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EU Member State Labor Ministers negotiate Roma inclusion strategy

Brussels, 21.5.2011 0:48, (ROMEA)

A month ago the European Commission (EC) proposed an EU-wide framework strategy for including Roma people into society. On Thursday, 19 May, EU Member State Labor and Social Affairs Ministers met to negotiate that strategy in Brussels, Czech Radio reports.

The EC says Roma people are often not integral to society but remain outside it. In many countries their ongoing problems are related to their high levels of unemployment, insufficient access to health care, and low levels of education.

All of the ministers recognized that the economic and social situation of the Roma minority is a Europe-wide problem. However, each country is addressing this issue independently, should it have a large Roma minority, or within the framework of its inclusion policy for ethnic or national minorities in countries where the Roma population is not very numerous.

All of the ministers agreed that to improve the economic and social situation of the Roma community there is a need to primarily focus on access to education. This should start with preschool children and attention should be paid to Roma inclusion up through college, Czech Radio reports.

The EC wants all Roma children to at least complete primary education. It also wants to eliminate manifestations of segregation in education, to improve Roma access to employment, to eliminate discrimination in hiring, and to support Roma entrepreneurs.

The EC also says it is necessary to ensure Roma people can access health care, mainly preventive care, and to improve their access to housing, in particular, social apartments. In a resolution adopted today, the Member States pledged to fully take advantage of options for financing the construction of such housing from the European Fund for Regional Development.

The Member States are to submit to the EC by the end of this year their new or updated strategies for including Roma into society. The EC will then gradually monitor the fulfillment of the strategies.

"In the Czech Republic we are already comparatively far along in considering these issues and our strategy through 2025 is fully coherent with the way the EU strategy was agreed. Even if the EU strategy didn't exist, we would be actually still be proceeding according to the intentions they agreed on today," Czech Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister David Kafka told the Radiožurnál radio station. According to Kafka, the Czech Republic also has instituted counseling services for indebted and insolvent people.

"Everything greatly depends on how many Roma people, in both absolute and relative terms, live in which country and how pressing the problem there is, or not. There are countries that have no problem with this at all because they don't have any members of this ethnicity, and then there are countries that have an incomparably greater problem that is qualitatively and quantitatively much further along," Kafka said.

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Radio, http://www.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/evropskaunie/_zprava/cesko-je-v-zaclenovani-romu-do-spolecnosti-dal-nez-pozaduje-ek--895500, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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