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EU should halt funding to Bulgaria unless Roma concerns are met

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The EU should halt funding plans to Bulgaria as a key document outlining how the money will be spent does not adequately take into account Roma concerns, a coalition of human rights NGOs, including Minority Rights Group International and Centre ‘Amalipe’ say.

The human rights groups are objecting to the Bulgarian Human Resource Development Operational Programme (HRD OP), the main document outlining how EU funds will be spent in areas such as employment, education and social exclusion – saying it does little to uplift Roma people who are amongst the poorest in the country.

‘When you talk of employment or education in Bulgaria it is obvious that Roma are the least privileged and yet this document falls short of effectively addressing their problems,’ says Galina Kostadinova MRG’s Roma Programmes Coordinator.

MRG, Bulgaria’s Centre ‘Amalipe’ and some 30 Roma NGO’s are planning to petition the EU and Bulgarian government officials, calling for a revision of the Programme.

Some 800,000 people or 10 per cent of Bulgaria’s population are Roma, and following Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU Roma have become the EU’s largest minority population.

One of the main criticisms of the document is that it does not set out a budget specifically for Roma causes and it is unclear how much Roma will benefit from the more than 1 billion euros Bulgaria is expected to get.

In plans to create a more inclusive labour market the document fails to make specific mention of Roma, who currently face high rates of unemployment. Deyan Kolev of the Bulgarian Roma NGO ‘Amalipe’ says ‘the document broadly talks about improving education and increasing employment amongst Roma but does not set specific targets.’

‘The European Commission has previously asked the Bulgarian government to be specific and set goals but they are avoiding this. The government is clearly trying to shirk their responsibility,’ Kostadinova adds.

‘Roma were not included in the process of drafting this document. Moreover the government is not planning to include Roma NGO representatives in the monitoring of the funds once the Programme gets started . It is imperative that under these circumstances the EU does not approve the Programme unless the Roma concerns are met’ Kolev says.

Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • Amalipe’ is a non-governmental organization in Bulgaria that works on Roma rights.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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