Bulgarian Roma rights organisation scores political victory

On March 24, 1999, the Sofia-based Roma Rights organisation Human Rights Project announced that, together with partner organisations United Romani Union and the Confederation of Roma in Bulgaria, as well as several other major Romani organisations in Bulgaria, it had reached an agreement with the Bulgarian government over a national programme for Roma. The pro-gramme is to be implemented by the government over the next ten years. Almost one year following the beginning of an advocacy campaign for the endorsement of a long term strategy addressing the situation of Roma in Bulgaria, and after six months of debate over the document "For Equal Participation of Roma in the Public Life of Bulgaria", proposed by the Romani community, the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers signed an agreement with the Romani organisations committing itself to consider their proposals as the foundation for a national programme for Roma.

The key points of the document signed by the government include legislative changes for the prevention of race discrimination; the establishment of a state body for the prevention of discrimination on an ethnic basis and for the prevention of police brutality; establishment of a state fund for support-ing businesses which employ Roma; legalization of Romani houses through amendments to the Territorial Development Act; desegregation of the schools in Romani neighbourhoods; elimination of all forms of "special" education on an ethnic basis; special measures to counteract racism in the classroom; positive action in support of Romani applicants to university; intro-duction of Romani history and culture in textbooks at all levels of the Bulgarian education system; support for Romani folklore and for Romani cultural institutions; guarantees for the equal participation of Roma in the public electronic media and in the press.

(Human Rights Project)

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