Angela Kocze of the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest sets out what she believes are the greatest challenges facing Europe's gypsies todayThrough the eyes of a gypsy
Wednesday, 26 July, 2000
As a Roma, I look at the problems of my people not just from the outside perspective but as someone who is personally involved in the movement - and I see the internal dynamic as well.
More than any other European minority, our transnational minority has been faced with repressive policies, enforced assimilation, social and economic exclusion, racial discrimination and violation all over the world.
Roma factsDespite our large population, we have very limited political power on national or international political forums.
90% of the world's 12 million gypsies live in Europe
Most of the Roma are concentrated in central and eastern Europe
Over 500,000 died in the Holocaust
Discrimination against the Roma is widespread
For example, in the Czech Republic, where Roma constitute the largest minority, the 200-member parliament has only one single representative who identifies herself as a member of the Roma population.
There are no Roma representatives in either the 150-member Slovak Parliament or in Hungary's 386 member parliament.
One member of the Bulgarian National Assembly is Roma.
These facts clearly show that Roma interests are completely ignored by politicians.
The Roma Congress in Prague has highlighted some positive things.
One, that we want to take responsibility for our nation in Europe; secondly, people of the Roma nation share more in common than they think.
We share a common fate in Central and Eastern Europe and we have to work out our strategies.
Racism and prejudice
Racism, prejudice and hostility against Roma are openly tolerated in the region.
It is reinforced many times by the speeches of leading politicians who make derogatory remarks types about the Roma and reinforce traditional stereotypes about them.
One of the greatest tragedies for the Roma in the 20th Century was the Holocaust or "Porrajmos" in Romani.
Whole communities were destroyed. Conservative estimates suggest that over 500,000 Roma died at the hands of the Nazis.
Indeed, we cannot avoid the genocide happening now in Europe on a different and extended level.
The most striking issue is the forced migration of Kosovo Roma and the "pogroms" against them.
The struggle of Roma in Kosovo has remained outside the Kosovo conflict, despite intensive international media attention.
It is one of the biggest failures of the international organisations that they did not face and recognise a Roma persecution in Kosovo.
Besides a Kosovo persecution there are some other forced migrations in the EU states where Roma do not feel secure because their rights are violated on a daily basis.
However many governments tend to ignore the nature of human rights violation and discrimination against Roma.
I really hope that the International Roma Union Congress in Prague will stimulate and strengthen the Roma movement in Europe and will bring new political strategies to improve the situation in Europe.