Regional Consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
. 5 - 7 July 2005 Ljubljana, Slovenia  
Europe and Central Asia






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Roma/Gypsies, a major concern for the ECRI

Set up under a decision taken at the 1st Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in Vienna in 1993, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) began operating in Strasbourg in March 1994. On 13 June 2002 the Committee of Ministers adopted a new statute for the ECRI, thus consolidating its role as an independent body in the human rights field specialising in combating racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

The situation of Roma/Gypsies naturally established itself as a major concern for the ECRI, which has become a forum for dialogue on and progress in the situation of this group throughout Greater Europe, as witness its General Policy Recommendation No. 3, which it adopted on 6 March 1998.

This text, which is general in scope, sets the aims that must be achieved in order to put an end to all discrimination against Roma/Gypsy communities, as well as the requisite measures to promote respect for their rights and participation in national life.

The recommendations put forward include “render(ing) illegal any discrimination on the part of public authorities in the exercise of their duties”, “encourag(ing) the development of appropriate arrangements for dialogue between the police, local authorities and Roma/Gypsy communities” and “vigorously combat(ing) all forms of school segregation towards Roma/Gypsy children and (…) ensur(ing) the effective enjoyment of equal access to education”.

Drawing on this text, which sets out the bases and objectives of the Council of Europe’s work on behalf of Roma/Gypsies, the ECRI has developed a general work programme comprising a variety of activities stressing the underprivileged position currently occupied by Roma/Gypsies and the need to ensure the effective exercise of their fundamental freedoms and rights.

Using its country-by-country approach the ECRI monitors the phenomena of racism and racial discrimination by scrutinising the situation in each of the 46 member States of the Council of Europe. It draws up reports setting out analyses and recommendations regarding possible ways for each country to deal with the problems identified. The reports are aimed not at indicting the governments but at taking stock of the situation, having regard to the commitments entered into by the various authorities and the extent to which they are actually being honoured. The reports constitute an inventory on which the authorities and the representatives of the Roma/Gypsy communities can draw in order to co-operate in dialogue and the formulation of new solutions. They often provide an opportunity for gauging the distance between the official goals set and their implementation on the ground.

By collecting examples of good practice and circulating them in the milieus concerned, the ECRI is endeavouring to pool all the experiences accumulated in each member country capable of serving as an example or as a basis for national action plans. This pool will give each individual country access to information on methods implemented elsewhere and on their success or the obstacles encountered, which it can then adapt to its specific situation. To give just one example, the Essex authorities in the United Kingdom has introduced a policy of monitoring the education of Roma/Gypsy children, enabling them to continue their schooling with minimal disruption as they travel around. France, Ireland and Belgium also have similar educational programmes.

Lastly, as part of its programme of action on relations with civil society, the ECRI organises regular national Round Tables aimed at bringing the authorities and Roma/Gypsy representatives together to engage in dialogue, establish a basis for contact and progress towards country-by-country, case-by-case and field-by-field solutions. The ECRI’s goal is to foment encounters attended by representatives of the authorities and of the communities concerned, concentrating on a specific theme: employment, housing, education, citizenship rights, the media attitude to Roma/Gypsies, the conduct of the authorities, etc. All this involves intensive work and countless forums that are vital for bringing different viewpoints closer together and helping eradicate prejudice, with an eye to improving the conditions for coexistence, ensuring respect for everyone’s rights.

For more information: CoE web site on Roma/Gypsy

Council of Europe
Cathie Burton
Press Officer
Council of Europe
Strasbourg , France
Tel.: +33 3 88 41 28 93. Mobile: +33 685 11 64 93