Transnational Organizations, Human Rights Regimes,
                          and the Roma:
           The Cases of Hungary and the Czech Republic

                      Richard M. Clewett, Jr
                   Eastern Kentucky University

Presented at the Duke Conference on Transnational Organizations,
April 9th, 1999

         (Draft version.  Do not cite without permission)

 During the last several decades an increasingly stringent and attention-demanding web of
human rights regimes has come into being as the result of the creation of a number of
transnational bodies to which states, particularly in Europe, have ceded parts of their autonomy.
As the countries of Central Europe attempt to integrate themselves again into Europe and gain
entrance to such organization as the Council of Europe and the European Union, they have been
expected to take on the full weight of these detailed human rights regimes and to conform the
laws and behaviors of their governments and citizens to them.  They have had to take on this
obligation at the same time they are converting their economic and political systems in order to
meet the standards of these same organizations, particularly the European Union (Preston 113).
The pressures of this situation are hurting as well as helping the Roma (gypsies,  tsganie).  At the
same time,  the treatment of the Roma is increasingly becoming a litmus test for governments in
Central Europe, both in terms of human rights per se and, in a more complicated way, in the
process of proving to such transnational bodies as the Council of Europe and the European Union
that they are functioning democracies (Leff 246-247).  In this paper, I will describe briefly the
increasingly exigent web of transnational human rights regimes currently in play in Central Europe
and compare the efforts of the Czech and Hungarian governments to improve the often deplorable
conditions in which Roma in their countries live.  I will also examine briefly factors that are
leading to a general worsening of economic, political, and human rights conditions in these
countries despite the efforts of their central governments and the increasing emphasis on human
rights standards and enforcement mechanisms.

 The Increasing Articulation and Clout of International Human Rights Regimes
 When the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, it
was essentially a set of aspirations without binding legal force.  In the 1960s and 1970s, the
United Nations member countries formulated and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.  “The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires states to ensure rights to life, due
process of law, freedom of expression and religion, freedom to travel, cultural rights of minorities,
participation in government, equality and protection from discrimination, and the right to marry
and have a family” (Jacobson 78).  In 1965, the United nations also adopted the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
 After World War II, the Council of Europe was established to promote human rights
within Europe.  Its European Convention on Human Rights was based upon the UN’s Declaration
and intended to help give it teeth.  The Council of Europe established an international court, the
European Court of Human Rights, to which human rights cases involving member countries can
be brought.   Both the Court and the Convention are intended to advance international human
rights in Europe.  Anyone can make claims under the convention.  The judges of the Court of
Human Rights do not have to be members of any contracting state.  The Convention has become
“the nucleus of a European constitution and a European Bill of Rights” (80-81).
 The third major interlocking institution that promotes and legislates on human rights in
Europe is the Organization (formerly the Council) of Security and Cooperation in Europe.  The
CSCE was originally established  in 1975 by the Helsinki Final Act as an instrument of cold war
diplomacy.  In 1990 it redirected its efforts to function as “an intergovernmental institution for the
promotion of human rights” ( Jacobson 79).  Its 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe
explicitly acknowledges the right to choose and belong to an ethnic or national minority.  The
Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human dimension of the CSCE
(1990) states:
          To belong to a national minority is a matter of a person’s individual choice and no
     disadvantage may arise from the exercise of such choice.  Persons belonging to
     national minorities have the right freely to express, preserve and develop their
     ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity and develop their culture in all its
     aspects, free from any attempts at assimilation against their will. (Struggle 129)
 Within this context of overlapping human rights regimens, various organizations have
recognized the unusual circumstances and needs of the Roma in the context of combating
discrimination and “racial and ethnic hatred.”   Isabel Fonseca summarizes this chain of events as
          At Copenhagen (and later, in more and more clauses and articles, at Moscow,
     Oslo, Geneva, and Helsinki), the fifty-two nation members of the Conference on
     Security and Cooperation in Europe  . . . "recognized the particular problems of
     the Roma" in Europe, in the context of intolerance, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia
     in general.  The UN Commission on Human Rights followed with a controversial
     recognition of the Roma minority--controversial because not all its members
     recognized Gypsies as a people.  In the form of the International Romani Union,
     the Gypsies had already (in 1979) been recognized by the Economic and Social
     Council of the United Nations, but it was only in 1993, following  strenuous
     lobbying by Gheorghe and Ian Hancock, that this recognition was raised from
     symbolic "consultative" status to a vote. (Fonseca 202)
Under the aegis of the OSCE, the Central European countries also signed, in 1994, the Central
European Initiative, which included a detailed document “for the protection of minority rights”
(CEI Instrument).
