Roma ask for a chair in the United Nations
by Bajram Haliti on 25 Apr 2009 1 Comment

[April 8 was World Day of Roma. On this occasion, Mr. Bajram Haliti, General Secretary of the International Roma Union, a journalist with vast experience, spoke about the past and the present of the Roma people as the community entered the third millennium of its great trials and tribulations – Editor]

NIRA:  Mr. Haliti, could it be said that the Roma are historic, language and cultural national Indian minority?

Bajram Haliti: Based on previous knowledge, it could be said that the Roma community emerged from uniting of different tribes, different dialects and even races.

The Roma are Indian people, autochthonous in the areas of eastern and western Europe and in the other parts of the world, with all characteristics that make them a special national entity. The Roma have their own history, culture, religion, tradition, literature, their own language, their own lifestyle, food, mentality, national inheritance, in one word the Roma have their own history, their own present and their own future, as do the other nations in Europe.

Wrongly and maliciously understood, victims of prejudices, even persecution, the Roma are one of Indian minorities whose character, during their long and hard history, has been most rudely twisted.

NIRA: When, where and how did begin the wakening of the national awareness of Roma, and since when April 8 is being marked as the World Day of Roma?

Bajram Haliti: The wakening of the national awareness of Roma has begun firstly in the territory of Europe. There were many attempts to organize the Roma in different countries, per example, from trying to create national associations to addressing kings. Per example, a letter was addressed to King Sigismund of German empire, contacts with church dignitaries were established, all the way to the Pope, per example, Martin the V.

However, all this ended with just a try, all these processes were of short breath and, unfortunately, they didn't come to conclusion of, as it's said in history and politics, collective identification. Mostly, everything remained on a local level or inside a certain group of Roma that has lived in this or that country, in this or that place, etc.

When it comes to political process or awakening of national awareness, that is of a much later date, somewhere in the 60's of last century, because then, at least implicitly, emerged, if I can say it like that, the first scheme of the national programme of Roma. One of the most important leaders of this our national project was Slobodan Berberski, the man who had political experience and who set grounds for significant national organizing of Roma in and out of Yugoslavia.

So, since 1960 till today this process of national awakening has took roots and I think that, regardless of all the problems that exist, this Idea will never again be extinguished, it can not die, it will continue to spread, it attracts right now, as we can witness, a greater number of young people and, very importantly, young educated people.

For the first time in our history we have Roma institutions everywhere, starting from Roma schools, Roma high schools, we have six departments for Roma language, a project has been done to form Roma Academy of Science and Art, etc. So, all these institutions that other nations had when they created their national renascence or when they realized their national programmes. Besides that, the Roma are now trying to act also on the political plane - they are forming or they have already formed their political parties, which is yet another quality. 

Considering the awakening of the national awareness of Roma on a wider level, first of all in Europe, it was more or less like this: Slobodan Berberski came into contact with individual Roma persons from different European countries. The idea came up to the greatest delight with Roma in Czechoslovakia, because then Dupcek had the authority, who planned certain reforms for his country. The Czech spring had, off course, very significant effects for suffocating of Roma movement in that country. However, thanks to the fact that this country had important Roma intellectuals (some of them were professors at the universities in Brno, Bratislava), a fruitful meeting between Roma from Yugoslavia, Czech and Hungary was realized.

In Hungary there were also few Roma writers, intellectuals and Roma from the SSSR were showing a great interest for this whole thing.

So, the First World Congress of Roma took place April 8 1971 in London. Participants of this congress were Roma from Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czech, Spain, England and, I think, from Denmark and Holland.  So, it was a small group, but ideas have been articulated already on this congress and a scheme was built, if I can say it like that, of our national programme, which from then gradually got wider and deeper, from one congress to another: 1978 in Geneva, 1981 in Goettingen,  than 1990 in Poland, Warsaw, 2000 in Prague, 2004 in Lanciano, Italy and finally 2008 in Zagreb, Croatia  which, it could be said, phrased the new national programme whose sense and content could be phrased like this: the Roma are a nation.

