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European Leaders Launch Decade of Roma Inclusion

European Leaders Launch Decade of Roma Inclusion

Declaration engages governments to end discrimination, poverty

SOFIA, February 2, 2005 – A groundbreaking initiative to end centuries of isolation and discrimination against Europe’s Roma population was launched today in Sofia, Bulgaria. Government leaders from Central and Southeast Europe signed a declaration engaging them to include the Roma, who are commonly known as gypsies, as full and equal members of European Society.

The Decade aims to improve the economic and social status of Europe’s 7 to 9 million Roma through better education, health care, housing and job opportunities. Under the Decade, each government will implement a National Action Plan containing precise targets for improvements to be met by 2015. The challenge now is follow through on these commitments which were developed together with Roma communities in each country. The Decade also provides a mechanism for monitoring implementation of the action plans annually.

“In the context of a united Europe, it is unacceptable to have a large and growing Roma minority which is so much worse off than the majority which itself is shrinking in numbers. It is morally unacceptable, but it is also politically unthinkable in terms of Europe’s long-term stability and security,” said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn.

Government leaders from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovakia signed the Decade declaration and pledged themselves to implementing their national plans. The ceremony was also attended by Roma leaders and representatives of international organizations which have supported the Decade, including the Open Society Institute, The European Commission, the World Bank, The Council of Europe and its Development Bank, and UNDP.

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