Round Table on the Roma Question in Bulgaria

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Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 20:57:35 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Round Table on the Roma Question in Bulgaria

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Round Table on the Roma Question in Bulgaria

European Roma Rights Center
October 5, 1998
Round Table on the Roma Question in Bulgaria
On October 3, 1998, representatives of the Bulgarian government and of
most Romani organisations in Bulgaria met in Sofia to discuss a
program draft entitled “For Equal Participation of the Roma in
Bulgarian Society”. The Roma representatives adopted an address to the
Government urging it to hold a Round Table in February 1998 on the
Roma question in Bulgaria to work out a new social contract between
the Bulgarian Roma and the Bulgarian government.
The government was represented by Mr Vesselin Metodiev, Vice Prime
Minister and Minister of Education, as well as members of the National
Council on Ethnic and Demographic Questions at the Council of
Ministers and the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission. The Roma were
represented by leaders of several Romani political movements and more
than 70 Romani grassroot NGOs from throughout the country. Bulgarian
human rights and related NGOs, as well as journalists also attended.
The international community was represented by Mr John Murray,
Director of the Specialist Group on Roma and Sinti at the Council of
The meeting was hosted by the Human Rights Project, a Sofia-based
Romani NGO. The HRP also organised the group which created the
proposed program for Roma equality, and toured the country discussing
it with local Roma organisations and securing their support. Support
was given on a non-political basis. Faced by local elections in the
fall of 1999, the government is aggressively courting the Bulgarian
Roma: they are being offered participation in the local government,
apparently in return for votes. Thus, the initiative of the HRP for a
round table contract between the government and this discriminated
minority appears in a highly politicised environment. So far the
government has responded positively: Minister Metodiev offered to help
organise a team to elaborate the documents for the proposed Round
Table. This team, composed of government and Roma representatives,
would in theory be open to suggestions emanating from the entire
Romani community of Bulgaria; it should start working this November.

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