Eight eastern European countries have launched a drive to help improve the lot of millions of Roma, also known as Gypsies.
Prejudice, segregation and poverty have pushed them to the edges of mainstream society. Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia and Montenegro have pledged their support for a 10-year initiative. They will introduce new anti-discrimination laws, improve integration in schools, accommodation and raise dismal health standards. Over half of Europe’s estimated up to nine million Roma live in the former communist east, where stereotypes branding them as lazy thieves have poisoned relations.