 This stream of agreements led to the creation of several organizations especially
concerned with the human rights of the Roma: the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues in the
OSCE, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw, and the
Council of Europe Special Group for Roma/Gypsies (Muller).  It has also led to a substantial flow
of human rights monitoring reports concerning the Roma in Central Europe.  These include the
U.S. State Department country reports, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against
Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) country reports, the United Nation’s Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) country reports, the country reports of
the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Amnesty International, and ad hoc reports such as the 1996
CSCE report on “Ex Post Facto Problems of the Czech Citizenship Law (“Ex Post”).
  Treatment of the Roma Historically and Especially in the Late Soviet Period
 Why have these various international bodies thought that the human rights of Roma
required special attention?  The answer lies in their long history as victims of all but universal
discrimination, including enslavement in Romania and adjacent regions and genocide at the hands
of Hitler’s Nazi regime.  Historically, the Roma have been subjected to one of two paradigmatic
fates: either legislation was passed to prevent them from settling or even setting foot in a region,
or else legislation was passed to force them to settle either as slaves or as assimilated members of
the mainstream community (Crowe, passim).  In Soviet Hungary and Czechoslovakia, both of
these policies had some sway.
 Like all the other Central European countries, Hungary and the Czech Republic have both
been plagued by two legacies of the Soviet period that had been particularly important to the fate
of the Roma.  One is what has been called the “post-communist syndrome” and the other is a
particularly strong emphasis on national and ethnic identities that resulted in part from the needs
and policies of the Soviet regime.  To deal with this second issue first, it is true, of course that
there has been an all but world-wide increase in the extent to which people and groups have come
to think of themselves in ethnic and national terms.  This trend has been dealt with extensively in
the literature of globalization as a kind of reaction to the increasingly strong economic forces of
global capitalism that are perceived by many people as threatening their ways of life as well as
their livelihood itself (Castells).
 Unlike elsewhere, however, in communist Russia and Central Europe, ethnic nationalism
was the only ideology, other than Marxism itself,  that was tolerated and sometimes even
encouraged by Soviet authorities.  According to Ronald Suny, “the Soviet state’s deeply
contradictory policy nourished the cultural uniqueness of distinct peoples.  It thereby increased
ethnic solidarity and national consciousness in the non-Russian republics, even as it frustrated full
articulation of a national agenda by requiring conformity to an imposed political order” (quoted in
Castells 38-9).  Thus, Castells argues that during the final stages of the breakup of the Soviet
empire “[n]ationalism, including Russian nationalism, provided the ideological basis for social
mobilization in a society where strict political ideologies,  not relying on historical-cultural
identity, suffered the backlash of cynicism and disbelief generated by seven decades of
indoctrination in the themes of communist utopia” (38).
 This dynamic applied not only within the Soviet Union but also in the former satellite
countries of Central Europe.  The communist governments in these countries followed the
example of Moscow in recognizing official ethnic or national minorities, whose cultures, then,
were protected and promoted, as long as such activities did not interfere with the primacy of
communist ideology or Moscow’s centralized control.  During most of the period between the
end of World War II and the demise of the Soviet empire, the communist governments of
Hungary and Czechoslovakia refused to grant the Roma official recognition as a minority
nationality, characterizing the Roma, rather, as a deviant social group that needed to be re-formed
and assimilated.  This prevailing policy coexisted with periodic and some more or less sustained,
though sometimes half-hearted, attempts to combat anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination
practiced against the Roma by members of majority ethnic groups.
 The second legacy of the communist period relevant here, the “post-communist
syndrome,” has already been alluded to in Castells’s remarks about the “backlash of cynicism and
disbelief” generated by the long decades of communist rule:
          This malady stems in part from the Communists’ destruction of moral standards.
