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Friday, 3 March, 2000, 17:29 GMT
Hungary tackles gypsies' problems
gypsy boy
Gypsies face discrimination in Hungary
By central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe

A government committee established to tackle issues relating to Hungary's large gypsy minority has been meeting to evaluate its work.

The meeting was attended by gypsies leaders and the head of the European Union delegation in Hungary.

Facing problems

Successive Hungarian governments have struggled to tackle the enormous problems facing the country's estimated 700,000 Roma - as the gypsies are also known.

These include almost full unemployment in some areas and a high level of discrimination.

An action plan elaborated by the previous socialist-led government is now being put into practice by a conservative government under the watchful eye of the EU.

Although improvements in the lot of the Roma have not been made a precondition of Hungary joining the EU, officials stress that human rights of minorities are an important part of the political criteria for accession.

Projects

Speaking after Friday's meeting, the EU ambassador to Hungary, Michael Lake, said that while rights for other minorities in the countries queuing to join the EU had improved, this was not the case for the Roma.

This year the EU has committed an extra $5m to three projects specifically related to improving the educational possibilities of Hungary's Roma.

The EU will evaluate how that sum and a similar amount contributed by the government is spent.

This evaluation will give the officials in Brussels a chance to see whether the many promises already made are being put into action.
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See also:

18 Oct 99 |  Europe
Czech pledge to tear down wall
26 Feb 99 |  Europe
Hiding gypsies behind a wall
09 Jun 99 |  Europe
Czech gypsies in school row
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