Roma Congress chooses new president

28-07-2000

The World Congress of the International Roma Union that was held in Prague this week has certainly made plenty of progress, with a new statute requesting the recognition of a Roma nation, a call for Germany to issue an apology for the Roma Holocaust, and the election a of new president of the organisation. Nick Carey has the details:

The creation of a new statute for the International Roma Union is an important step forward for the Roma. The IRU has been in existence for more than thirty years. As one delegate at the World Congress put it, throughout this time it has been the top political representative body for the Roma, but its statute has never reflected this. The top and most important part of the new statute is a declaration that the Roma want to be recognised as a nation, as so far the Roma have not been acknowledged as such by the UN.

The delegates at the World Congress also made the step of calling on Germany to apologise for what has become known as the Roma Holocaust, in which up to half a million Roma were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War. The Roma say that they are the only nation that has so far not received any such apology from Germany. As part of the discussions on this point at the conference, delegates agreed to set up a fund for a memorial to those who perished in the Roma Holocaust, known in the Romani language as 'the Devouring.'

The culmination of Thursday's activities at the World Congress was the election of a new president for the International Roma Union. The successful candidate for the post was Emil Scuka, previously general secretary, who has also been fulfilling the tasks of the president since last year. Mr. Scuka, a Czech Roma activist, is also a member of the working group at the Czech government's Minorities Council, dealing with issue of violence against Roma. After his election at president of the IRU on Thursday, Mr. Scuka told journalists that his first task as president would be to set up the new headquarters of the IRU in Brussels, which he wants to achieve within the next few months.

The new assistant general secretary of the IRU, Sean Nazerali, said afterwards that the election of a new president and in particular the approval of a new statute will lead to much needed democratisation and unity in the organisation. The Roma are the victims of racial attacks throughout Eastern and Central Europe. Working together will undoubtedly help their common cause.

28-07-2000