Poland: tangible improvements in integration of Roma observed, but increased intolerance against national minorities needs immediate response

(lifePR) ( Strasbourg, )
A new Council of Europe’s report on the protection of national minorities in Poland published today praises improvements in the integration of Roma in the area of education, but points out to a persistent climate of intolerance, racism and xenophobia in the country (see also the Polish version of the report)

Among the positive developments, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) noted that the programme for the integration of the Roma Community in Poland in 2014-2020 has led to tangible improvements, in particular in the area of education, with the rates of early dropouts and Roma children in special education reduced, not least thanks to the work of over 90 Roma assistants employed in secondary education.

Cultural activities and media of national minorities continue to receive funding, and the authorities support a wide range of institutions and projects preserving in particular the Jewish heritage in Poland. The fact that respondents in 2011 census could indicate two ethnic affiliations is strongly welcomed.

However, the legal framework protecting the rights of national minorities during the monitoring period has remained largely unchanged. A set of amendments to the Act on National and Ethnic Minorities and on the Regional Language that would address some shortcomings was approved by Sejm in 2015, but ultimately vetoed by the President. No progress has been made on the repeated requests for the recognition of the Silesians as an ethnic minority or Silesian as a regional language, to the regret of the Advisory Committee.

Despite significant underreporting, statistics show a clear upward trend in hate speech and hate-motivated incidents, the most targeted groups being the Muslim community, particularly after the 2015 refugee crisis, as well as the Jewish minority, Roma and, increasingly, Ukrainians. Underreporting, distrust towards authorities, as well as lack of effective investigation and prosecution of alleged hate crime need to be urgently addressed.

Recommendations for immediate actions given to the Polish authorities include the adoption and implementation of the Roma Integration Programme for 2020 onwards, in order to combat anti-Gypsyism, expand the Roma school assistants programme and improve the housing situation of Roma.

The Advisory Committee further recommends the Polish authorities to promote understanding between the majority and the different minority groups in the country, based on the acceptance of the complexity of Poland’s history. All manifestations of intolerance and ethnically motivated hostility should be condemned at the highest political level, effectively prosecuted and sanctioned.

The Advisory Committee regrets that the enlargement of the city of Opole was conducted regardless of the outcomes of consultations with inhabitants and deprived persons belonging to the German minority of access to language and participatory rights they had before this territorial reform.

Monitoring of Poland under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

Information on the monitoring on the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration website (in Polish)
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