On its own, the state cannot, while Roma communities on their own are unable to achieve social integration, and therefore they must cooperate.

Deputy Prime Minister-Interior Minister Sándor Pintér said in Tiszabura at an orientation meeting held with the participation of the municipal leaders of the first 31 settlements to take part in the Long-term programme for settlements seeking to achieve wider integration that, pursuant to the government’s decision, in the next few years 300 disadvantaged settlements will receive help, and in 2019 the related work will start in the first 31 locations. The programme will be coordinated by the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, and the largest church charitable organisations and civil-society organisations working in the settlements concerned will take part in its implementation.

The Minister stressed that also today the Roma are struggling with difficulties and prejudices; they would like to see progress in this area. He added that while a number of attempts have been made, they have not yet been successfully and fully integrated into society. “There has been progress, but there has been no breakthrough.”

He said even today the Roma are behind in the areas of learning, qualifications, state of health and income. The government clearly believes that these differences are not acceptable, he added.

He also highlighted that they had selected the 300 settlements in cooperation with the Central Statistical Office, on the basis of complex indicators which equally take account of employment, schooling, housing, income and crime data as well as age structure.

He said it has become clear that they cannot bridge this “gap” at once, in a single phase, in the entire territory of the country, and they will therefore develop pilot programmes.

He added that they are counting on the leaders of settlements in the implementation of the programmes. They hope that their results will later serve as models and examples in other territories of the country as well.

The programme has multiple objectives. Mr Pintér mentioned as examples the stabilisation of the operation of municipalities in disadvantaged settlements and the implementation of developments which serve to improve the population’s situation.

They would also like to achieve a further reduction in the number of crimes through the improvement of living conditions. The Interior Minister described the attainment of full employment as a priority goal as well.

Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler said it can be traced back to ancient traditions that every people and every persecuted nation finds a home within the boundaries of the Hungarian State.

Hungary would not have been able to find advancement if the peoples living here had not acted together, he added. The Hungarian State – whenever external forces did not force it to act otherwise – protected, supported and helped every one of its citizens, every one of its communities. The Minister described the “Roma issue” as an issue of national fate.

The divisions of the Ministry of Human Capacities have played a significant role in the resolution of this issue for years, he added.

“We are introducing a new health culture in Hungary, as part of which we are renewing our entire health care system”, Mr Kásler said, indicating that the goal is to increase the number of years the Hungarian people spend in good health through prevention, the implementation of screening tests and by stressing the importance of healthy lifestyles.

The Minister highlighted that there are several programmes concerning settlements which seek to improve their level of integration. The programme “Bringing screening tests to you” started in 2017. As part of this, three screening buses travel around the country visiting settlements, primarily and specifically focusing on signs and symptoms indicating cancerous and cardiovascular diseases as today in Hungary these are responsible for 75 per cent of deaths.

They pay special attention to the development of the network of health visitors in disadvantaged settlements in order to minimise the number of births of children with irreparable handicaps in the future, he said.

“However, education, schools play the most important role in integration,” the Minister continued, pointing out that throughout the country there are 285 learning centres whose mission it is to help 8,500 pupils with learning disadvantages. This year the government has provided HUF 2.5 billion for this programme.

Mr Kásler made specific mention of the On the road scholarship programme in which 13,000 disadvantaged students participate every school year. Programmes such as the Bursa Hungarica Scholarship, the Path to a Degree Scholarship, the Higher Education Mentor Programme and other social service elements form an integral part of the higher education system. These seek to help disadvantaged students in order to enable them to sufficiently concentrate on their studies, free from the troubles of everyday life. There are another 11 specialisation colleges achieving outstanding results for talented Roma students.

Miklós Vecsei, appointee of the Prime Minister, Vice-President of the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta pointed out that there is no single method that can be used everywhere; every settlement needs different interventions. However, what every settlement has in common is that children are at the centre of attention, he observed.

The selected 300 settlements have a total combined population of 270,000, most of them of Roma origin. The population’s educational qualifications and rate of employment are low, and the percentage of homes without basic utilities is above the national average.

The programme is based on the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta’s Hungarian Heritage Award-winning Presence Programme which, rather than implementing a series of pre-determined tasks, seeks to find practical solutions to the problems emerging locally, and designates the steps to be taken in the direction of development by setting up social diagnoses.

(Ministry of Interior/MTI)