Roma conference opens in Bucharest

BBC News, Monday 10 September 2001, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK

An international conference is beginning in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, to look at ways of reducing discrimination against the Roma, or Gypsies, across Europe.

The three-day event—which is being organised by the European security body, the OSCE—is expected to discuss projects aimed at fostering greater social integration for the minority group.

There are believed to be about nine million ethnic Roma around the world, many of them in Eastern Europe.

Correspondents say they often encounter prejudice, and are far more likely to suffer from unemployment and illiteracy than majority populations.

They are frequently blamed for petty crime, and are the target of racist attacks.

A European Union representative at the conference said the host country, Romania, had made efforts to improve Roma access to education and health services.

But he added that greater integration was being hampered by cultural differences.