12.Given the relatively large Roma population in Central and Eastern European countries there is need for co-operation and co-ordination between EU institutions, the Council of Europe and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE) to counter racism targeted against Roma/Gypsies/Travellers and to promote better communication and understanding, bearing in mind that co-ordination should not lead to monopoly by a single institution.
13.In the process of enlargement of the European Union, the European Commission should work in co-operation with the Council of Europe to improve the human rights situation of Roma/Gypsies/Travellers in the applicant states.
14. International legal instruments, such as conventions, treaties and directives are important because they make explicit values, norms and standards and specify human rights as defined by the wider society. These instruments place some pressure on governments to introduce domestic legislation to prohibit discrimination and legislation. Such legislation is essential for the protection of minorities such as Roma/Gypsies/Travellers. But the value of legislation is greatly reduced in the absence of effective implementation, as well as ongoing monitoring, independent agencies to take cases to court, clear and accessible means for dealing with grievances, tribunals and positive action programmes.
15.In accordance with the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), the term ‘refugee’ applies to any person who is outside his/her country “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. . .“ This should be borne in mind in the processing of asylum applications and racial crimes should be deterritorialised in a way similar to the deterritorialisation of crimes related to drugs and terrorism. In addition, the procedures and regulations governing asylum applicants should be made transparent and explicit. It should also be possible to have an appeals system within the judicial system.
16There is a need to counter the racist activities and policies of extreme right-wing political parties with a racist agenda and also neo-Nazi groups which engage in racial harassment. Therefore political parties which proclaim their respect for the basic principles of democratic society should adopt a code of good practice and non-discrimination.
17.Roma/Gypsies/Travellers have survived centuries of forced assimilation and persecutions, which has contributed to their mistrust of mainstream society and a sense of alienation. Consequently they are perceived by many people as adopting a suspicious and defensive stance towards society in general. Against this background and in the context of ongoing social ostracism, Roma/Gypsy Traveller ethnic identities have a tendency to become totalizing thereby rendering almost irrelevant their other identities and loyalties within civil society. In order to deal with this alienation and mistrust there is a need for initiatives at European and national levels which create the conditions for Roma/Gypsies/Travellers to develop, within a multi-cultural context, other equally significant forms of identity. Only then will they see themselves as full citizens with a sense of belonging, sharing in society’s core values, having a say in government, engaging in cultural practices, and advancing through education, training and employment.
18. Social inclusion and social integration should not be equated with the homogenisation of minority ethnic groups. Gypsy/Traveller/Roma cultural identities much be recognised and respected while at the same time acknowledging that culture is not a static phenomenon but one that evolves and develops in such a way that new ethnic markers are created. Consequently, the seeming paradox of constructively resourcing ethnic identity, can also contribute to the development of a more inclusive and multi-cultural society, while making ethnicity one rather than the only or major form of identity.
19.When restrictions and impediments to the economic development of Roma/Gypsies/Travellers are a consequence of ethnic identity then these should be regarded as a form of racial discrimination. Such cases should be the subject of legal investigation and sanctions.
20.In order to avoid exploitation or tokenism the principle of equal treatment of persons as applied to Roma/Gypsies/Travellers involves regarding individuals according to their competencies, professional abilities, moral qualities, and experience when engaged in an activity or programme, and