Brussels, 24 April 2009
A new European platform for Roma inclusion will meet for the first time today in Prague to improve coordination of national actions to tackle the exclusion of Europe's biggest ethnic minority. The meeting brings together national governments, the EU, other international organisations and civil society and aims to stimulate cooperation and exchange of experience on successful Roma inclusion policies.
"The current economic crisis increases the risk that the Roma – who are often living at the margins of society – will be totally excluded," warned Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social affairs and Equal Opportunities. "We need constructive policies which give the Roma a chance, not repressive ones which drive them further into poverty and social exclusion. Policies should explicitly target the Roma – but with the aim of giving them access to mainstream education, mainstream jobs and mainstream housing. And effective policies should be shared across national boundaries."
Today's meeting, co-organised by Commissioner Špidla and the Czech Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities, Michael Kocáb, will review progress in tackling Roma exclusion since the first European Roma Summit, held in Brussels in September 2008 (see IP/08/1326). It follows a call from the General Affairs Council in December 2008 to organise an exchange of good practice and experience between EU countries and to stimulate cooperation between all parties by means of an integrated European platform.
The meeting aims to identify a set of basic principles needed to effectively address the inclusion of Roma. In addition, the European Commission will outline how it plans to target the needs of Roma people with EU-level instruments and policies in 2009 and 2010. It will report too on the implementation of a new EUR 5 million pilot project which the European Parliament has added to the 2009 Budget. The Commission will present a fuller progress report early in 2010 in time for the next Roma Summit to be held in Spain in April 2010.
The situation of several millions of Roma in the EU and its neighbours is characterised by discrimination and far-reaching exclusion from mainstream society, with disproportional rates of poverty and unemployment, poor health status and lower life expectancy. In addition, Roma are often victims of discrimination and racist violence.
The European Union has a broad range of instruments at its disposal to tackle the discrimination and social exclusion of Roma. Directive 2000/43/EC prohibits discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin in employment, education, social protection (including health care) and access to goods and services. The EU Structural Funds and Community programmes can provide financial support for projects and policies while policy cooperation mechanisms at EU and national level in the areas of social inclusion, employment, education and health can be used to tackle Roma exclusion through a combination of targeted analysis and action and of mainstreaming.
See also MEMO/09/193
European Commission website on the Roma
General Affairs Council Press release of 8 December 2008 on Roma inclusion
Proposal for Common Basic Principles