Brussels, 16 September 2008
The European Commission will today launch the first EU-level summit devoted to improving the situation of Roma communities across the Union. The event, taking place in Brussels, aims to promote a joint commitment by national, European and civil society representatives to tackle the widespread discrimination and exclusion faced by millions of Europeans of Roma origin (see also MEMO/08/559).
"In the 21st century, the situation of the Roma is a stain on Europe's conscience," said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. "The problems are multiple and complex, but we have the tools to improve inclusion – with legislation, funding and sharing policies that work. We now need a joint commitment at local, regional, national, and European level to put these tools to better use and guarantee a better future for Roma communities across the EU. The situation will change only if all are committed."
Today's Summit will be the first time that EU institutions, national governments and civil society organisations representing the Roma community from around Europe come together at the highest level to discuss the situation of Roma in the EU and find ways to improve it. Discrimination on basis of race and ethnic origine is prohibited in the EU in all areas of life (directive 2000/43/EEC). Yet discrimination against Roma persist and 77% of Europeans think that being Roma is a disadvantage in Europe.
The event will be opened by Commission President Barroso while other key members of the Commission will participate, including Vice-President Barrot (Justice and Home affairs), Commissioner Špidla and Commissioner Figel (Education, training, culture and youth).
They will be joined by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Christine Boutin, Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs (on behalf of the French EU Presidency), several ministers from EU Member States and candidate countries as well as George Soros, Chair of the Open Society Institute, Shigeo Katsu, Vice-President of the World Bank, and Romani Rose, President of the German Central Council of Sinti and Roma.
The direct involvement of Roma organisations and representatives is a key feature of the event. These include two Members of the European Parliament of Roma origin, Lívia Járóka (EPP-ED, HU) and Viktória Mohácsi (ALDE, HU).
In the Social Agenda of 2 July 2008, the Commission set out a renewed commitment to non-discrimination in general and action to improve the situation of Roma in particular. The working paper that was presented looks into the instruments and policies available at EU level to promote Roma inclusion (IP/08/1072, MEMO/08/462). It concluded that there is a powerful framework of legislative, financial and policy coordination tools available and that these are increasingly used, but that there is still an implementation gap in the Member States.
The Summit forms the next step in this process and aims to support and promote a joint commitment by the Member States, the EU institutions and civil society. The conclusions will feed into discussions by EU leaders at the December 2008 European Council.
Event information and programme
European Commission action on the Roma
European Year of Intercultural Dialogue