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According to World Bank 2011 data, Bulgaria loses over one billion BGN (€500 million) annually due to failed integration of the Roma community. Yet, the resources invested in improving Roma citizens’ access to education have the potential to generate profit of triple that amount for the state. The same statistics show that in Bulgaria only 16 per cent of the Roma population receive social security benefits, which challenges the popular belief that the ethnic minority is entirely dependent on such benefits. Thirty per cent of the 15-year-olds looking for employment are Roma, while 13 per cent of them are Bulgarian. Only 13 per cent of the working Roma population hold high school diplomas. The corresponding figure for the other employed citizens in Bulgaria is 87 per cent.
On the occasion of the 40th International Roma Day and the 5th European Roma Platform on 8 April 2011, the European Roma Rights Centre, together with other organisations and individuals, initiated a petition to denounce all forms of anti-Roma violence, including intimidation and hate speech. Part of the petition reads as follows:
“As the European Commission presents the long-awaited European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, we cannot ignore that there are Roma living in Europe today whose daily lives are threatened by violence and harassment. Recalling the past and present acts of anti-Roma violence in Europe and the threat of future incidents, we remember the victims and demand justice for all of those affected. Whether the threat comes from ordinary citizens, paramilitary groups, far-right political organisations or the hate speech of public figures, we demand that the racism and violence which undermine our common European values no longer be tolerated or ignored.
We call on the European Union and national governments to:
- Swiftly and clearly condemn all acts of anti-Roma violence, recognising and denouncing their racial motivation;
- Ensure prompt State response to protect Romani European citizens against threats to their security and to conduct effective investigations and prosecutions to deliver justice to victims of violent attacks;
- Implement a zero tolerance policy for public officials engaged in hate speech or other violations of the rights of Roma.
You can read more on the ethnic minorities problematic in BHC’s annual report and in the sections below.