The Norwegian government is increasing its aid to Romania by another NOK 176 million (USD 24 million), earmarked to combat poverty among Roma people in Romania. The new aid comes in addition to the NOK 2.7 billion Norway is sending to Romania over a five-year period, as part of its obligations to gain market access to the European Union (EU).
The money will be used to fund seven new education and social welfare projects for Roma, and brings Roma aid to NOK 326 million through 2016.
Vidar Helgesen, the government minister in charge of EU issues, told newspaper Dagsavisen that the new money has been diverted from other anti-poverty projects in Europe that were no longer a priority. “We believe measures to help the Roma are a correct means of using the money,” Helgesen said.
He said the new aid wasn’t directly tied to efforts to reduce the numbers of Roma coming to Norway to beg on the streets. Rather, he claimed, Roma are especially vulnerable to poverty in Romania, where nearly half the population lives below the poverty line as measured by the EU’s statistics bureau Eurostat.