NIRA: What could you tell us about principles and goals of the International Roma Union?

Bajram Haliti: The principles of the International Roma Union are: Cooperation of work with the UN and with its bodies, European institutions and all the countries, as also with many other institutions and organizations that are in charge of solving problems of the Roma population.

Work on recognition of the Roma nation as a non-territorial nation with member status in the UN and all it’s bodies and with representatives in bodies and organizations of UN and EU, according to their higher legal acts. To fortify for Roma in South-Eastern and Central Europe, as also on the other continents, the status of a constitutive nation, because they fought against Fascism and Nazism as a nation.

Aims of the International Roma Union are: Maintaining of international peace and safety and, in that purpose: taking efficient collective measures in order to prevent and remove threats to the peace and prevention of acts of aggression or other violations of peace, as also accomplishment of solving international disputes or situations that could lead to violation of peace, by peaceful means; development of friendly relations between nations, based on respect of principles, equality and taking of other actions in order to consolidate general peace.

NIRA: You visited India twice in 2006 and in 2008. Who did you meet with and what did you talk about?

Bajram Haliti: I spoke with eminent persons – academics, historians, sociologists, political scientists, public social-political workers and writers, from who I asked for significant results to be accomplished, through cooperation of habitat and diaspora, in the area of science, culture, religion, informing, sport and in the humanitarian area, which would make possible for diaspora to continue the affirmation of values of Indian identity in the states in which they live;

To continue with the same energy to accomplish long term programme determinations and concrete tasks through activities of the diaspora in all the areas of cooperation of habitat and diaspora:

I proposed that a conference should be held in our habitat India, because we wish to offer concrete answers to the questions regarding the status and the rights of about 15 million Roma that live in all the countries of the planet. We will call it “Together in an united Europe” because all the countries that will have their participants there are determined for European integrations and Europe without limits, in which national minorities have a very important part in developing of good neighbour and regional cooperation.

Our intention is, by perceiving today’s position of Roma community in diaspora, to come to the solution in the near future that will, with joined efforts of Roma outside of India and the countries in which our compatriots live, of international organizations and mother state, which will help a full affirmation, integration and keeping the identity of Roma community in the environments in which our compatriots live.

NIRA: What could you tell us about the Roma issue today?

Bajram Haliti: The Roma issue is a democratic issue. There is not a single human right that is in conflict with life interest of Roma people as an entity. The Roma issue is an issue of civilisation. It may be the most important in Europe today for development of human and natural potentials and raising the quality of life.

To perform a modern reform of schools and education all together. To create an unique educational programme for whole Roma people with the purpose of its spiritual integration, but with full respect of historic, civilization and regional characteristics.

I know that the national issue is a very complex phenomena and that it is very difficult to solve, especially permanently. But I also know that our national characteristics, even though have been constantly demolished, are not really demolished, because that simply cannot be done with a nation that had and has historic memory about its national self-consciousness, it’s tradition, culture, ideal values and high morality as the wisdom of living.

NIRA: In a public debate three are the Bill of the Charter, the Action Plan and the Strategy of the International Roma Union. What do you expect from these documents?

Bajram Haliti: With the Bill of the new Charter of the International Roma Union we have set the basic aims and principles by adjusting them with the strategy of UN and with suggested politics of EU from the summit on the integration of Roma in Brussels, from September 16, 2008. Also, this Bill of the Charter regulates the way of accomplishing individual and collective rights of Roma nation in the state which it lives in, with its higher act – the Constitution and all following laws and sub-legal acts or international contracts, which are guaranteed to all nations.

The Action Plan of Florina Zoltan, the director of the REISAR institute in London, that has been presented, underlines high-priority interests of the world’s greatest Roma organization – the International Roma Union – searching for EU and it’s member states, and from other non-EU countries and international instruments to fulfill their duties regarding proclaimed universal individual and collective and national human rights, in connection with the integration of Roma people, guaranteeing suitable socio-economic capacity.

