Roma culture integral to Europe: minister

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Latvian Culture Minister Dace Melbarde, speaking to the meeting on the social inclusion of the Roma people in Brussels Tuesday, cited the role of Roma culture amidst the diversity of the European cultural heritage. However, she also warned against harmful public stereotypes which continue to prevail in many EU member states, Sintija Lase, spokesperson for Latvia's Presidency of the Council of the EU informed the media.

Melbarde was representing Latvia's EU Presidency at the 9th meeting of the European Platform for Roma inclusion in Brussels.

Together with European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova and Paraskevi Michou, the director general for the EU Directorate General for Justice, the Culture Minister opened the second day of the meeting and took part in the discussions.

She praised the fact that EU member states have decided to cooperate to improve social integration of the largest EU ethnic minority, and the EU Council has made a significant contribution by developing an EU program for Roma integration until 2020.

Melbarde held up the role of the Roma culture in the European cultural heritage, reminding at the same time how harmful stereotypes can be, arguing how important it is for the media and educational institutions to be aware of their responsibility. She called on media, schools and universities to take a more active part in reducing prejudice and discrimination.

"We should demonstrate patience, solidarity, effort and resolve to ensure equality and reduce the social exclusion of the Romas. We should ensure social integration, offer equal opportunities for all our citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin," said the minister.

The political panel discussion was attended by EU ministers from Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary and Sweden, as well as lawmakers from the European Parliament.

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