Romania has made progress towards bringing its Roma citizens into mainstream society but more efforts are needed to improve their access to education and jobs, Unicef and EU representatives said Monday in Bucharest.
"Some progress has been made in Romania in recent years, and a national strategy for Roma inclusion was adopted" in 2011, Unicef (The United Nations Children's Fund) representative in Bucharest Sandie Blanchet told an international conference.
"But we are concerned that progress has been too little, too slow," she added, regretting "the high level of inequality" between Roma and non-Roma.
Eight percent of Romanian children live in absolute poverty, compared to 35 percent among Roma children.
Blanchet also underlined that 75 percent of Roma children do not complete the 8th grade.
The present situation of Roma in Romania, 619,000 according to the last census but up to two million according to NGOs, is the "image of the failure of the inclusion politics led for the past decencies", Gelu Duminica, president of the Impreuna (Together) association, stressed.
"The road out of poverty is to get the Roma on the labour market", social affairs Europeancommissioner Laszlo Andor said.
"Social investment in Roma integration can bring high returns", he added, insisting that "developing kindergartens is the best policy Romania can have, the next generation will grow in decent conditions and have better training".
According to him, Bucharest should use more European funds to improve the Romas' situation. Some 33,000 have taken part in social programmes financed by Brussels, far from the objective of 65,000 people to which authorities had committed.
Research conducted in 2012 regarding the living conditions of Roma people reported on some positive trends despite the persistence of important differences on housing, jobs and access to education and health.
It also showed that the migration rate among Roma and non-Roma is, unlike the general perception, identical. Nineteen percent of the families questioned have at least one member that left abroad "to escape poverty" and "find a job".