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New official looks to 'long haul' for Roma

THE NEW government officer in charge of Roma communities says she is looking for long-term solutions to help the troubled minority.

"I won't be saying anything new by saying that this is going to be a long haul," Anna Botošová told the TASR newswire on July 10.

She said handling the problems will be difficult and involve many areas, such as education, social status and housing. But she added that helping the Roma is also helping the majority population.

"150,000 people at the bottom of the society first and foremost concerns the majority society," she said.

Not all Roma are in need of assistance, Botošová added.

"This is a multi-level sphere," she said. "Different treatment is needed for those living in settlements, for those in cities and for the intelligentsia."

Also problematic is the matter of identity, which no one has cultivated before, she said. According to statistics, no more than 90,000 Roma have declared themselves as belonging to this ethnic minority because of the public's negative perception of Roma.

"This needs to be changed by making clear that Roma are equal citizens of Slovakia just like Ruthenians (Rusyns), Hungarians or Jews with ... all rights and responsibilities," she said.

Next month, Botošová will finalise a strategy for the Roma ethnic minority for 2007 to 2015, focusing on socially disadvantaged groups. She wants to work with the ministries in charge of the issues that affect them. The strategy will include three main segments, she said: education, social issues and health.

Botošová was appointed at the proposal of Deputy Prime Minister Dušan Čaplovič on June 21. She replaced Klára Orgovánová, who found herself at odds with the new government over policy issues.

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