Governments in OSCE participating States urgently need to tackle persistent discrimination and negative public and political discourse targeting Roma and Sinti. They are unfortunately frequent targets of prejudiced portrayals by politicians and public officials, said participants at the OSCE's annual human rights conference in Warsaw on 5 October.
“We observe an increasing number of reported incidents involving populist politicians who scapegoat Roma and Sinti in their public speeches to gain electoral support,” said ODIHR First Deputy Director Douglas Wake. “These developments have the potential to erupt into open conflicts.”
A joint statement by 30 Roma activists from across Europe warned that, in many instances, negative stereotypes of Roma are supported by the media.
“Very often we witness hateful, populist rhetoric that caters to anti-Gypsy public opinion being used not only by extremist parties, but by mainstream ones,” the statement said.
Jeroen Schokkenbroek, the Council of Europe Secretary General’s Special Representative for Roma Issues said that hostile and provocative public discourse concerning Roma and Sinti deepens inter-ethnic tensions and perpetuate prejudices.
Referring to instances of incitement to hatred against Roma, he said that “quick and decisive action is needed not only to bring culprits to justice but also to avoid escalation.”
Participants underlined the need to fully implement the OSCE Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in continuing work to close the economic and social gaps between Roma and Sinti, on the one hand, and wider societies in the countries in which they live, on the other hand.