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Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
June 8, 2006


Witnesses to Testify on Human Rights
Situation of Europe’s Largest Ethnic Minority

(Washington) – Estimated at 8-12 million, Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority – and also one of its most marginalized.  Throughout the region, Roma face disproportionate levels of poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment.  In a classic downward spiral, each of these conditions exacerbates the others in a self-perpetuating cycle.  Efforts to improve the situation of Roma are often stunted by pervasive discrimination, opportunistic political anti-Romism, and government neglect. 
In spite of this, Roma are taking control of their political destiny as never before – winning seats in the European Parliament and winning cases before the European Court on Human Rights.  In order to address the challenges the Roma community continues to confront, the Helsinki Commission will hold a briefing to examine the current situation of Roma in Central Europe, with a focus on human rights.  In particular, the briefing will address:

          - The causes and implications of the housing crisis facing Roma;
          - The progress of efforts to end segregated education in the region; and 
          - The impact on Roma of rising populist and extremist movements.

                       “The Human Rights Situation of Roma:  Europe’s Largest Ethnic Minority”
             Friday, June 16, 2006
          10:00 a.m.
       226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Madga Matache, Director, Romani CRISS (Center for Social Intervention and Studies) (Romania)
Timea Junghaus, Arts and Culture Network Program, Open Society Institute (Hungary)
Tano Bechev, Program Director, Regional Policy Development Centre (Bulgaria)
Nicolae Gheorghe, Senior Advisor, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Shelly Han or Mark Kearney
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