004, facilitated by passage in 2000 
of Romania's anti-discrimination law.  Weber cited 
unspecified opinion polling noting "an openness of the 
Romanian people to affirmative action" programs.  NCCD 
Director Csaba Asztalos also stated that until 6 months ago, 
NCCD had no minority representation; now they are "better 
equipped" to investigate discriminations and take action. 
MOL representative cited a Roma job fair held last month. 
MOH discussed the 170 health mediators hired nationally to 
tackle with healthcare issues. 
Civil Society:  "Poor Execution, Minimal Progress" 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
5. (U) During the Q&A session following, Civil Society 
representatives challenged the validity of many GOR 
programs.  They noted that the Roma job fair mentioned by 
the Ministry of Labor representative was almost cancelled 
due to poor attendance by Roma and employers as a result of 
poor advertising of the event.  Despite the 170 health 
mediators in place, one Rom participant in the audience 
noted multiple examples when Roma were denied fair treatment 
by health care facilities. She said that she, herself, had 
encountered difficulty with multiple institutions in 
registering the birth of her baby born outside a hospital. 
No help was provided and no hospital staff was willing to 
recognize her baby or provide initial medical care.  The GOR 
representatives maintained their position that there are 
conduits for Roma to obtain assistance, through the health 
mediators and other programs. 
6. (SBU) Separately, on the margins of the conference,  one 
senior Roma leader lamented that until recently the National 
Agency for Roma (NAR) had been "understaffed and 
ineffective," sometimes even damaging to Roma interests. 
Nonetheless, he expressed hope that the NAR might have 
reached a turning point with an upcoming leadership change. 
He informed PolOff that Maria Ionescu, the up-and-coming 
Roma leader and Head of the Phare Implementation program, 
has been nominated to be the next head of the NAR.  Ionescu 
receives high marks from the Roma community.  Hope is that 
under her leadership the NAR will have more muscle going 
But Some Improvements at the Local Level 
7. (U) The third and last panel of NGOs and academia 
indicated that civil society organizations are gaining 
respect within the Roma community and have made some 
progress in addressing social problems.  Lesley Hawke of 
Ovidiu Rom (www.ovid.ro) stated that her organization is 
getting the funding and cooperation needed from local 
governments to provide education to the disenfranchised in 
areas in which the NGO works.  The representative of Romani 
CRISS, one of the top ROMA NGOs in Romania, expressed 
satisfaction with a recently negotiated cooperative 
partnership with the Health Ministry.  Through the project, 
Romani CRISS and the ministry will jointly provide and 
support 170 mediators to improve access to healthcare for 
Roma communities.  Fulbright scholar Michelle Kelso showed 
to the audience a trailer of her film documentary "Hidden 
Sorrows: the Persecution of Romanian Gypsies During WWII." 
The documentary depicts the Roma-holocaust, a subject rarely 
researched and still unacknowledged by the GOR.  She has 
already shown the film throughout Romania to heighten 
awareness of Roma persecution during the Holocaust and seeks 
to do more. 
Congressman Smith:  "U.S. Committed to Ethnic Rights" 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
8.  (U) Visiting Congressman and Helsinki Commission Co- 
Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) also addressed the conference and 
met briefly with reporters.  He reaffirmed a U.S. commitment 
to ethnic rights in Balkans and globally, noting that Roma 
and "travelers" are particularly vulnerable. He 
congratulated the civil society groups for the work achieved 
thus far.  He urged the Romanian government to give full 
support to and expedite its current programs in order to 
achieve the same standards as in the U.S.  Roma participants 
expressed solid appreciation for his interest and 
engagement, with multiple invitations to visit local Roma 
communities and see programs in action. 
9.  (U) Comment:  All in all, participants expressed the 
conference was a success, achieving the goal of bringing 
government together with civil society to discuss progress 
thus far under the center-right government, as well as many 
continued concerns.  The Embassy -- including PD, USAID, and 
POL -- is discussing potential follow-up events with groups 
concerned.  We are also examining ways to support Romania as 
it assumes its year-long leadership of the international 
"Decade of Roma Inclusion."  End comment. 
10. (U) AmEmbassy Bucharest's Reporting telegrams, as well 
as daily press summaries, are available on the Bucharest 
SIPRNet website:  www.state.sgov/gov/p/eur/bucharest 

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