“Roma inclusion is a common issue, a much more important issue than to allow us to entrust it to the Roma alone and an important issue that cannot be realised without the Roma”, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog declared at a session of the Roma Coordination Council.

“We do not accept the fact that the Roma in Hungary are exclusively victims, all of whom require assistance, and we also do not accept the fact that the Roma are to blame”, he said adding:  “We believe that the Roma are also active and responsibly citizens, or can become so if we take each other seriously and are partners”.

The Minister also stressed that one of the fundamental criteria for Roma inclusion is continuity, that re-planning and restructuring is not required every four years.

“In recent years, a level of progress has been achieved with regard to the Roma that has perhaps has not been seen in Hungary since the regime change. The number of people living in poverty or social exclusion has fallen by some 800 thousand since 2013”, he said.

Another significant step forward is the fact that over a period of three years the number of young Roma Hungarians taking part in higher education has doubled, he explained.

However, he pointed out that despite these advances, efforts must still be made with relation to increases in teen pregnancies and the number of early school leavers.

Mr. Balog also said there is a danger that there will be no separate Roma programmes within the European Union’s upcoming programming period, but that the Roma will instead be included in integration programmes for migrants. The Government regards this as unacceptable, he declared.

The Minister reminded the press that the Roma Coordination Council had been established in 2011 in the interests of assuring dialogue and cooperation to facilitate the effective inclusion of the Roma minority. Via the active participation of the representatives of church and civil organisations that play a role in inclusion policy, the body represents a wide sphere of Hungary’s civil, church and expert circles.

Roma National Spokesperson Félix Farkas stressed that Roma inclusion is an issue that involves every member of society and that today, the Government is doing everything possible to facilitate the inclusion of the Roma.

Following the speeches, Mr. Balog presented the body’s new members and the new heads of the Council’s expert committees with their letters of commission.

Prior to the session, the Minister signed a declaration of cooperation with the leaders of three non-governmental organisations: the Khetanipe Association for Roma Solidarity, the Panna Czinka Roma Cultural Association and the Napkerék Association.

“With relation to inclusion, partnership means that ‘we do not make decisions over the heads of the other party’ without consulting each other, and this is why Roma organisations exist, but the appearance of society’s decision-makers is also vital”, the Minister said.

“What links the three organisations is that they do a lot for local Roma communities in major cities and particularly concentrate of the young”, he said.

Mr. Balog also said that the signing of the documents sends a message that there are no exclusivities, and that with relation to Roma policy the Government is cooperating with everyone who is willing to cooperate and whose experience entitles them to do so.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)