Bulgaria: Switzerland investing in Roma integration there
Focus-fen.net reported on 23 June that the Bulgarian Minister of Labor and Social Policy signed agreements with the municipalities of Burgas, Ruse and Sliven and Swiss Ambassador Denis Knobel on financing social inclusion of Roma, according to the ministry. The Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Program is to be jointly implemented by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Health and Minister of Labor and Social Policy.
Switzerland is providing more than eight million Swiss francs, or 85 % of the program's budget. The three municipalities will implement Roma inclusion projects together with experts on culture, education and healthcare, other local governments and NGOs.
The funding is intended to support the Bulgarian Government's efforts to implement its National Roma Integration Strategy 2012-2020. Enhancing "cultural and social integration" and improving Romani living conditions are the strategy's aims, Focus-fen.net reports.
News server novinite.com quoted Labor Minister Kalfin as saying "All of the people living in Bulgaria need to be included in... social life, education, professional training and work activities, regardless of their ethnic group" at a news conference 23 June. His comments followed inter-ethnic violence across Bulgaria that resulted in hospitalizations.
Knobel said Switzerland is focusing on Roma because engagement with minorities of this sort is "very important", novinite.com reports. He said the Roma minority suffers from social exclusion in Bulgaria due to their impoverishment, "improper education", and poor healthcare.
Novinite.com reports that the Swiss Ambassador said the program will demand results. "We would like to invest in future generations, providing them with access to primary school education and basic healthcare," he said.
The ambassador also said the aim was for Roma to become full-fledged citizens of Bulgaria. Novinite.com reports that the funding will be invested into new healthcare facilities, preschools, and social services.
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