The Action Plan for integration of the Roma nation exists as an Action Plan of the International Roma Union, calling immediately all international, European and national instruments to give their support in this joined attempt to establish and realize the highest standards of implementation of human rights regarding the integration of Roma nation.

I personally expect the Action Plan and the Strategy to bring new hope that has to be nursed, because conditions in which most Roma live in today are simply incredible. We have to fight for better understanding of Roma by other members of society and work with Roma leaders in order to understand their aspirations. That is a community with great possibilities and we are all responsible to ensure that this nation has the opportunity to realize its contribution to the European society.

NIRA: How do you see the economic strengthening of Roma all around Europe?

Bajram Haliti: For the sake of economic strengthening of Roma nation, IRU will establish special advisory body the UNION OF ROMA EMPLOYERS, that will be authorized to act for Roma employers with MMF, bodies of UNO and EU and agencies in charge in the areas of custom, tax and other areas, by discharging them of custom and tax duties, especially in cases when they hire a large number of representatives of Roma nation.

This body will be authorized to negotiate and establish better conditions for Roma employers with Chambers of Commerce of the member states and all other states, especially in areas of crediting small and medium companies, and to negotiate so called Grace period of at least one year, than custom and tax relieves with possibilities of even deliberating from paying taxes and realization of rights according to inner law system on the occasion of opening new work places and hiring, until then, unemployed persons.

: What do you suggest to members-participants of the “Roma Decade?”

Bajram Haliti: In accordance with millennium development goals of the United Nations, countries of South-Eastern and Central Europe should pay attention also to Roma. So much as it’s one of the most vulnerable layers of society. That should be especially taken into consideration during the process of developing the strategy of development and fight against poverty in the countries of South-Eastern Europe that is in progress. It will fully correspond with offered initiative of the Decade of Roma Inclusion.
Essential changes of the position of Roma in South-Eastern and Central Europe will depend to the greatest extent from the success of reforms to which are dedicated the governments of these regions. Guideline of the whole strategy of reforms is contained from three basic documents that refer to economic, administration and educational sphere. Governments of these regions should start series of projects in the area of education for Roma children, that would start from reduction of differences between Roma and non-Roma children, and obligatory a greater participation of Roma children in the whole system of education.

The Memo of Understanding in education of Roma should be signed. It should include three subjects: Government, UNICEF and NGOs. The goal is to remove any kind of discrimination in the area of education. That will enable equal approach to education for all, without differences. The project considers cooperation between national institutions and support of international organizations and non-governmental sector.

Raising the educational level and inclusion in the educational system should contribute to general emancipation and better standard of Roma and their integration in society, with keeping the authenticity of Roma language, culture and tradition. All actions and projects will be in accordance with goals of offered initiative of the Fund for education of Roma.

At the same time, the International Roma Union, within its reform strategy, gives priority to stimulation of businesses and creating of a stimulating environment - for development of small and medium business. Within these plans, branches of agriculture, services and crafts will be especially significant for Roma population also. Creation of performable projects that could widen the space for opening work places and promoting these branches of economy will be stimulated

NIRA: How would you define the Roma issue today?

Bajram Haliti: The Roma issue is a democratic issue. There is not a single human right that is in conflict with life interest of Roma people as an entity. The Roma issue is liberation and affirmation of national identity. The Roma issue is an issue of civilisation. It may be the most important in Europe today for development of human and natural potentials and raising the quality of life. To perform a modern reform of schools and education all together. To create an unique educational programme for whole Roma people with the purpose of its spiritual integration, but with full respect of historic, civilization and regional characteristics.

How to make cultural values, national and world spiritual inheritance and modern society really available to as many people possible, not to say to the whole nation? Culture is a life issue of Roma people. And the hardest question is: how to make Roma national and social programme in these conditions of inter-addiction and addiction from external factors?

