Tsonko Tsonev: Infrastructure could be built everywhere, but proper human relations between different ethnic groups are hard to achieve26 August 2011 | 17:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Focus: The Municipality of Kavarna is partner of Integro Association on the project “Thank You, Mayor”. As part of the campaign Mayors exchange good practices on solving problems of Roma people. We have already talked about the experience of Kavarna on the subject before, about the improved infrastructure and living standards of the citizens of the Roma district “Hristo Botev.” All this happened thanks to the financing gained through various European programmes and projects. The “Thank You, Mayor” campaign is to be carried out in Sofia, Stara Zagora, Varna, Sliven, Kyustendil, Petrich, Peshtera, and Byala, Ruse Province. A Dutch delegation is coming to Kavarna to get familiar with the realization of the project. Would you tell us a bit more about the project, Mr Tsonev?
Tsonko Tsonev: It is not just a delegation from the Netherlands; it includes the management of the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO), under the auspices of which the programme was started in 6 European countries. The Managing Director is here, together with his Deputy and representatives from the Czech Republic, Romania, and Albania. They are currently in Kavarna and will stay for a two-day seminar, while also taking a look on the Roma district “Hadzhi Dimitar.” This will allow them to really get familiar with what we have achieved in improving the living conditions there. The level is quite high, and ERGO itself is a serious organisation. It used to have representatives of the European Commission, specialists in Roma questions, who subsequently moved to other NGOs. I am happy they came to Kavarna hat they will have three days to see all that has been done here.
Representatives of the Integro organisation that is a main beneficiary on the programme are also in Kavarna. They are a structure of ERGO and its representatives for the “Thank You, Mayor” campaign in Bulgaria, alongside us. There will be a really intense programme - we will show them the Roma district and everything in it: gasification, infrastructure, the kindergarten, and the school. There is a lot to see and discuss. The handful of countries represented in ERGO will discuss future events and European projects, as they are working on a lot of programmes, not just that pilot project with Integro.
Focus: From what you have so far done as Kavarna Mayor for integrating the Roma minority, what are you most proud of?
Tsonko Tsonev: I am most proud not with the infrastructure, but with the change in attitude of Bulgarians towards Roma and with the fact that there is no division between them. Infrastructure could be built everywhere, but proper, equal, mutual, and friendly, human relations between different ethnic groups are really hard to achieve. So what is precious, is that they joined hands. Here in Kavarna, we are not working only on Roma projects, but on all kinds of issues in all districts of the town, all the villages in the municipality. And we are reaping the fruits stemming from the fact that there is no division between people based on different ethnic groups. This is the decisive factor – we have no ethnic problems of any kind and I hope we will never have such.
Focus: And what is your vision for further integrating Roma people from now on?
Tsonko Tsonev: From now on we should focus on education, on having more children graduating from school, finishing their secondary education and applying for universities. This will be a determining factor in their lives and I can say most of them will have a better life and get better pay. What has been done is good, but we should build on it. There are already educated people and who could succeed in life. The first and the second step have already been made - they will not be sinking in mud on their way to school, or having to walk in the dark, or having their homes burglarised. We have done what depended on us and from now on we will want them to educate their kids, send them to school, so that they study and excel in their education.
Focus: What are the main pursuits of Roma in Kavarna?
Tsonko Tsonev: In the summer they grow melons and watermelons or work in construction. A lot of them work in Poland and even have firms registered there. Others perform repairs on houses there and then come back here, repair their homes, start buying goods and generally liven up the economy of our town with the money they have saved up in Poland. All in all, they work in three sectors: trade (mostly having to do with Poland), agriculture, and building; they are real masters in the third.
Focus: You are paying a lot of effort to create comfort in their living conditions and attitudes of the Bulgarians to them to be at due level and to tolerate each other. Are Roma people themselves creating any problems?
Tsonko Tsonev: None problems. Crime among them is almost brought to naught, they keep clean, they have their containers, many of them work in the company that performs basic cleaning of the city, they maintain their area, planting their gardens outside their houses, their neighborhood is very clean, which pleases me a lot . I.e. they appreciate what is being done to them and maintain it because we can not maintain it for them. Unfortunately, in many places were done many things, but later everything is destroyed. And fortunately for us, people here have conscience, have education and what is done for them they maintain it and develop it and help us and in this respect – there are no problems.
Focus: Let’s look back on the campaign, "Thank You, Mayor," because it provides for mayors to share best practices in solving Roma problems, you were able to learn about other practices that are applied in other municipalities.
Tsonko Tsonev: Yes, I learn about some practices in Biala Slatina. Our European partners pay visits to other countries, they have visited Kavarna, to see how is used and how other communities working on these issues what they saw. Our European partners should not be underestimated, they don’t look only documents, and what to see what is done. That's why they came here on the spot to see what is done.
Indeed these are very useful projects, they give their results, show best practices. There is nothing wrong in a competition, in a race in its best sense of course, who will achieve in this respect as in integration and in creating best practices.
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