     While claiming to be the vanguard of a new man in a new society, the Communists
     revealed themselves to be ruthless, selfish, opportunistic, brutal, cruel, deceitful.
     The gap between the Communist promise and the reality of life under
     totalitarianism created cynical, bitter and resentful people (Editorial preface to Ulc
 The result of these two legacies from the Soviet period is a strain of rabid and unashamed
racism.  Thus, Ulc says:
          As in other post-Communist countries, being labeled a racist is no cause for any
     particular embarrassment.  It is boasted about with patriotic pride among some
     Czechs, notably among the poorly educated manual laborers with shaved heads
     and fierce expressions–the skinheads loosely organized in subgroups known as
     Rdshini, Sharpskini, Naziskini, or Knights of Ku-Klux-Klan.  These groups are
     openly anti-Semitic and express nostalgia for the Nazi era and its methods. (Ulc
To this skinhead violence must be added a layer of rural, peasant ethnic violence that has also
been on the increase throughout the region.
Comparative Sketch of the Efforts Made by the Czech and Hungarian
   Governments During the Past Decade to Deal with the Claims
                      and Needs of the Roma

 In a July 1998 CSCE hearing on human rights problems of the Roma in Central Europe,
David Crowe and the other experts agreed, that while all of the countries in the region had their
pluses and minuses, Hungary ranked in the top echelon of Central European countries in terms of
the attempts of its government to promote the human rights of the Roma, while the Czech
Republic ranked near the bottom (Romani 22).  This contrast may seem all the more surprising
given the general esteem in which the Czech Republic is held as one of the countries in the region
most likely to succeed in converting itself into a western style democracy complete with privatized
capitalistic economy and, further because of the stature of its president Vaclav Havel, as a
spokesperson for decency, democracy, European values, and, specifically human rights.  Roma
are highly unpopular in both countries, and it is implausible to try to explain the better track
record of the Hungarian government with respect to the Roma on the basis of difference in level
of popular prejudice.  Rather, the differences in the human rights records of the Czech and
Hungarian governments with respect to the Roma can be explained by the convergence of a
number of factors.  These include (1) the history of the governmental transition from communism
in each country, (2) the historical distribution of the Roma within the boundaries of each country,
(3) the number and relative importance of minority ethnic populations within the country, and,
finally, (4) the number of Czechs and Hungarians in neighboring countries.
 Continuity with the Communist era among the political actors during the formation of the
post-communist Hungarian constitution and government led to a relatively coherent, thoughtful,
and sustained governmental policy toward the Roma in Hungary.  By contrast, in the Czech
Republic, where the Communists were excluded from participation, frequent changes of
government have led to great vacillation in governmental policy and structure.
 The relatively enlightened quality of the Hungarian government’s Roma policies is also
partially the result of the fact that a somewhat higher percentage of the Hungarian population
consists of members of non-Magyar minority nationalities than is true of non-Czech groups in the
Czech Republic.  In Hungary there are thirteen recognized minority nationalities and they
constitute just more than 10% of the population (Hungary).   By contrast, there are six  minority
groups in the Czech Republic and they constitute a mere 5.6% of the population (Czech
Republic).  Moreover, the Hungarian government is much more worried about the human rights
of minority groups in the abstract because of its concern about Hungarian (Magyar) minority
populations in a number of neighboring countries.   By taking the high ground and setting an
example through its own laws concerning ethnic minorities, the Hungarian government seeks to
gain leverage in the international community and with neighboring governments to ensure that
ethnic Magyars within their borders will be treated well.  The Czech government has no parallel
source of concern (Leff  248).  Thus, the Czech Republic is in greater danger of conceiving itself
as an ethnic state; its twentieth century history also clearly inclines it in this direction, arguably,
but not clearly, more so than is the case in Hungary.  Thus, the "Government Programme for a
Civic Hungary" claims that cultural diversity is part of the Hungarian tradition, while Sayer  has
demonstrated how the ideology of the Czech state came to focus during the later part of the
nineteenth century on Czech ethnic nationalism, to the exclusion of German and other minorities.
