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Conference showcasing EU-funded projects to improve lives of Roma.

Spain has one of the largest Roma communities in the EU, numbering 700 000 and, as elsewhere in Europe, they suffer persistent discrimination and high levels of poverty and unemployment.

In 2000, the EU co-funded the Acceder (Access) project to help the unemployed in Spain find work by adapting vocational training to employers' needs. By June 2009, nearly 34 000 people, most of them Roma, had found jobs through the programme.

The Spanish example was one of 30 projects featured at an EU-organised conference showcasing successful efforts to help the Roma. The 500 attendees included policy-makers from various levels of government. Their goal was to identify best practice in Roma-related projects funded by the EU and find ways to share that knowhow with schools, NGOs and companies.

An estimated 10-12 million Roma live throughout the EU, making them one of Europe's biggest ethnic minorities. Most live in abject poverty on the fringes of society, with little access to jobs, education or healthcare.

The EU has long supported member countries in their efforts to put in place effective Roma policies. The Roma conference was organised as part of the European year for combating poverty and social exclusion. The results will be discussed at the second EU Roma summit in April.

EU help for the Roma

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