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Word Count: 420
The RomaGypsies form a group of approximately 8-10 million people in Europe They are to be found in almost all Council of Europe member states and indeed in some central and east European countries they represent over 5 of the population Yet although they have been in Europe since the 14th century very often they are not recognised by the majority society as a fully-fledged European people and they have suffered throughout their history in Europe from rejection and persecution culminating in the Nazis attempt to exterminate them As a result of centuries of rejection many RomaGypsy communities today live in very difficult conditions often on the fringe of the societies in the countries where they live and their participation in public life is very limited It is also very difficult for them to ensure that their contribution to European culture is fully acknowledged Since 1993 the RomaGypsy issue has been at the heart of three of the Councils top priorities protection of minorities the fight against racism and intolerance and the fight against social exclusion Indeed the difficult situation facing numerous RomaGypsy communities ultimately represents a threat to social cohesion in member states Moreover increasingly active RomaGypsy associations repeatedly appealed to the Council of Europe to ensure that this minoritys fundamental rights were upheld in member states Accordingly the Council of Europe decided to look at RomaGypsy issues to help bring about a long-term improvement in their situation In order to place these issues on an institutional footing in 1995 the Committee of Ministers set up a Specialist Group on RomaGypsies tasked with advising member states on all RomaGypsy-related matters and encouraging international authorities to take action where it was needed Its role complements that of the Secretary Generals Co-ordinator of Activities on RomaGypsies responsible for promoting co-operation with other relevant international organisations and developing working relations with RomaGypsy organisations One of the main objectives of the Council of Europe
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