Czechs should open EU debate on Romany problems - minister
Romany problems should be one of the topics highlighted during the Czech Republic's EU presidency in the first half of 2009, Minister for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens, SZ) told reporters today.
She added that these issues must be debated on the European level not only to exchange opinions, but mainly to secure that financial support for the improvement of the Romany minority's situation would continue after 2013.
Romanies are the largest minority living in Europe, their number is put at some 12 millions.
All countries deal with the same problems in connection with Romanies, Stehlikova indicated.
"You can find ghettoes..., unemployment, a low level of education, socially pathologic phenomena and crime everywhere," Stehlikova said.
Moreover, the situation in the post-communist countries is complicated by the fact that problems of the Romany minority were ignored during the previous regime and the subsequent transformation period.
The EU countries should also discuss changes in the European legislation over Romanies, Stehlikova noted.
She cited, for instance, restrictions concerning "social" firms running with public support that employ Romanies and other people who would had difficulties to find jobs elsewhere.
Stehlikova said the discussion on aid to Romanies should follow up the international conference on Romany issues held in Brussels in mid-September, with EC President Jose Barosso attending.
He pointed out that millions of Romanies in the EU live under conditions unacceptable in the 21st century. This is the largest ethnic group on EU soil to suffer from extreme poverty, discrimination and racism.
According to an analysis from 2006, over 300 socially excluded ghettoes with some 80,000 inhabitants, mainly Romanies exist in the 10-million Czech Republic
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