Violent anti-Roma protests in Bulgaria show urgent need to combat extremism, OSCE human rights chief says
Violent anti-Roma protests that have taken place across Bulgaria over the past days underline the urgency of combating racially-motivated extremism and making progress with the integration of Europe’s Roma populations, Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said today in the margins of the OSCE’s annual human rights conference in Warsaw.
“We see a worrying trend of marginal but increasingly visible extremist groups and radical political parties stirring up hatred against Roma and other minorities,” Lenarčič said.
At the same time, he added, the integration of Roma into mainstream society makes little headway, and rampant discrimination and limited access to social services remain major problems across large parts of Europe.
Lenarčič noted a pattern of extremists using incidents involving Roma individuals to incite hatred and violence against the entire community: “The incentive to seek political gain from scape-goating Roma and other minorities for existing grievances is particularly high at the time of elections.”
He said such attempts must be met by unequivocal condemnation by political leaders and civil society, and commended the determined and swift action by the Bulgarian authorities to defuse tensions and protect Roma communities from violence.
In an Action Plan adopted in 2003, OSCE participating States have committed themselves to a broad set of measures aimed at improving the situation of Roma and Sinti. Progress in implementing the Action Plan and current challenges faced by Roma and Sinti will be the focus of a special session at the OSCE human rights conference on 5 October.
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