NIRA: Today in Europe, that is considered to be a crib of human rights, freedom and democracy, as a significant trend should be emphasized that the Roma issue is being more frequently asked on an international level. Your comment is?

Bajram Haliti: Yes, that can give only good opportunities for solving their position. Especially should be emphasized the activities of Europe regional organizations (OSCE, Europe Council and Europe Union).

NIRA: What would Roma get by recognition of the status of national minority?

Bajram Haliti: Well, besides basic rights of national minorities, like the right to declare as a member of a national minority, we would get also the right for equality with representatives of the majority of people, the right to use our language in private and public life; there are also rights which are being shown for the first time within OSCE as the rights that could conditionally be called collective rights, but not rights that ethnic communities use as groups, i.e. develop freely their national identity. First of all, there’s the right for expression, keeping and developing the identity, the right to nurse and develop culture, the right to form and keep educational, cultural and religious institutions, the right to practice own religion, school institutions, etc.

NIRA: It is well known that the Europe Council forced almost all of newly formed countries to DONESE appropriate bills, or to recognize them in the Constitution as national minorities and, in relation with that, to give appropriate guarantee also to Roma people. Your comment?

Bajram Haliti: So far, as we know, the Roma has been recognized in the constitutions of several countries: Finland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, FYRM, and recently in Serbia the Roma got the status of national minority. There are countries that have so called National Minorities laws, like Hungary, Czech, Romania, Croatia, etc.

Really, all the countries that wish to become, or they already became members of the Europe Council, and that should in the future become members of the EU, have to fulfill these demands, Europe Council orders this, with which we cooperate more than 25 years. Many of these requests were initiated by our Roma organizations, including, off course, the IRU. We participated in formulation of many of these resolutions, declarations, and even laws, including the Europe Map of languages of national and regional minorities in Europe.

Generally speaking, it could be said that the individual and minority rights of Roma have been normatively protected on a relatively high level, especially in member countries of the Europe Council. On the other side, always remains the question to which extent the countries respect the obligations they have accepted. Although in most of the countries where Roma live exists the possibility to appeal to international bodies for protection of human rights, after all it is most important that there is efficient protection of human rights on international level. The international mechanisms of supervision of respect for human rights represent just additional way of protection of human rights, and the main work is being done in countries themselves.

NIRA: Tell us something about functions of the General Secretary of the International Roma Union?

Bajram Haliti: The function of the General Secretary is to speak and act as a leader and as a middle man. The General Secretary discusses global issues and problems in the name of the Organization and uses his position to interfere in disputes, to participate in peace missions of UNO and other international organizations, to intervene between the IRU and all international bodies and organizations, to intervene between IRU and bodies of member states and states interested in expansion, to intervene between IRU and Roma NGOs on the occasion of considering a situation, to evaluate in the earliest stage a role of directly included parts, the nature of tension and recent development of events in that region and, where possible, potential repercussions for peace and stability in the area of KEBS, to visit every member state and personally communicate with directly involved parties in the purpose of getting first hand information about the situation regarding the Roma nation.

As the general secretary I will plead that Roma, Sinti and Kala, which are about 15,000,000 million, get their own chair in the United Nations and never again to be exposed to suffering and pain, to save our future generations from terror of war, that twice in our lifetime inflicted enormous sufferings to mankind; to reconfirm our faith in basic rights of man, in dignity and value of human personality, in equality of men and women and small and great nations.

NIRA:  From 1979 the International Roma Union is a member of the UN agency ECOSOC, according to the decision number 3377, and with special B status according to the decision NGO number D 9424. Explain to us what does status B means?

Bajram Haliti: Status B means that we are only observers in the mentioned agency of the UN. As the General Secretary of the International Roma Union I will plead that in the UN agency ECOSOC Roma get status A, so that Roma in this agency should no longer be only observers, but also active participants regarding all issues.

Biljana Ivancevic
Chief Editor, NIRA

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top