The problems with the asylum seekers, the challenges of the census, the possible problems of the implementation of the Free Legal Aid and the issue with the housing as part of the Roma Decade were among the key issues discussed on the recent meeting with Lamberto Zannier, OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) secretary general on his visit of Macedonia. The Head of the Mission of OSCE in Skopje, Ralf Breth was also present on the meeting.

Written by Asmet Elezovski

Indeed, a rare opportunity to discuss and analyze these issues in depth with a representative of an organization that should be one of the key international players aiding the international development, the democratic processes and the human rights.

As part of the group of civil organizations representatives, I used this meeting to raise questions about the troubleshooting in the above mentioned topics, to determine the real reasons behind the stalling and the failure of the country to meet the demands required in the Roma Decade in order to improve the situation of the Roma in the country. It seems that everyone is aware that the poor economic state, in which we live in, is the key reason not only for the worrying asylum seekers issue, but for many other, such as the inability to tackle the housing problem for the Roma as an obligation that the country took by its inclusion in the Roma Decade. It is also the key reason behind the recent ethnic tensions; behind the increasing number of emigrants; behind the lack of action to generally improve the condition of the people in distress or the people from marginalized groups.

Another important issue that I wanted to raise is the census problem that we as a country obviously have. To me, it seems directly connected with the Ohrid framework agreement and the need to meet certain percentages in order to ensure righteous participation of the different ethnic groups in the administration of the country. Not to be misunderstood, the agreement has its positive effects and has contributed to the development of the ethnic relations in the country. But I am certain that many will agree that it is also a reason for many issues amongst which is the need for census manipulation. This goes double for the Roma, who have often been manipulated in the past to declare themselves as members of other communities. And this is definitely something that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

Finally, I used this opportunity to open one issue that no one seems to want to distress and that is the effectiveness of the international organizations such as OSCE in the efforts to help those in need. Again, not to be understood incorrectly, I really feel that there certainly is a will at many of these organizations, especially in OSCE to really help for the things to improve. There is a will and there is certainly enough quality in the people that work on the Roma issues, but I feel that sometimes they are overburdened with administrative issues, that they can’t act timely and properly due to the high volume of administrative obligations which makes them ineffective.

We ought to seek their support as often as possible in the next period in order to improve the implementation of the Roma Decade and in the general efforts to improve the conditions of the Roma and of all other people in need. Thus, we need a partner that will promptly give assistance! This way, we will improve even our own effectiveness and we’ll certainly help far more issues to be resolved!

In this manner, I had to inform the representatives of OSCE about the feeling that prevails at many Roma organizations, that the OSCE has neglected the Roma question in the past period. In the past decade, I personally was involved in many activities that OSCE organized, including activities connected with OSCE/ODIHR Contact Point for Roma and Sinthi Issues. Now, I really have a feeling that the dialogue with OSCE on the Roma issues has decreased.

Though not present, I wanted to stress out that the current OSCE’s advisor on Roma and Sinthi Issues, Andrzej Mirga has been lacking in effectiveness and in activity. While with his predecessors, the situation was very different. At the time, I was involved in many processes, many projects such as the Roma and Stability Pact in South Eastern Europe. A movement was felt in general, because thanks to OSCE, the Roma at the time were participating in the creation of the policies and in their implementation.

In fact, when I’ll think about it, I wound have even participated in the meeting with the OSCE representatives if some people like the advisor were present. They seem to be alienated from the Roma community. I really feel that the Roma has been neglected by OSCE in the past period and I suggest that the things should be returned to the way they were. This is especially important in these tough times, when unfortunately many Roma are faced even with security issues, with poverty, with the deportation from far more developed countries than Macedonia. And it is shameful that international organization, such as OSCE have been passive in regards to these problems, not to talk about the desperate need of securing equal rule of law and better implementation of important documents and strategies.

We need more meetings like this, better dialogue with the international organizations. But we also need for them to take part in the dialogue with the political representatives, with the civil organizations and with the Roma community directly.

At this point, I am grateful for the invitation to the meeting, although it was impossible to present the problems of the Roma society in five minutes. Nevertheless, my views hopefully will enhance implementation of national strategic documents for social inclusion of Roma. We need more action of public administration and of public and political features!