of the Parlamentary Assembly

on the Rromani culture and language


1.      The Assembly is concerned about the critical situation of the Rromani culture and language, which have existed for seven to eight hundred years in Europe and for more than two hundred years in the United States. In spite of the historical split of the Rromani people into three main branches known respectively as Rroma, Sinte and Kale, all this population shares basicly a common North-Indian origin (the imperial city of Kannauj in Uttar-Pradesh) and a common cultural and linguistic heritage.

2.      Whereas some ten millions Rromani people are living in Europe and three millions in both North and South America, hardly one half of them have a real command of the Rromani language under whatever form of its dialects. The Kale group, living mainly in the Iberian peninsula, has totally lost its usage decades ago and retains only a few dozens of odd words. The Sinti groups, living mainly in Germanic countries and Italy, have also often abandonned their ancestral tongue, while the Rroma have kept it alive to a great extend as a home-language.

3.      Centuries of persecution and especially its culmination, represented by the nazi genocide leading to death 500.000 Rroma, Sinte and Kale, have physically destroyed entire generations of Rromani speakers and tens of Rromani dialects. It has also hampered the transmission of the cultural and linguistic heritage among the survivors.

4.      Even if linguistic observations confirm that Rromani is generally quite strong as a home language, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan, it is often used only for in-clan oral communication, with a restricted range of fonctions, and is therefore lossing progressively its abilities to compete with majority languages also in everyday life. Accordingly Rromani, as a European language of modern culture, is under threat.

5.      The scale of the problem has become evident since the extension of cultural co-operation to Eastern and Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan, where the majority of Rromani speakers live.

6.      The Rromani culture and language has always been and must remain in Europe a cross-frontier heritage as well as a component of local national and regional cultures. All over Europe, Rroma, Sinte and Kale have brought a significant contribution to arts, especially music and dance, but also painting, literature, crafts of all kinds etc… Unfortunately, the living conditions of most Rromani people do not allow them to continue efficiently this contribution.

7.      The Rromani language and culture are facing a similar fate as that of many other cultures which are becoming or have become deficient and then extinct. However, the acceptance of a pluralist system of cultural values is a basic principle of mutual respect between human groups and a prerequisite for stability in Europe, and particularly in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan.

8.      The Rromani people make no demands in terms of territorial claims or political privilege, but merely need moral encouragement and political assistance in safeguarding and developing their language and culture, which seem doomed to extinction unless the European institutions, and the Council of Europe in particular, come to their aid through a contructive advocacy aimed at committing their member-States into this undertaking.

9.      The Assembly recalls the texts which it has adopted on related matters, notably the following : a) Recommendation 928 (1981) on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages and dialects in Europe, b) Recommendation 1275 (1995) on the fight against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance, c) Recommendation 1283 (1996) on history and the learning of history in Europe, d) Recommendation 1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture and e) Recommendation 1333 (1997) on Aromanian language and culture. It is clear that the fate of the Rromani culture and language necessitates a similar treatment.

10.  Recommendation 1291 recommended to set up, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, an "observatory for dispersed ethnic minorities" with a mandate, inter alia, to promote the survival and further development of minority cultures and/or their memory, record, collect, preserve, publish and circulate their monuments and evidence of their language and culture, encourage a wide and manifold use of these languages in modern life and promote an efficient legislation to protect minority cultures against discrimination or annihilation.

11.  The Assembly is also deeply concerned about the revival of racist feelings against Rroma, Sinte and Kale, in almost all countries of Europe, and condamns such attitudes, including in the cases when their are allegedly « justified » by a fear of the Rromani population, whether « local Gypsies » or refugees. The Assembly is aware that artificial fears have regularly been constructed in the past in order to veil racist policies lead against specific target-groups and condemns accordingly all forms of Gypsophobia or similar ethnic aversion.

12.  The Assembly similarly appeals to all Rromani people living in Europe to combat any kind of mutual aversion in the midst of their people, to make open-minded cooperation prevail upon clan interest and to restore the cross-national links which were their main force before the persecutions, the genocide, the political frontiers and other factors of division and destruction, including social marginalisation, weakened them so drasticly.

13.  The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

A.     encourage all member States to condemn openly all forms of Gypsophobia if they have not yet done so and declare the Rromani culture and language a precious part of their national heritage ;

B.     encourage all European States which comprise Rromani communities to sign, ratify and implement the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages and invite them to support the Rroma, Sinte and Kale, particularly in the following fields:

a.      education in their mother tongue and about their civilisation, as a part of the common European patrimony, including for the refugees from other States;

b.      recognition and promotion of modern Rromani, a language flexible enough to respect the various dialectal specificities but also common enough to allow efficient communication among Rroma from all over Europe and meet the needs of a modern European language of culture ;

c.       literary creation, newspapers, magazines, journals and radio and TV programmes in common Rromani as well as in the local forms in vernacular use, all written in common Rromani spelling and always with an exigence of clearness, expressiveness and richness of vocabulary and style ;

d.      professional use of Rromani, for example in medical prevention and care, juridical advisory and other fields where the use of the mother tongue optimalises the effects of the undertaken action ;

e.      support for the cultural associations of the Rroma, Sinte and Kale and their international networks and exchanges.

C.     invite the member States to support the Rromani culture and language, for instance by creating university professorships in the subject and disseminating the most interesting products of Rromani culture throughout Europe by means of translations, anthologies, courses, exhibitions and theatrical productions;

D.    introduce scholarship for pupils and students in need, so that they canb acquire a real professional competence in Rromani studies and in other fields leading to a professional activity, especially in scientific research ;

E.     introduce fellowships for artists, writers, researchers and students of Rromani background throughout Europe, so that they can engage in appropriate creative work in the fields of Rromani language and culture;

F.      request the Council for Cultural Co-operation, working together with recognised Rromani academic centres, to ensure an efficient co-ordination of Rromani cultural activities throughout Europe;

G.    invite the education ministers of member States to include the history of Rroma, Sinte and Kale in European history books with a special attention to their contribution to the European spirit, the persecutions they have suffered in the past and their current situation ;

H.    seek to establish co-operation and partnership with organisations, foundations and other interested bodies in the private sector with a view to implementing these recommendations;

I.       take account of the Rromani culture and language under all their aspects in its follow-up to Recommendation 1291 (1996), particularly where the "observatory for dispersed ethnic minorities" is concerned.


A proposal by dr Marcel Courthiade, IRU Commissionner for Language and Linguistic Rights