Brussels, 7 April 2010
European Commission urges Roma social inclusion
Roma communities, the European Union’s largest ethnic minority, continue to face persistent discrimination and segregation. The European Commission urged Member States in a report today to use EU funds for the social and economic integration of Roma. Ensuring these communities’ access to jobs and non-segregated education, housing and health services is vital to their social inclusion, the report said. The integration of the estimated 10 to 12 million Roma – a population as large as Belgium’s or Greece’s – is a joint responsibility of Member States and EU institutions. A separate report evaluated the progress achieved in integration over the past two years. Participants at the second Europe-wide Roma Summit, to be held in Córdoba, Spain on 8-9 April, will review these reports.
"As a Union founded on strong values, we must ensure that Roma's fundamental rights are respected. Discrimination against this ethnic minority is not acceptable,” said Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “Addressing their problems benefits our societies and economies. It is only through sustained and coordinated action that we can make a real difference for Roma all over Europe."
László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion underlined: "Efforts to integrate the Roma people need to cover an entire life cycle starting earliest stages of kindergarten to mainstream education for children, jobs for adults and care for the elderly. Roma communities are part and parcel of our fight against poverty and joblessness. He added: "Roma people do not need a separate labour market, they do not need schools that prolong the segregation of Roma children and they do not want renovated Roma ghettos. Our objective is to get Roma accepted on equal terms, to be integrated into society. The European Social Fund is a powerful lever in supporting this cross-cutting approach".
In its policy Communication adopted today, the Commission outlines an ambitious mid-term programme to meet the biggest challenges for Roma inclusion, including:
Mobilising the Structural Funds, including the European Social Fund – which together represent almost half of the EU's budget – to support Roma inclusion;
Taking Roma issues into account in all relevant policy areas at national and EU level, from employment to urban development and from public health to EU expansion;
Harnessing the potential of Roma communities to support inclusive growth as part of the Europe 2020 strategy.
Although the situation of many of Europe's Roma people remains difficult, important progress has been made at EU and national levels. In the last two years, the EU and Member States have focused on making anti-discrimination laws and EU funding more effective in promoting Roma inclusion. This includes fighting discrimination, segregation and racist violence as well as supporting programmes to address the vicious circle of poverty, social marginalisation, low school achievement and poor housing and health.
For example, the Commission launched legal proceedings against 24 Member States to make sure that EU anti-discrimination law on the grounds of race is correctly transposed into national legislation. Out of these cases, 12 are still open while 12 were successfully concluded. To encourage Member States' effective use of Structural Funds, the Commission is conducting two studies that will identify successful projects, programmes and policies for Roma inclusion – one covering the funds as a whole and a second on the European Social Fund's support for Roma.
The Communication and progress report will be discussed at the second European Roma Summit, which is organised with the Spanish EU Presidency. The event brings together high-level representatives of the EU institutions, Member States and civil society to review progress since the first summit in 2008.
Roma communities often face economic, social and political discrimination. The richness these communities could bring to European society is often overlooked and tainted by stereotypes and prejudices.
Following a request by EU leaders, the Commission published a comprehensive report on EU instruments, policies and progress achieved towards Roma inclusion, which was presented at the first European Roma Summit in September 2008. EU leaders confirmed in December 2008 their governments' commitment to using the tools available to support Roma inclusion. In 2009, the Commission launched a European Platform for Roma Inclusion to bring together experts and policy makers. It developed 10 common basic principles for Roma inclusion that provide guidance for policy makers to design and implement effective actions.
The EU has a strong legal framework to combat discrimination. It uses the European Structural Funds and addresses the issue of Roma discrimination in its awareness-raising initiatives. Moreover, it coordinates a number of key policy areas that are particularly relevant to Roma inclusion, such as education, employment and social inclusion.
EU and the Roma : http://ec.europa.eu/roma
2nd European Roma Summit :
Video News Release: Do we really know the Roma?