EU talk and action on Roma minorities

EU Roma policies

 

According to several estimates, including the national census of 2001, the population of Bulgaria includes some 370,000 Roma, making them the second-largest minority (after Turks) in the country, and accounting for almost 5% of the population.

There can be no doubt that, here, there are huge problems of discrimination between the ethnic groups. As always in a complex question, one can easily point out problems, faults and total prejudice on all sides; and finding positive and lasting solutions is, of course, never easy.

Five years ago, Bulgaria was condemned by the EU for  its plans for “liquidating” Roma neighbourhoods in Sofia, while not taking any steps even to re-house the inhabitants [1]. That, by the way, occurred when the present Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, was deputy mayor of the capital city.  His boss? – none other than Boyko Borisov, currently Prime Minister. (For further, more recent  incidents, search Google for “sofia roma razed”).

Vivien Reding to the rescue

So, it was with some optimism that I read this week that the EU is giving all its members an eight-month deadline to submit “national strategies for Roma integration” [2]. Reding is quoted as stating that: “Member States have a joint responsibility to put an end to Roma exclusion”, adding that the challenge is a serious one.

There are apparently some 10-12 million Roma spread throughout Europe. Funding of Roma programmes to date has, it is admitted, not been used effectively to tackle the real social and economic problems of the EU’s Roma population [3].

The new strategy targets four principal areas: education; employment; health; and housing. These objectives are, moreover, incorporated into the EU’s broader targets for “Europe 2020”.

So far, so good…

Then, the next evening, I read this online report by PressEurop, citing Le Monde [4]. The headline is, to say the least, chilling:

“Roma hunting season set to continue”.

The contents are even worse. They refer to events in Hungary, the country that currently occupies the Presidency of the European Union.

However, none of us can sit back and point the finger at another European state; we all have more than enough to do – literally – in our own back-yard. You only have to ask the little Roma (and Bulgarian) kids from the nearby orphanage who come to us regularly for glasses of water and some small cakes (and to help in our small garden patch), and who look so relieved whenever some of our neighbours miss the opportunity to hurl abuse at them.

Source [1]: ERRC

Source [2]: EUROPA

Source [3] : EUROPA Press Release

Source [4] : presseurop

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