International Roma Day is an opportunity call attention to the history, experience, and human rights of Europe’s largest ethnic minority.
Promoting and protecting the rights of Roma has long been of personal interest to me. I saw firsthand the plight of the Roma – particularly Romani women and children – when I visited Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe as First Lady. As a member of the Helsinki Commission, I urged governments to do more to protect and promote the 10 million Roma who live in Europe.
Despite important progress that has been made in the past decade, many Roma still live on the margins of society. They continue to experience racial profiling, violence, discrimination and other human rights abuses. Too often they lack identity documents or citizenship papers, which excludes them from voting, social services, education, and employment opportunities that would enable them to participate more fully in the countries in which they live.
The United States is committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma through our bilateral relations and through our involvement in organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Governments have a special responsibility to ensure that minority communities have the tools of opportunity they need to succeed as productive and responsible members of society. I urge governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education and employment so that Roma can fulfill their greater promise of success and achievement.
Roma have a rich artistic and cultural heritage, which has left an indelible mark across Europe and the world. It is in the interests of the larger European and global community to create conditions that maximize success for all people within our borders and beyond. I hope that events taking place at our embassies and missions around the world on International Roma Day will be one more step on the path to helping Roma reach a better, brighter future.