The follow passage from the Programme suggests the present government stance, and the "usable
past" it is trying to create:
          Cultural diversity has been typical of Hungary for centuries.  There is hardly a
     family in Hungary where there are not 3-4 different nationalities among the
     ancestors.  This is one of Hungary's advantages reaching back to the centauries,
     which we should consciously care for not only because we are obliged to do so in
     international treaties but also because it is a long term national interest.  (43)
 Two developments symbolically capture the difference in governmental policy toward the
Roma in Hungary and the Czech Republic during the past decade.  They are, on the one hand, the
system of minority self-governments established in Hungary and, on the other, the anti-Roma
provisions of the citizenship law instituted in 1993 by the Czech government after the “Velvet
Divorce,” as the separation of the former Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak successor
states is sometimes called.
                    The Czech Citizenship Law

 The expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from western Czechoslovakia after World War II
reduced what had been a sizable and once influential German population to a mere remnant.
After the Velvet Divorce, this left the new Czech Republic as very heavily Czech-dominated
entity.  During the years preceding the end of communist rule, the Czechoslovakian government
had adopted a policy of forced resettlement of Roma intended to break up their concentration in
parts of Slovakia and distribute them throughout the country.   The policy was also intended to
force them to assimilate as part of the industrial population.   This provoked a great deal of
resentment among the general population and frequent non-compliance among local government
functionaries, since localities were required to provide housing, which was scarce, and jobs for he
relocated Roma (Crowe 57).  The result was that some local governments refused to register the
relocated Roma, leaving them without residence permits, and, thus, outside the law.
 In 1993, when Czechoslovakia divided into two countries, the government of the new
Czech Republic passed a citizenship law that seemed intended to force many of the Roma
currently living in the Czech Republic to move to Slovakia.  While President Havel’s speeches
sounded a very different note, the actions of the Czech legislators who drafted the new citizenship
law proclaimed, in effect,  that Roma were not welcome in the Czech Republic and that the Czech
state was to be a nationalist rather than an inclusive, civic entity.  In the words of the U.S. State
Department’s country report on the Czech Republic for 1998, “[w]ithout Czech citizenship under
the law, many Roma who are long-term residents or were born in the Czech Republic have no
right to work, vote, or receive health insurance and other social benefits.”  In the face of repeated
protest and criticism from human rights NGOs, the UNHCR and the council of Europe, the
citizenship law was amended in 1996 “to waive the requirement for a clean criminal record,” but
thousands of Roma living in the Czech Republic are still in legal limbo as a result of the 1993 law
(State Department Report of Czech Republic; Ex Post).
 While many other factors were clearly involved, the signal sent to Czech society by the
Citizenship law may have contributed to what a March 1998 CERD  report claimed to be a sixfold
increase in hate crimes committed in the Czech Republic between 1994 and 1996 (European
Roma).  The Czech Helsinki Committee’s extensive Report on the State of Human Rights in the
Czech Republic in 1997 concluded:
          But what seems unbelievable is the reluctance with which the Czech government
     and all other state bodies approach their international agreements.  What is
     shocking is not so much the discrepancies between the demanded norms and
     reality, but the lack of interest of the Czech government to efficiently deal with
     these problems.
         The Hungarian System of Minority Self-Government
 Shortly after the end of the communist era the new Hungarian legislature started working
on the legislation to create what has become an elaborate system of legislative and administrative
bodies designed to give the thirteen official minority nationalities some measure of collective
control over the factors affecting their lives.  These efforts culminated in the Law on Minorities
(Act XXVII of 1993).  The minority self-governments are supposed to help the national
minorities protect their rights and interests and preserve and nurture their traditional languages
and cultures.  It is an elaborate system, involving two new kinds of local institutions, Minority
Local Governments and Local Minority Self-Governments, and a National Minority Self-
Government for each minority.  These bodies are not intended to provide large-scale autonomy
for the different ethnic groups, but “to enhance the ability of the minorities to discuss and
articulate their interests” (Kovats 47).  Thus,
          In matters affecting members of the minority, the self-government is entitled to
     make representations to the relevant administrative authorities and their officials in
     order to (1) request information, (2) make recommendations, (3) express
     disapproval of actions taken which infringe the rights of the minority, and (4)
     initiate procedures for the review or reversal of a decision . . .
