April 8, 2013 | 15:42
International Roma Day marked in Serbia
BELGRADE -- President Tomislav Nikolić on Monday received a delegation of representatives of the Roma national minority as International Roma Day is marked.
Protection of the rights of national minorities in Serbia is guaranteed by the Constitution, the president noted, and added that Serbia had to protect their rights and provide special protection to ensure full equality and preservation of their identity.
The Roma representatives thanked Nikolić for the hospitality and supported the government in the difficult situation it faced because of the Kosovo issue, the presidential press service stated.
The Roma representatives informed Nikolić about the problems the Roma face in Serbia and asked him to assist in protecting their rights, the statement says.
Roma support government on Kosovo
The Serbian government can count on support from the Roma national community and the Roma Party whatever the decision regarding the offer from Brussels to solve the issue of Kosovo, Roma Party leader Srdjan Šain said on Monday.
The Roma wish to express clear support for the Serbian top officials in finding the best solution for the Kosovo issue, Šain said on International Day of the Roma.
"We usually say on this day the Roma have twice the unemployment rate than Serbia's average, experience twice as much discrimination, but today we wish to support the government in a clear way in finding the best solutions for Kosovo," Šain told reporters at the parliament.
Apartments to be built for 202 Roma families
Belgrade Mayor Dragan Đilas and Head of EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert signed Monday a protocol on the implementation of a housing project for Roma families from former "unhygienic" settlements Belville and Gazela in New Belgrade.
According to the project, a total of 202 Roma families should get new apartments worth EUR 3.6 million.
Đilas stated after signing the protocol that the construction of these apartments will be financed from IPA funds.
Đilas said that the donation sent by the EU through The United Nations Office for Project Services, is one of the biggest ones the city has ever received.
The Belgrade mayor noted that much has been done to resettle the Roma people from their settlements in the past four years.
The housing situation of the Roma families will be permanently solved thanks to the EU's financial assistance. The families are currently housed in five newly created container settlements, Đilas said.
Roma still exposed to poverty and discrimination
The Roma are still suffering the consequences of generations of poverty and discrimination, and there is no room for satisfaction with the speed of their integration into society, Serbian Ombudsman Saša Janković said Monday.
Janković said there are examples of living conditions of the most vulnerable Roma improving, but these are isolated cases.
Wishing them a happy Roma Day, Janković said in a release that associates of the citizen protector are taking to Roma in Bujanovac, Leskovac and their makeshift neighborhoods in Belgrade.
Teams are in the field, listening to objections which can be solved if state and local institutions put in a greater effort and work in line with the law.
The day was officially declared in 1990 at the fourth World Romani Congress, in honour of the first major international meeting of Roma representatives, in 1971 in London.