12 October 2008 – Following the invitation by the Office of the Kosovo Prime Minister, Romano Them submitted its comments on the draft strategy for the integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities of Kosovo. Romano Them’s comments are summarized in the accompanying letter to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Dear Mr. Hajredini,

We are pleased to forward you our comments regarding the Draft Strategy for the Integration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo. Our comments are in no way comprehensive as a comprehensive analysis of the text would have involved a further document study.

We regret that the diaspora was not included in the consultation process when the strategy was drafted.

Romano Them aims to promote the human rights of Roma from Kosovo and the rights of the Kosovo Roma diaspora. We believe that the draft strategy needs a substantial overhaul in order to contribute to the full inclusion of Roma in the Kosovo society.

Through our work, we have noticed the adoption of laws which confine Roma to the status of second class citizens. This concerns for instance the law on local self-government which does not even include minimum guarantees for the representation of Roma at the local level.

We also believe that Roma should be mentioned in the Constitution of Kosovo as a constituent people and that the Romani language should be given the same status as the Serbian and Albanian language.

 We therefore believe that a first step should be to carefully analyse the existing legal framework in order to make sure that it treats Roma as equal citizens. We furthermore believe that any actions to be developed in the context of the Roma strategy should be mainstreamed within the relevant sectoral policies.

We have also noticed some linguistic inconsistency. We believe for instance that the word “affirmative action” should be defined and the same wording applied throughout the text.

We generally believe that the different parts of the text should be better adjusted to one another. For this purpose it might be useful to more clearly spell out the underlying philosophy of the document.

We noticed with concern the underlying message that the situation of Roma has always been difficult in Kosovo as everywhere and that Roma have always been discriminated against. This diverts from the detrimental impact of war and ethnic cleansing on the Kosovo Roma.

 In the spirit of tolerance and interethnic reconciliation, we believe that the Kosovo authorities should recognize the harm and injustice done to the Roma communities. This recognition is necessary in order to create trust among the Kosovo Roma communities and set the basis for a multi-ethnic society.

We very much hope that our suggestions and comment will be duly taking into account and that the strategy will be improved and streamlined and endowed with the necessary budget for its implementation.

 We would appreciate being informed when the sectoral action plans will be drafted.

 Kind regards,

Romano Them