BELGRADE -- Serbia's Romany community marked World Roma Day by noting there has been improvement in their status, but that more needs to be one to provide them with health care, education, and jobs, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
Dragoljub Atanackovic, the vice president of the World Roma Congress, said on April 8 that Roma in Serbia face the same hardships as Roma elsewhere in the world.
"Some improvements have been felt lately, especially in the Belgrade region, but I say that it is not enough," he said.
Official figures put the Romany population in Serbia at 110,000, but experts say their number could be as high as 700,000 with a large majority of them living in poverty.
He added that only 5 percent of Roma have a permanent job, 30 percent have completed elementary education, 9 percent have attended high school, and only one in 10,000 has a university education.
Atanackovic said most Romany families live in unhygienic conditions in dozens of makeshift suburban settlements and face poverty, discrimination, and racial violence.
The present government claims it is doing more for Roma than its predecessors and that Roma are having "a renaissance," which this year will be supported with a budget of some 8 million euros ($10.66 million).
"The status of Roma cannot be changed and improved over a short period, and anyone who says that does not know the situation and is not serious. The Romany community has changed, it has evolved, improved, and reached a certain maturity within itself," says Svetozar Ciplic, Serbia's minister for human and minority rights.
Serbia recognized Roma as an ethnic minority in 2002 and three years later implemented the "Decade of Roma" project, which was launched by five Central European countries that pledged to improve the status of the Roma in education, health care, and employment.
The Minority and Human Rights Ministry awarded 40 laptop computers to the most successful Romany students on April 8.