8 Eastern Europe States Start Effort to Aid Gypsies

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Feb 3 18:06:22 UTC 2005

>>From the NYTimes,

February 3, 2005
8 Eastern Europe States Start Effort to Aid Gypsies

SOFIA, Bulgaria, Feb. 2 - Eight Eastern European states began a 10-year
initiative on Wednesday to help millions of Gypsies escape the
discrimination, segregation and poverty that have pushed them to the
margins of society. Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary,
Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro pledged new
antidiscrimination laws, integration in schools, improvements to
settlement infrastructure, and measures to raise dismal health standards.

"Our governments will work to lift discrimination and overcome
unacceptable differences between the Roma and the remaining members of
society," they said in a declaration honoring the initiative, the
2005-2015 Decade of Roma Inclusion. The initiative is the first major
coordinated effort to focus on Gypsies, also known as Roma.

More than half of Europe's estimated 10 million Roma live in the former
Communist east, where stereotypes characterizing them as lazy thieves are
common. The World Bank is leading the program with the European Union and
the financier and philanthropist George Soros's Open Society Institute.

The bank's president, James D. Wolfensohn, said the plight of the Roma was
unique, adding that they suffered from "an absolutely identifiable
condition of bias and intolerance, caricatures of cultures and, indeed,
active ignorance and promotion of difference by those who have against
those who have not." "In the next couple of decades," he said, "the fate
of the Roma minority will be the most important, most complicated, and
most comprehensive social challenge we are facing."

Mr. Soros said: "The position of Roma presents the most egregious case of
ethnic exclusion in Europe. It will require strong and persistent efforts
to overcome it. Together, we must make sure that the lofty goals announced
today do not turn into empty words."

Hundreds of Roma protested peacefully in central Sofia to coincide with
the announcement of the program, demanding jobs and calling for an end to

Believed to have migrated from northern India 1,000 years ago, Roma are
Europe's largest minority.

Tens of thousands of Roma live in squalid shantytowns with no roads,
electricity or running water.


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