Thursday, 24 April 2014

Czechs pass Decade of Roma Inclusion chairmanship to Macedonia

28 June 2011

Prague, June 27 (CTK) - The Czech Republic yesterday officially passed its chairmanship of the international project Decade of Roma Inclusion that is to improve the living conditions of ethnic Romanies by 2015 and contribute to their integration to Macedonia.

Prime Minister Petr Necas passed the chairmanship of the project with the involvement of 12 countries to his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski.

The Decade of Roma Inclusion was initiated by the World Bank and the Open Society Institute (OSI).

In 2005, the project was first joined by eight countries from central and eastern Europe that pledged to improve Romanies' living conditions, with a primary focus on their education, employment, housing and health.

Later it was joined by other countries. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain are now involved in the project. Other international institutions such as the World Health Organisation have joined it as well.

Romanies are the biggest minority in Europe. However, many of them live in worse conditions that other inhabitants. Their education is lower, they have bigger problems to find jobs, and their living conditions and health are worse. The EU set a framework for the integration of Romanies.

Necas said the Decade was an opportunity to improve lives of hundreds of thousands of Romanies. He said integration was the right path but not an easy one.

"The Czech government wants to deal with the problems without attractive gestures," Necas said.

The Czech Republic set the inclusion of Romany pupils in regular schools, emphasis on the status and equal rights of Romany children and women and an improvement of the media image of Romanies its priorities.

But some Romany activists say no big progress has been achieved in these areas.

Monika Simunkova, Czech government commissioner for human rights and minorities, said she appreciates that under the Czech chairmanship of the Decade the countries involved work out annual reports on the situation of the Romany minority on their territory.

Simunkova said the situation in individual countries may be compared and monitored more precisely thanks to this.

Macedonia chose progress in Romanies' housing and employment as its priorities and it also wants to devote its efforts to children's pre-school education, Gruevski said.

He said medical assistants are to improve the health of Romanies.

Gruevski said Macedonia also wanted to achieve a bigger harmonisation of its work with the EU while at the head of the Decade of Roma Inclusion.

He said integration cannot be assessed only based on figures. A tolerant environment is crucial, he added.

Necas yesterday had talks with philanthropist George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations, who attended the meeting of the Decade's leaders.

Soros said his foundations succeeded in educating a new Romany elite that has maintained its Romany identity and has not rejected its roots.

Soros said Romanies should be reckoned with also because they form a big part of the workforce in some countries, otherwise the situation on the labour market would get bad.

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