Soros to propose plan to improve Romany situation

(PDM staff with CTK) 10 November

American philanthropist George Soros may submit to the Czech government a plan for the improvement of the situation and life of the Romany minority, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek told journalists after meeting with Soros yesterday.

The Czech Republic could then use certain plans that succeeded in Hungary and Romania, he said.

Soros, 65, is a Hungarian-born Jewish-American financial speculator and philanthropist who established the Open Society Fund, an international network of foundations. He is the president of the Open Society Institution that has initiated, jointly with the World Bank, the Romany Decade project. The project was joined by eight countries of Central and Eastern Europe this year, including the Czech Republic. It is expected to improve the level of Romany education, employment, health and housing in the next 10 years.

"We have agreed with Mr Soros that he will submit such a plan and we will discuss it and initiate public debate on this topic," Paroubek said.

The plan should more involve non-profit organisations in the solution of Romany problems, Paroubek said. "I think that this cannot be only a matter for the government," he added.

Some representatives of Romany organisations have criticised the government in the past for its failure to solve Romany problems. For instance, according to Ivan Vesely, head of the Dzeno association, the government has failed to solve the problem of enormous unemployment among Romanies.

According to Paroubek, Soros is to come to the Czech Republic at the beginning of next year. They will then discuss activities and the plans of his foundation.

Paroubek said he the key to solving Romany problems "lies mainly in increasing the level of their education and their integration with society." The Czech Republic could also find financial means for educational programmes for the young Romany generation in European funds, he said.

Soros came to Prague to take part in a meeting Thursday of the Madrid Club, which is a discussion forum of former presidents and prime ministers.

CTK news edited by the staff of the Prague Daily Monitor, a Monitor CE service.