           The Minorities Law also gives local self-governments the power to veto
     decisions of the local authority which affect the minority in the areas of culture,
     education, the local media, and the public use of their mother tongue. (47)
 To supplement and help enforce this system of minority self-governments, the Hungarian
legislature established in June 1995 a Parliamentary Commissioner for Minority Affairs who acts
as an ombudsman, and there is also a Secretary of State for Minority Affairs (50).  This system
has taken most of the past decade to be put into effect.  On the basis of these efforts, the
Hungarian government claims to be at the forefront of European efforts to deals with minority
 Nonetheless, the Hungarian system of minority self-government and related legislation
looks better on paper than in practice, at least when it comes to the experiences of the Roma.
Traditional attitudes of ethnic animosity, compounded by major economic and social dislocation,
clearly place huge obstacles in the way of government policies designed to combat racism and
human rights violations.
 One of the main problems with the Hungarian system of self government is the fact that
anyone can vote for representatives to minority self-governments.  “It has been estimated that
fewer than ten percent of those who voted for Roma self-governments were Roma themselves”
(Kovats 52).  This results from the fact that ballots including candidates for minority self-
governments are distributed to all voters, since it is against the law to keep records of  nationality
or ethnicity.  Thus, anyone who wishes can claim to belong to a minority nationality, even if only
for the purpose of influencing an election (Burger).  Other problems include the fact that
"underfunding and lack of cooperation from local and national governments gives the minority
governments few opportunities to improve the lot of people."  Indeed, according to an official
report, Roma self-governments don't have sufficient means to accomplish their uniquely
complicated tasks. “Whereas the self-governments of the national minorities are active mainly in
the areas of education, culture, and preserving traditions, the Gypsy self-governments have the
additional tasks which relate to social, health and employment questions" (Report no. J/3670).
All this has led Alison Lys, of the British government’s Know How Fund, to conclude: “In theory
the act is wonderful, but in practice it produces an instant ghetto system" (Sobotkova).  On the
basis of his dissertation research, Martin Kovats has concluded that one of the main motives of
the Hungarian government in developing its system of minority self-governments was to create a
structure in which it would seem internationally acceptable to also promote Magyar
nationalism–i.e, the ethnic identity of the majority (Kovats, Personal).  Nonetheless, Hungary
clearly has better Human and Minority Rights laws in place than does the Czech Republic, and the
central government in Budapest has made a greater attempt to see that its laws are enforced than
has the government in Prague.
  NGOs, Transnational Governing Bodies, International Funding,
                  and the Roma of Central Europe
 As has already been suggested, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other Central European
countries are trying, for practical reasons, at least, to give the appearance of satisfying the
transnational human rights regimes.  They have been aided and pressured in this effort by  NGOs
working often in collaboration with the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the EU.  The nature
and scope of this collaboration can be illustrated by means of brief descriptions of four specific
NGOs: the Project for Ethnic Relations (PER), the European Roma Right Center (ERRC), the
Roma Participation Project, and the Czech Helsinki Committee.
 The Project on Ethnic Relations is headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey and is
principally funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with additional funding from the
Starr Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Philip D. Reed Foundation.  It was founded
in 1991
          in anticipation of the serious interethnic conflicts that were to erupt following the
     collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
     Union. PER conducts programs of high-level intervention and dialogue and serves
     as a neutral mediator in several major disputes in the region. PER also conducts
     programs of training, education, and research at international, national, and
     community levels.
It has concerned itself especially with the fate of the Roma in Central Europe, staging a number of
conferences with various governments and groups in the region.  PER is involved in a number of
ongoing projects involving the education of Romani leaders and has staged conferences designed
to improve coverage of the Roma in the press (Project on Ethnic Relations).
 The Czech Helsinki Committee is a country-based human rights monitoring group.  It
does extensive research on human rights in the Czech Republic and publishes a thorough report.
