Handling of Roma affairs influences Hungary’s reputation in US, says state sec

Washington, February 16 (MTI) – Hungary’s handling of Roma affairs strongly influences the country’s reputation in the United States, which is looking at the government’s Roma programme with great anticipation, a senior official of the Public Administration and Justice Ministry said in Washington late on Tuesday local time.

Roma affairs is more than a human rights issue, it also poses an economic challenge that has a strategic importance for the future of Europe, said state secretary Zoltan Balog after meeting US government officials and representatives of civil organisations.

    Some 85 percent of Europe’s 12 million Roma live in former Soviet bloc countries and those of them who do not have jobs represent a great pressure on social care services, he added.

    The Roma programme was in the focus of talks with officials of the State Department, Balog said. He added that he had watched a presentation at the Department of Education on federal equal opportunities programmes and the integration of socially disadvantaged families.

    Balog said he had held talks with representatives of the National Democratic Council, a US non-profit organisation which plans to launch a Roma programme in northern Hungary.