Political leaders from eight countries have gathered in the Bulgarian capital Sofia to pledge their commitment to improving the lot of the Roma people. A 10-year plan is being launched in conjunction with the World Bank. The aim is to fight social exclusion and discrimination.
Emphasis will be given to education, employment, health and housing in a bid to improve the status of Roma communities. Sometimes known as gypsies, most Roma are in fact not travellers. It is estimated they number up to 12 million people in Europe, concentrated in central and eastern nations – the region in which the initiative is being developed. Those countries participating are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro. Classroom segregation has been identified as a key problem and efforts will be made to integrate Roma youngsters into mainstream schools.