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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Hungary police reach out to Roma
Hungarian police officers with member of Roma community
Police are trying to change society's perception of the Roma issue
Hungary's efforts to improve the lot of its large Roma, or gypsy, minority have been given a boost by an initiative near the capital, Budapest.

Young police officers in Pest County are being taught a Romany dialect, Lovari, in a project designed to foster better relations between police and the Roma.

According to Hungarian television, the 240 officers are also learning about ethnic issues and conflict management.

Senior police officials in the county are hopeful the course "will make it easier to understand and better handle issues involving the Roma", the TV reports.

National police chief Laszlo Salgo feels there are still many barriers which need breaking down, noting that "society's perception is that [the Roma] are on one side and we are on the other".

Racism and discrimination

"We are seeking to take steps to change society's perception of the problem," Mr Salgo adds.

This should be the decade of Roma integration in this region.
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy

The TV says an earlier initiative aimed at recruiting young Roma men into Pest County police proved unsuccessful, with not a single Romany applicant in the past six months.

The Roma have suffered racism and discrimination in many eastern European nations over the past half century and Hungary is no exception.

A number of conflicts over the past few years involving Roma prompted Hungarian parliamentary minority rights ombudsman Jenoe Kaltenbach to sharply rebuke state officials, including police.

He accused them of "doing nothing, standing idly by while the law is openly flouted".

A better future?

As well as the police initiative, other measures are being introduced in an effort to improve treatment of the Roma:

  • A programme to integrate Roma children into the mainstream school system
  • A plan to give Roma entrepeneurs loans
  • Measures to ensure that state employees actively work against discrimination.

Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told an international conference on Roma issues in Budapest in July that "the 2005-2015 period should be the decade of Roma integration in this region".

"We have a lot to do, but I think all of us can say we would like to carry out this task with deep conviction," he added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Hungary amends 'status' law
24 Jun 03  |  Europe
Hungary 'Status Law' irks neighbours
19 Jun 01  |  Media reports
Country profile: Hungary
16 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Hungary
24 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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