The committee receives major funding from the Ford Foundation, the UNHCR, which supports
its counseling Centre for Refugees and its Citizenship Counseling Centre, and the Phare/Tacis
Democracy Programme of the European Union.
 Three other NGOs may be mentioned to complete this illustration of the range of
internationally funded bodies that deal in different ways with the human rights of the Roma in
Central Europe.  One is the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, which produced six very informative
newsletters and sponsored three Roma-relation conferences in the 1996-1998 period.  It seems to
be defunct now, perhaps a casualty of the temporary shutdown of the Phare/Tacis program, at
that time the “largest funder of Czech NGOs,  because of an interruption in funding from the EU
 The European Roma Rights Center is a  public interest law center specializing  in the
Roma.  It is headquartered in Budapest and includes as major sponsors the Soros Open Society
Institute, the PHARE Democracy Programme of the European Union, which is intended to help
Central European countries meet the requirements for admission into the EU; the Ford
Foundation; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the United States Information Service.
 The ERRC acts to combat racism and discrimination against Roma.  It also helps Roma learn
how to defend their own rights by engaging in a wide number of activities. These include
monitoring, issuing reports, supporting legal services, giving grants to other organizations that
promote its goals, legal research, and offering legal scholarships to Roma.  ERRC takes Roma
human rights cases before the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe, and
has been developing creative litigation strategies in such transnaitonal bodies to gain maximal
leverage in countries what “domestic courts still show that they do not understand and are not
interested in the international human rights standards” (Plese).
 Another kind of NGO funded in a sense by outside money and pursuing goals
complementary to those of the ERRC is Soros’ Open Society Program’s Roma Participation
Program (RPP), which was begun in 1997 to help
          Roma help themselves in the struggle for greater integration into the societies of
     the countries in which they live. The program aims to open the way for Roma to
     lead peaceful lives amidst the general population, and at the same time retain their
     cultural identity; to empower them to take part in the democratic process and to
     fight for an open society in which they can take part as equal partners.  (About)
The RPP is very much an advocacy and self-help organization.  It was created by the parent
foundation in part to overcome the inertia of the foundation’s country-based Open Society
organizations.  As a group, the Soros-sponsored organizations constitute an impressive force
concerned with promoting human rights and democracy in Eastern Europe.  But such
organizations also provoke backlash reactions among conservative Hungarian political parties, as
has the Soros-funded European University in Budapest.
      Recent Developments in Hungary and the Czech Republic
 Despite the work of all these complexly inter-related NGOs, transnational governing
bodies, and individual Czech and Hungarian officials and citizens, it has been argued that the
social and human rights conditions of the Roma throughout Central Europe have declined in
recent years:
          Roma have gained legal acceptance as a minority and are now allowed to organize
     themselves both politically and culturally.  In most of the above-mentioned
     countries Roma are now represented in legislative bodies or at least in advising
     councils.  Programs for the improvement of their social and economic situation
     have also been developed.  But neither their theoretical legal equality nor the
     supporting programs have any recent influence on the real situation.  Most of the
     supporting programs help more to calm the conscience of the initiators than attack
     the basis for the exclusion of Roma from society.  (Muller)
 In the Czech Republic there has been a flurry of activity concerning the Roma as a result
of the negative press the Czechs have received stinging criticism because of the flight of Roma to
England and Canada and the Canadian government’s granting exile status to some of these
refugees.  The Czechs have also received stringing criticism in human rights monitoring reports.
In 1997 (Government Report Aims) and again recently there was a reorganization of the
governmental structures for dealing with Roma affairs (Racially motivated).  Last August, the
new Prime Minister floated the not very practical idea of outlawing the skinhead movement
(Greene).  The last years of Vaclav Claus’ Prime Ministership saw a series of laws proposed to
limit the entrance of foreigners and foreign business into the republic (Larsen; Boermans).   Some
of these proposals seemed to conflict with EU human rights standards (Farnam).  Once again in
his New Year’s speech on January first, 1999, President Havel make an impassioned plea against
the tendency of Czechs to put up walls between themselves and Roma and others they view as
foreigners (Havel).
