WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) released the following statement today:
“I welcome the observation of International Roma Day as a time to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Romani people around the globe. Here in the United States, celebrations, seminars, and events will be held from San Francisco, California, to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here in Washington, I look forward to meeting with Romani Americans later this week to hear their views.
“Unfortunately, April 8th also puts a spotlight on the continuing struggles of Romani people, who are Europe's largest ethnic minority. Throughout the OSCE region, Roma continue to face pernicious discrimination in education, employment, and housing. In some countries, these conditions are combined with escalating extremism, resulting in potentially combustible environments. I am particularly concerned by threats of mob violence that have plagued some Romani communities – a dangerous situation that was the focus of a Helsinki Commission hearing last year.
“As noted in World Bank studies, some European countries are losing hundreds of millions of Euros annually in lost productivity and fiscal contributions to governments as a result of the extreme economic and social marginalization of Roma. I welcome the efforts undertaken by the OSCE to protect and promote the basic human rights of the Romani people which must be an essential part of any effort to reverse the devastating costs of non-inclusion.”
Background: International Roma Day is held annually to celebrate Romani culture, foster discussion of the situation of Roma, and raise awareness regarding human right abuses against the Romani people. April 8th was first celebrated as “International Roma Day” in 1990 to mark the anniversary of the historic World Romani Congress held near London in 1971.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.