US ambassador urges Bulgaria to take greater measures to look after its Roma population
At a conference in Sofia entitled ‘Roma Leaders for Regional Development,’ he discussed how ‘the Roma are also Bulgarian citizens’ who ‘are entitled to their rights.’
The meeting, which received financial backing from the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, aimed to provide Roma leaders in the Balkans with training related to Roma issues. Representatives were present from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Warlick went on to describe the Roma as a ‘marginalised ethnic group’ in Bulgaria that does not have a real voice, attributing this as a reason why they are often exploited.
He called for the state to provide them with adequate protection, a view echoed by Bulgaria's Ombudsman Konstantin Penchev, who told the forum that society had a duty to assist not just Roma but ‘all poor people who cannot afford legal protection.’
In the ambassador’s opinion, a solid solution to the ‘plight of the Roma’ has not been attainable as of yet. However, head of the European Commission in Bulgaria Zinaida Zlatanova has said that in April 2011, the EU Roma Integration Strategy will be released. At the same time, the EU will push its members to formulate their own plan of action for addressing the problems faced by European Roma. Zlatanova has said that Bulgaria hopes to have such a strategy in place by the end of 2011.
Roma make up approximately 10% of Bulgaria’s population. The majority of them live in segregated areas, with a shocking unemployment rate of 70%.
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