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IP/ 09/1365

Brussels, 28 September 2009

EU platform aims to improve Roma access to education

Experts from around Europe are today examining how to improve access to quality education for Roma communities – the first step to better including the minority in mainstream society. The EU Platform for Roma Inclusion is meeting in Brussels under the chairmanship of State Secretary Christer Hallerby for the Swedish EU Presidency. Vladimír Špidla (Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities) and Ján Figel´ (Education, Training, Culture and Youth) are participating on behalf of the European Commission.

In a joint statement, Commissioners Špidla and Figel' said: "The inclusion of the Roma is a litmus test for the European Union as a community of rights and values. Only if we can guarantee that every Roma man, woman and child has both equal rights, but also equal chances in life, can we honour the values on which the EU is built. We need pragmatic, constructive and non-discriminatory policies which are targeted to Roma without excluding other people in a similarly disadvantaged situation."

The Platform is a new mechanism for improving Roma inclusion, bringing together experts from Member States, international organisations, NGOs and academia. Today's meeting focuses specifically on the theme of education and will examine the root causes of Roma exclusion from high quality, mainstream education.

A lack of good education can lead to a vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty, poor housing and bad health. It widens the gap between the Roma minority and majority communities, bringing with it a risk of social instability. Mainstreaming the specific needs of Roma into national education policies and the management of schools is a promising approach towards equity – one of the four objectives of the newly adopted strategic framework "Education and Training 2020".

Commissioner Špidla added: "Not only is education important for employment prospects, but also parents' employment, housing situation and access to social services are inextricably linked to the success rate of Roma children in the educational process. Therefore, it is vital that policies for Roma education are not dealt with in isolation from those in employment and social affairs, housing and public health."

Today's meeting also highlights that Roma inclusion is in the economic and social interest of the European Union and its Member States. It saves indirect costs in terms of lost productivity, lost state revenues and direct costs in terms of transfers. Moreover, inclusion policy makes use of all talents and develops the potential workforce in an ageing society.

In June 2009, EU countries adopted a set of Common Basic Principles for Roma Inclusion at a meeting of the Council of the EU. The European Commission is also committed to enforcing existing EU legislation prohibiting discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin in employment, education, social protection and access to goods and services. In addition, the EU provides financial support for projects and programmes to improve Roma inclusion under the European Structural Funds.

Further information

2 nd meeting of the integrated platform on Roma inclusion

EU and Roma

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See also MEMO/09/419

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