 In both Hungary and the Czech Republic some efforts have been made to address the
extraordinary educational needs of Romani children resulting from the illiteracy of many of their
parents, the fact that they sometimes encounter a second language at school, and the general
distrust of and even antagonism among Roma towards schooling (Roma/Gypsy).  These efforts
must be seen, however, against widespread segregation of Roma in special classes and in special
schools for the mentally retarded.  Similarly, some efforts have recently been made in both
countries to improve the coverage of Romani affairs in the mainstream press and to train Roma
journalists (Burger, Gypsy Reporters), but these efforts must be seen against pervasively negative
and prejudiced reporting in the press, particularly outside of the capital cities.  Hungarian courts
have recently made some precedent-setting decisions in favor of Roma rights, including a 1998
case of segregated schooling (Hungarian court).  In October of 1998, the Hungarian Minister of
Justice set about preparing plans to counter workplace discrimination (Hungarian Ministry).
 In both Hungary and the Czech Republic one can find restaurants that will not serve
Roma.  Even since the last decades of the communist era, the Roma of both countries have been
targets of animosity from portions of the majority population that felt they were getting special
treatment.  Today this is an especially sensitive issue.  More generally, it seems as if human rights
advocacy by and on the part of the Roma has had a certain backlash effect in Central Europe, just
as the publicity attending the attempts of Czech Roma to gain asylum in the West has lead, in the
opinion of some Roma activists, to an increase in anti-Roma prejudice in America and Western
Europe (Hancock).  As an index of the worsening conditions in which many Roma in the Czech
Republic live, there have recently been several episodes of Romani retaliation violence against
police and others, and there is fear of a similar trend starting in Hungary.
        The Roma and the European Union Accession Process
 The emphasis in various European Union documents on the enforcement of human rights,
specifically with respect to the Roma, as a requirement for accession of Central European
countries to full membership in the European Union needs to be balanced against three
considerations.  First, these human rights concerns compose only one category of accession
standards, and this is a category which tends, in fact, to take back seat to the numerous technical
requirements concerning legal, market, and governmental procedures (Muller).   Second, the
Roma are often treated as second class citizens in the major countries currently composing the
European Union and it can be argued that something like a tacit understanding exists that Romani
human rights records will not be a crucial issue when it comes to final accession decisions, despite
the rhetoric to the contrary.
 Third, many of the present European Union countries are extremely concerned by the
prospect of large influxes of Roma and other refugees from such countries as the former
Yugoslavia and Albania  inundating Western Europe.  Whether these fears are warranted, they
play a significant part in national and EU politics.  In the minds of most EU countries, the
Central European countries are viewed as a worrisome source of entrance of immigrant and
undocumented populations in Europe from further east and from Third World Countries.  In
theory, free movement of populations within the EU is supposed to be balanced by a
strengthening of its external borders, and Central European countries are already feeling very
strong pressures to seal off their borders to the east and south (Western Europe’s).  They are also
being pressured by individual EU member countries through bilateral treaties to prevent asylum
seekers from transiting through their countries to Germany and England.  No Central European
government can reasonably doubt that in future accession negotiations, and when applications are
finally judged, the issue of secure borders will trump that of the human rights records of
governments with respect to minority populations such as the Roma.  Further, it is not a forgone
conclusion at this point that the Central European countries will be admitted into the EU, and
certainly not that this will occur “in a timely fashion.”  Increasing frustration has been expressed
by the Hungarian government and others about the very slow rate of movement in that direction,
and about the shifting positions, requirements, politics and signals emanating from the western
European countries and EU bodies.  There is some amount of backlash against the demands of the
EU accession process and against the liberal values on which it is based, including those
concerning human rights and democratic process.
                    Globalization and the Roma
 In a recent article, Andras Biro, the President of the Europan Roma Rights Center in
Budapest, summed up the problems facing the Roma as follows:
          The future of the Roma will greatly depend on how deeply and at what pace the
     societies and economies of CEE are integrated into the process of globalization.
     Will, for instance, the gap in the labour market widen as production and services
     require ever more sophisticated skills?  What happens if the influence of right wing
     parties continues to grow and exclusion and violence take on more serious
     proportions?  Is assimilation or integration the answer?  How will unemployed
     urban Roma youth deal with its growing frustrations?  Is the Los Angeles syndrom
     a real threat?   What educational strategies are appropriate for Roma children at a
     time when employment opportunities are not only diminishing but changing in
     character?  Is the revival of disappearing traditional Roma skills a practical option?
