Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Congressman Christopher H. Smith
Co-Chairman - Helsinki Commission


About a year and a half ago, Nicolae Gheorghe, who will testify before us today, was physically thrown out of a Warsaw restaurant. He had gone there in response to a report that Roma were being excluded from the establishment solely on the basis of their ethnicity and, as he personally discovered, the report was all too true. Adding insult to injury, Poland’s Ambassador to the OSCE later defended this mistreatment, asserting it was a legitimate “public order” measure.

While there continue to be many improvements for Roma, Mr. Gheorghe’s experience at that Warsaw restaurant demonstrates that there continue to be many injustices.

As yesterday, April 8, was marked in many countries around the world as “International Roma Day,” it is particularly fitting that we have this hearing at this time.

We welcome the opportunity to hear today about the OSCE’s activities in this area. The Commission has held a number of hearings where we have been fortunate enough to have OSCE Heads of Mission or other OSCE officials participate, including the Chairman-in-Office last year, and each of these opportunities helps us greatly in understanding the challenges faced by the OSCE community as a whole.

This is also the third Helsinki Commission hearing focusing on Romani human rights issues and, with it, we hope to move from the general to the specific. Ms. Petrova will discuss the different kinds of barriers to education that Roma face and Mr. Russinov will discuss the situation in Bulgaria in particular, including a very encouraging model program in the town of Viden. We will hear an additional perspective on the situation in Bulgaria from the Ambassador of Bulgaria to the United States.