Budapest, July 8 (MTI) – Indicators show that the living conditions of Hungary’s Roma have improved in almost all areas over the past two years, Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog said at the opening of an international conference in Budapest on Friday.
The two-day conference has been organised to mark the fifth anniversary of the launch of Hungary’s national strategy on the Roma’s social inclusion and the EU’s framework strategy on Roma integration.
Today almost 84 percent of Roma face the risk of slipping into poverty or social exclusion compared with almost 90 percent in 2014, Balog noted. The proportion of Roma living in poverty measured in terms of relative income has dropped by 5 percent over the past two years, he added.
One positive change is the government’s insistence that Roma should be regarded “neither as victims nor criminals”, he said.
Fully 50,000 Roma families have government fostered jobs and 750 Roma women have found permanent employment in social care in state-run institutions, he said.
Balog noted efforts to help establish a new Roma middle class. Hungary was, three years ago, the first country in Europe to include classes about Roma history, culture and the Roma Holocaust in the national curriculum, he added.
The minister noted, however, a lack of progress when it came to the situation of Roma in secondary school education. This failure and the decision to make schooling mandatory only up to the age of 16 may be connected, he said.
Speaking about the EU’s Roma integration framework strategy, Balog urged closer cooperation between the offices of EU commissioners in charge of social and employment affairs, regional integration, and domestic and justice affairs, to ensure a more effective implementation.
The European Commission’s decision to divert some funding for Roma integration to tasks related to the integration of migrants “sends the wrong message”, he said.
Addressing the conference, Károly Czibere, state secretary for social affairs, said “there are no separate paths for poor and rich, for Roma and non-Roma; we have a single path…”