BUCHAREST, Romania, Nov. 17, 2005
(AP) American philanthropist George Soros on Thursday called for the integration of Gypsies in Eastern Europe, saying it could prevent an outbreak of unrest similar to the recent rioting in France.
Soros, who was in Romania for a conference on the region's Gypsy communities, said government action to end the discrimination and social isolation of Europe's 8 million Gypsies, or Roma, could avoid a rebellion.
"There is a deep level of distrust between Roma and the wider populations," Soros told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the two-day meeting. "Stereotypes will persist as long as there is an underclass."
"In France there is a society that is ripped (apart) by segregation, poverty and hatred. In America, (Hurricane) Katrina exposed to the whole world the terrible divisions in American society," he said.
The meeting brought together participants in the Decade of Roma Inclusion, a program endorsed by nine governments in central and Eastern Europe to ensure Gypsies have better access to education, housing, employment and health care.
Soros' Open Society Institute has spent $70 million to combat anti-Gypsy discrimination. He said the most serious problems were in Slovakia, partly because the government there is less active on the issue.
The meeting in Bucharest addressed concerns that unrest in France, led primarily by the children of Muslim immigrants from North Africa, could be repeated in Eastern Europe's poor, marginalized Gypsy communities.
"It is essential to speed things up if we are to see Roma in the mainstream of European society," said Shigeo Katsu, the World Bank's vice president for Europe and Central Asia. "The isolation in cities across France provides dramatic testament to isolated groups."
Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu also said he wanted to reduce prejudices.
"We have to change old mentalities which lead to isolation and create fears and discrepancies between ethnic groups," he said.
Several countries in the region, as well as the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Development Program, have drafted individual action plans developed in cooperation with Roma leaders.
Again it is the "Roma" leaders that "Papa" Soros is talking about and when he talks about "Gypsy integration in Europe" he also only sees Eastern Europe. Could someone tell me please why this is so?