05.04.2018Fifteen ambassadors discussed the Roma integration.

Ambassadors from  the  Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group and the Swiss ambassadors from 6 Balkan countries discussed current challenges  in the policies of Roma integration with the Chairman of Center Amalipe Deyan Kolev. It happened to a meeting, organized on 13th March from H.E. Dennis Knobell, ambassador of Switzerland in Bulgaria and co-chairman of The Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group. 

By welcoming the guests, H.E. Ambassador Knobell emphasized on the engagement of Switzerland, as well of The Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group, with the partners support for implementing the integration policies. Within the framework of the Bulgarian-Swiss program is supported a special sub-program "Health and education for all", which intervenes in Burgas, Sliven, Shumen, Rousse, Montana and Plovdiv to increase the number of Roma children attending kindergarten and the results are encouraging. Ambassador Knobell emphasized the fact that The Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group is a voluntary union of 12 European and US ambassadors who share a common concern and willingness to assist the Bulgarian authorities in implementing the National Roma Strategy. He is grateful for Amalipe's active role and partnership in this endeavor.

In his presentation Deyan Kolev stressed that Roma are not a problem but a potential for development in Bulgaria, citing data from World Bank reports that more than one fifth of young people who are expected to enter the labor market are Roma. From this point of view, Roma integration is not only a human rights issue but also a key task for securing economic and social development, Kolev said. Therefore, the implementation of the National Roma Strategy should be one of the top five political priorities, but the reality is different: the rise of anti-Roma rhetoric by ultranationalist politicians, the transformation of  domestic conflicts into ethnic ones and the inactivity of the large political parties,  who prefer not to mention the few real actions they take in this direction. Given the fact that Bulgaria is part of the EU, any support from our partner countries and the European Commission is important in order to make Roma integration a political priority. The existence of The Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group is an exceptional fact in this direction.

Answering questions from ambassadors, Kolev expressed the view that migration in Western European countries  includes the more active Roma, and not the most marginalized families. The EU and the Member States do not use the potential of these groups to be the link, contributing to the development of both Bulgaria and host countries. In regard to this, it is imperative to establish a mechanism for tracking the enrollment in school of children migrating abroad and returning back to Bulgaria. A sensible investment is the development of manufacture  in the areas, from which there is a concentration of migrants , that could engage returnees from abroad.

Deputy Minister of Education Denitsa Sacheva presented the work of interinstitutional teams that have already returned to the classrooms nearly 22,000 dropouts. This is an important priority of the current government and its implementation is backed by changes in the system of delegated budgets and by providing more funds to schools integrating students from vulnerable groups, said Sacheva.


The Roma Inclusion Ambassadors Group, RIAG, is a broad and open platform that includes  12 embassies and the EU Representation in Bulgaria. They have a long and sincere commitment to the problems of the Roma community in Bulgaria. Accordingly, the main objective of the RIAG is twofold: first, to raise awareness and engagement at the central political level with the Bulgarian institutions, and second, to maintain contact with the community and to involve  the community representatives. The group is chaired jointly by H.E. Dennis Knobell (Ambassador of Switzerland) and the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The activities of the RIAG are coordinated by the Roma Program Management Department at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy.

The Extended Group or the Roma Forum (RF) complements the work of the RIAG. It brings together the main embassies, authorities, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. The activities of the RF are coordinated by the Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance.

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