11 October 2008 – In reaction to the nomination of the Finnish diplomat Martti Ahtisaari to the Peace Nobel Prize, Romano Them said that the Kosovo Roma have no reason to join the chorus of congratulants. “Mr. Ahtisaari’s achievements in bringing back peace in other parts of the world are undeniable, but in the case of the Kosovo Roma his action was a complete failure.”, the organisation added.

Going back to the brokerage, by the former Finnish Foreign Minister, of the international peace agreement which put an end to the war against Yugoslavia, Romano Them reminded that shortly afterwards an estimated one hundred thousand Roma were driven out of Kosovo and their properties destroyed. Six years later, when Martti Ahtisaari took over the lead of the international negotiation team, which was supposed to bring about an agreement over the status of the province, he, right from the outset, decide to limit his efforts to the two largest communities, excluding all the others.

“For Mr. Ahtisaari and the rest of the international community, we Kosovo Roma, practically did not exist,” a representative of Romano Them said. “They have seen us as some kind of poor and miserable people, with a low level of civilisation, but we never lived under tents or in caravans.” He explained further that the Roma were an integral part of the Kosovo society: “We respected the laws and the system in place,” he said.

According to the organisation, the exclusion of the Roma from the status negotiations has had far-reaching consequences over the position of Roma in Kosovo today. As a matter of fact, the Constitution which was adopted by the Kosovo Parliament in February, largely builds on the proposals which were included in the report prepared by the international negotiation team. “The fact that Mr. Ahtisaari’s main ambition was to satisfy the conflicting demands of the Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, led to the neglect of the interests of the other communities, in particular the Roma, who had no state party to support them,” another representative of Romano Them explained.

As a consequence, the second or even third class position of the Kosovo Roma is today sanctioned by law. Romano Them cited as an example the recent complaints of representatives of the Roma civil society organisations in Prizren who have argued that the draft for the new statute of the municipality has no place for the interest of Roma. “The lack of clear guarantees over the political representation of Roma on municipal level and the usage of the Romani language goes back to the new law on Self-Government and to the Kosovo constitution.”, Romano Them said.

It called it therefore cynical if the international community now readies to send back Roma to Kosovo after depriving them of essential guarantees for their subsistence.

 Romano Them