Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Observers estimated that there were between 1.8 and 2.5 million Roma in the country, constituting approximately 10 percent of the total population. According to the most recent official census of 2011, there are 621,573 Roma, or 3.1 percent of the population.
Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings, and harassment were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers widely reported societal discrimination against Roma. NGOs reported that Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, many public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, inadequate health care, and pervasive discrimination. A lack of identity documents excluded Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma were disproportionately unemployed or underemployed. A study regarding the inclusion of Roma, conducted in 2012 by Impreuna Agency, a Romani rights NGO, and made public in June, revealed that Romani children have a higher school dropout rate than non-Romani children, Roma have a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy, and similar migration rates as non-Roma.
Stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread. Journalists and several senior government officials, including the president, the prime minister, the mayor of Targu Mures, and others, made statements that were viewed as discriminatory by members of the Romani community; the CNCD fined some individuals as a result. Anti-Romani banners, chants, and songs, particularly at large televised sporting events, were prevalent and widespread. Discriminatory ads continued to appear in written publications and on the internet.
According to media reports, evictions of Roma continued in Baia Mare, Constanta, Craiova, Pitesti, Bucharest, and other localities during the year. In August the mayor of Baia Mare, Catalin Chereches, resumed the eviction of Roma from the Craica neighborhood, which began in 2012. On August 2, 30 Romani families received police notifications to leave the area by August 5. On August 5, bulldozers demolished 15 houses that the mayor argued had been built without any permits. Authorities offered the evicted Roma the opportunity to stay in shelters overnight, but not permanent housing.
NGOs and the media reported that discrimination by teachers and other students against Romani students was a disincentive for Romani children to complete their studies. Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, there were anecdotal reports of school officials placing Romani children in the back of classrooms, teachers ignoring Romani students, and unimpeded bullying of Romani students by other schoolchildren. In some communities authorities placed Romani students in separate classrooms or even in separate schools.
NGO observers noted Romani women faced both gender and ethnic discrimination. Romani women often lacked the training, marketable skills, or relevant work experience to participate in the formal economy.
On June 18, President Basescu stated that, considering the decreasing birth rate, the country’s population would reach 15 million in 2030, the ethnic structure would change because the Romani minority had a high birth rate, and increasing the birth rate represented a mission for ethnic non-Romani women. In reaction the human rights NGOs the Romani Center for Social Intervention and Studies (Romani CRISS) and the Center for Legal Resources stated in an open letter to Basescu that his statements were offensive to both Romani and non-Romani Romanian women, stressing that Basescu’s approach to the birth rate problem was chauvinistic, misogynistic, and discriminatory. On July 3, the CNCD Board expressed disapproval of Basescu’s remarks, noting that they included negative stereotypes regarding Romani women and the role of women in society. It decided unanimously, however, that the statement did not represent a discriminatory act and was within the limits of the freedom of expression.
In January an extremist group based in Timisoara, the Autonomous Nationalists, offered on their website 300 lei ($92) “to each Gypsy woman in the Banat area” who underwent voluntary sterilization. Romani CRISS, MCA Romania, and the Wiesel Institute condemned the revival of extremism and underscored that this proposal represented a serious threat to democratic society. In February the leader of the National Liberal Youth organization of Alba County, Rares Buglea, proposed the sterilization of Romani women on his Facebook page. Faced with vehement criticism, Buglea resigned from the National Liberal Party.
The National Agency for Roma is tasked with coordinating public policies for Roma. Romani NGOs, however, criticized the scope of this agency’s responsibilities, noting that they are too broad and often overlap with the activities of other government bodies. Within the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, an advisory board is responsible for managing the relationship between police and the Romani community. To improve relations with the Romani community, police continued to use Romani mediators to facilitate communication between Roma and authorities and to assist in crises.
According to the most recent census conducted in 2011, ethnic Hungarians were the country’s largest ethnic minority with a population of approximately 1.227 million.
At the beginning of the year, the prefect of Covasna County (a county approximately 75 percent ethnically Hungarian) asked ethnic Hungarian mayors in the county to remove from state institutions the regional Szekler flag, which the county council had adopted as the county’s flag in 2009. Street protests followed the prefect’s request. In June the Court of Appeals in Brasov annulled the county council’s 2009 adoption of the Szekler flag, rendering the use of the regional flag illegal. The decision is not subject to appeal.
According to a preliminary report about the situation of ethnic Hungarian rights in Covasna County made public by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) in June, ethnic Hungarians faced significant discrimination, despite protective provisions of the law. The types of discrimination cited by the UDMR included: not being permitted to use Hungarian in courts and other state institutions; inability to access medicinal drug information in Hungarian; discrimination in education with respect to lingual and cultural curriculum; all personal documents, IDs, and official mail provided only in the Romanian language; anti-Hungarian media campaigns; and legal attacks against the free display of community symbols.
In July the UDMR filed a complaint with the CNCD against the Romanian Agency to Ensure the Quality of Higher Education, which distributed a letter stating that resident doctors have to speak only Romanian with their patients. The UDMR stated that the requirement negatively affected quality of care for ethnic Hungarian patients and inhibited practical training of ethnic Hungarian students.
In the region of Moldavia, the Roman Catholic, Hungarian-speaking Csango minority continued to operate government-funded Hungarian-language classes. The Association of Csango Hungarians in Romania sponsored daily educational activities in the Hungarian language in 25 localities. In some other localities, authorities denied requests for Hungarian-language classes.