     What about family planning: can the Third World-like rate of demographic growth
     continue? (Biro 34)
The prospects facing the Roma in Central Europe are daunting, to say the least.  Castells and
others have written about the way in which the global flows of capital, information, and people
tend to create areas within countries and regions, and even within urban areas, where certain
groups are left behind, without relevant competencies, attitudes, or resources.  The Roma are
prime candidates for such a fate.  Despite the fundamentally rural character of their traditional
culture, the Roma of Central Europe are likely to be congregated increasingly in the slums of
Budapest, where they already number close to one hundred thousand, and other  cities.  Here, if
conditions continue to worsen, what Biro calls the “Los Angeles effect” may well occur.  At a
1995 Council of Europe conference on cities, the then Mayor of Budapest spoke of increases in
violence directed against Roma because of the worsening economic conditions within the country.
In such strained circumstances urban Roma are doubly targets for persecution, not only because
of traditional prejudices but also because they are perceived as the recipients of large amounts of
public aid and special treatment.
 The Council of Europe, some NGOs, and local governments are trying to develop a
concept of nonexclusive identity and citizenship based on place.  An official of the city of
Strasbourg, where the Council has its headquarters, spoke of these attempts at the conference
alluded to above:
          However, we are also working towards a citizenship based on residence in other
     ways, such as welcoming exiled or persecuted writers as part of the initiative taken
     by the International Parliament of Writers.  To be a citizen of Strasbourg is
     therefore to belong to a place and a population and to find a new identity without
     renouncing one's history, convictions or origins.
                    This new form of citizenship and representation is an integral part of the
     approach aimed at injecting life into new forms of mediation in order to achieve
     urban equality; that is equality between residents and between districts.  (Local
     democracy 31)
Similarly, Mr. Abdou Menebhi, speaking on behalf of The Migrant Forum’s  proposal on
"citizenship and participation in community policymaking, ” claimed that "towns and cities have a
duty to educate people in a European citizenship dissociated from nationality.  All towns and
cities with migrants should allow the setting up of advisory councils as a first step towards
participation in community and public life" (59).  Such a concept of European citizenship, closely
allied to transnaitonal concepts of human rights, would certainly benefit the Roma, whether or not
they are migrant.
 Saskia Sassen has recently claimed that the very fact that a kind of “global underclass” of
poor, unskilled, and often immigrant people tends to congregate in cities that are hubs of the
Global Economy may actually work to give these people a chance to make themselves and their
needs and claims visible to those wielding political and economic power (xxi).  Perhaps there may
be some such effect in Central Europe, but this is, of course, a logic of desperation–a putting of a
most promising possible construal on a prospect that is not promising.
 Finally, to return to the increasing flow of human rights regimes, monitoring apparatuses,
and pressures in Hungary and the Czech Republic, nothing I have said should be taken to
undercut the value and importance of these undertakings.  Clearly they do stand to be of some
help to the Roma of the region.  And clearly, it is important for a government to be serious,
consistent, and aggressive in trying to ensure the human rights of the Roma and other minority
groups through its laws and administrative structures.  However, such efforts cannot countervail
against a combination of popular prejudice, local administrative resistance, and the perception of
deteriorating economic circumstances, with its concomitant danger of political instability.   In
trying to incorporate the whole of Central Europe, the European Union is engaged in an
undertaking of Herculean dimensions.  In trying to weave an effective and enforceable web of
human rights regimes, the United Nations and the European community are engaged in an even
grander and more difficult undertaking.  To use of the metaphor of global flows, the flow of
human rights regimens will have difficulty not being submerged by the flows of capital and the
flows of hapless people, but some of the global flows of information today concern human rights
and these flows can only be expected to increase in the future.  Whatever the fate of the Roma of
Central Europe, it will be increasingly well documented and it will be accompanied by increasingly
numerous and intense efforts on the parts of  NGOs and transnaitonal organizations.