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Brussels, 10 March 2010

Ethnic minorities: Brussels conference on EU projects in support of Roma community

Projects financed by the European Union in support of the Roma community and its culture will be in the spotlight at a conference in Brussels organised by the European Commission on 10-11 March. The event is part of the Commission's contribution to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.

"The Roma community is very important when we talk about respect for equal rights and about overcoming prejudice and mistrust. I hope this conference will raise wider awareness of the discrimination which many Roma have to endure, while also highlighting what the EU is doing to help address this in areas like schooling, housing and employment," commented Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth.

The conference will highlight 30 projects aimed at Roma communities, which are or have been funded through EU programmes for education, culture, youth and citizenship, as well as through EU structural funds. Examples of the projects include : entrepreneurial training, joint Roma and non-Roma dialogue, teacher training for Roma inclusion, and support for the design, production and marketing of traditional Roma clothing.

The projects will be discussed in workshops and also showcased in an exhibition and a dedicated publication. The results of the conference will feed into the 2 nd European Roma summit to be held in C ├│ rdoba (Spain) on 8 April 2010.

There will also be an opportunity to hear three young Roma ( Valeria Lakatosova, Dzhevid Mahmud and Violeta Naydenova) talk about their personal experiences.

More than 500 participants have registered for the conference, which will tackle questions of schooling, social welfare, housing, youth problems as well as the preservation and development of the Roma culture. Most European and international Roma organisations will be represented.

The Roma population is one of the largest ethnic minorities in the EU with millions living in many Member States. As well as facing persistent discrimination and social exclusion, they are at greatest risk of being poor and unemployed. European and national opinion surveys show that many Europeans have negative views about Roma which are often based on stereotypes and prejudice. Other traditional European ethnic minorities in Member States share their situation.

Many of the key areas for Roma inclusion - education, employment, social inclusion, health services, gender equality or infrastructure and urban planning - are mainly or entirely national responsibilities. The Commission is committed to supporting Member States in implementing policies to improve the situation of the Roma and make use of EU programmes and funds for this purpose. The presence of numerous project promoters in the exhibition will allow for useful contacts and exchanges between networks, schools, universities, municipal authorities, companies, associations and NGOs.

The event is open to the press. Venue for the Conference: the Charlemagne building, 170 rue de la Loi, Brussels.

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