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Commission Event Raises Roma Concerns at International Human Rights Conference

WARSAW, POLAND—Raising the issues of mass expulsions of Roma and the increasing political rhetoric against Europe’s largest ethnic minority, the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) hosted a meeting Wednesday with Romani participants alongside the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Review Conference.

This is the first Review Conference the OSCE has held since 1999. The three-part Review Conference will culminate in a summit in December.

Ambassador Michael Guest, Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Review Conference, and other members of the delegation, participated in the discussions.

Romani human rights issues are on the formal agenda at the Review Conference which focuses generally on the human rights commitments made by the 56 participating States of the OSCE.  The Helsinki Commission’s meeting provided an opportunity for the U.S. delegation to hear perspectives regarding human rights issues in greater depth. 

“No discussion of the status of human rights in Europe would be complete without a full discussion of the challenges facing the continent’s largest ethnic minority group,” said Ambassador Guest. “Recent events have been painful for Romani communities but have served to highlight the challenges they face.”

During the Commission discussion participants noted:

  • the rise of political anti-Roma campaigning, especially ahead of local elections in several countries;
  • ethnically-targeted expulsions of Roma framed in racist or xenophobic rhetoric, particularly public discourse that characterizes members of the Romani ethnic minority as “criminal” or stereotypes them as “nomadic;”
  • the danger that this type of speech spreads from one country to another like a virus and is translated into anti-Roma policies or actions; and
  • the need to reframe public discourse from this rhetoric to a focus on costs of non-inclusion of Roma and the long-term economic benefits of inclusion.

The Warsaw conference runs through October 8. It is the first part of a three-part review conference ahead of the OSCE Summit to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan December 1-2. The second and third parts of the review conference will be held in Vienna October 18-26 and in Astana from November 26-28.

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