Davenport: Improving lives of Roma key for Opening of Chapter 23

On the occasion of International Roma Day, Members of Parliament Club held a round table titled “Roma and Chapter 23”.

Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport said the EU would continue to be partners with the country in the process of integrating Roma in contemporary social trends through participation in all quality projects.

Through project jointly implemented with the Government or local self-governments and NGOs, the EU has helped to bring positive changes in various areas, said Ambassador Davenport and cited specific examples:

“We have managed to increase the number of Roma registered in birth registers through legal aid; we have improved access to basic rights through the work of newly formed mobile units; we have strengthened Roma civil society through grants; we are working to improve Roma housing situation together with several towns and municipalities in Serbia; we are also working to find the most adequate modalities for Roma employment; and, above all, we trying to achieve a sustainable participation of Roma students in secondary education, which is why we have granted more than 500 scholarships in past two years,” Davenport said.

He stressed that the issue of Roma social inclusion was particularly important for Serbia’s EU accession process. “It is precisely in Chapter 23 where this issue comes to focus. Concrete actions for the improvement of lives of Roma will be key within said Chapter, as well as Chapter 19, dealing with social policy and employment,” he said.

Director of Office for Human and Minority Rights Suzana Paunovic said the new Strategy for the social inclusion of Roma was in line with international standards. Actions included in the Strategy are, according to her, focused on education, employment and economic empowerment.

A total of 2,822 participants have taken part in anti-discrimination training, whereas more than 1,300 children have been supported to enrol in preschool institutions.

According to her, over 1,000 students have received scholarships, pedagogical assistants have acquired certificates, whereas capacity of CSOs has been strengthened.

President of the Roma National Council Vitomir Mihajlovic believes Serbia had made progress when it comes to the status of Roma national community. As the biggest issues faced by Roma in Serbia, Mihajlovic cited high unemployment rate, given that 95 per cent of Roma is out of work and receives social assistance; slow integration; and the fact Roma are not included in resolving their own issues.