Mediators, lawyers to help integrate Roma: Council of Europe
The Council of Europe announced Wednesday it will train mediators and lawyers to help Roma people access housing and other services in a new push to assist the marginalised group.
The focus on Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma -- most of them facing discrimination, poverty, housing segregation, and education and job barriers -- comes after a furore sparked by France's decision to expel its Roma migrants.
The mediators will "help the Roma people to get access to public services, like housing and schools and health care... make a link between the Roma people and the civil society where they are living," the council's secretary general Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The council had the resources to train 450 mediators and 100 lawyers next year, figures which could increase with more funding, Jagland told reporters.
The lawyers "can help the Roma people to get their rights where they are living, this is a way of empowering the Roma people," he said.
Jagland was speaking ahead of a top-level meeting of the Council of Europe's 47 states, including the 27 European Union members, which adopted the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma on priorities for the integration of the group.
France's drive to send Roma migrants back to eastern Europe drew comparisons with World War II deportations in a scandal that raised tensions in Europe and prompted new moves to assist the community.
European Commission justice chief Viviane Reding told the press conference that the Roma issue would be one of the priorities of Hungary's six-month presidency of the European Union starting on January 1.
"There will be several ministerial meetings on this, there will be a big ministerial Roma conference," she said.
The aim was that "concrete actions are put in place everywhere and the investment and the work in order to bring the Roma population out of poverty will not be forgotten but will be inbuilt in the European action plan for growth and jobs," she said.
Reding also confirmed that legal action against France over its controversial expulsion of Roma migrants had been "suspended", not dropped completely.
The French government met a European Commission deadline last Friday to give assurances that it would fall in line with EU laws on freedom of movement or face legal action over the issue.
France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche, who was in Strasbourg, said: "For us, the matter is closed, we have given the explanations that were asked for."
The solution to the difficulties of the Roma lay primarily with the countries that they came from, he said. Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia are home for some of Europe's largest Roma populations.
"Today we are speaking of the need to build hospitals, schools and homes starting by the country of origin because the solution is not to see the Roma move about the whole of the European Union but that they have a normal life in their countries of origin," he said.
400 médiateurs pour l'intégration des Roms (Jagland)
ATTENTION - AJOUTE déclarations Lellouche ///
STRASBOURG (Conseil de l'Europe), 20 oct 2010 (AFP) - Le secrétaire général du Conseil de l'Europe, Thorbjoern Jagland, a évoqué mercredi
© 2010 AFP