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Romanies face "tacit apartheid" in Czech Republic - TOL

New York, 29.7.2008 23:58, (ROMEA)

Romanies suffer from "tacit apartheid" in central and east European countries, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, on-line news magazine Transitions Online (TOL) reports today.

It writes in an article focused on the economic dimensions of the four-million Romany minority in Central and Eastern Europe that Romanies mostly live hidden from public eyes in ghettoes situated far from the capitals, such as Prague and Bratislava.

The social exclusion of Romanies has been recently highlighted in connection with the "Decade of Roma Inclusion" initiative launched by nine central and southeast European governments, including the Czech one, in 2005 to support Romany integration, the magazine recalls.

In spite of a high attention and EU subsidies worth billions of euros for the "Roma Decade" project, not much progress has been achieved not because of a lack of ideas or funding, but over "weak political will," the weekly says.

It points out that keeping Romanies on the edge of society is not only unjust and immoral, but it is also uneconomic since "poverty is expensive."

Most of the Romanies are namely unemployed, dependent on state welfare and they do not pay taxes, which considerably burdens taxpayers.

According to the 2003 report by the U.N. Development Programme, covering Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, up to 70 percent of Romanies in these countries live on social allowances and unemployment benefits.

Business Week also writes that labour markets will be short of tens of thousands of workers in the coming decades, and this is why the governments should try to use the available Romany workforce. However, instead the countries, such as the Czech Republic, are recruiting foreign workers to fill the gaps, the weekly says.

"To bring people from Mongolia to northern Bohemia or northern Moravia, where you have a lot of unemployed Romanies, is absurd," the weekly cites Gwendolyn Albert, from the international human development organisation Peacework, as saying.

The ambitious goal of Romanies' full integration can be achieved only with a coherent policy reform aimed at the improvement of education and health care in Romany communities, the weekly writes, referring to experts.

A model project in this respect is the Romany Teacher Assistance programme, which trains teachers to better work with Romany children in the Czech Republic, Gabriela Hrabanova, a member of the Czech Government's Council for Romany Affairs, told the weekly.

Unfortunately, Hrabanova and others say both Brussels and the national governments' integration efforts rather focus on drafting "action plans" than really "meaningful programmes," TOL writes.

CTK
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