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Brussels, 20th May 2010

EU adopts new measures to improve housing conditions of Roma communities

The European Parliament has given its green light to a proposal from the European Commission which makes it possible to use European regional funding to improve housing for marginalised communities. This measure, previously agreed by the Member States, will be particularly welcomed by the Roma population, estimated to include around 10-12 million people in Europe who often live in extremely deprived and segregated conditions.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, welcomes the decision: “The Roma community is Europe's largest minority group, which is often victim of marginalisation, deprivation and social exclusion. I welcome today’s decision, which will allow regional policy to help to break the vicious circle in which these communities seem to be trapped. This should be part of an overall approach covering also actions in the fields of education, health, social affairs and employment.”

Structural funds legislation was previously very restrictive for housing interventions with eligibility limited to the twelve new EU Member States (with recent exceptions introduced for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures), and to renovation of existing multi-occupancy dwellings in urban areas. However, Roma populations mostly live in segregated rural areas and in single family dwellings.

The newly adopted measures will extend the use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to cover housing interventions in favour of marginalised communities in all Member States. The amendment is explicitly but not exclusively targeted to the Roma population. It covers the replacement of existing houses as well as the construction of new ones, in both rural and urban areas. ERDF funding would not apply to private ownership but only for projects implemented by public authorities.

Housing support complementing wider actions

Housing is recognised as a crucial factor for improving Roma integration. However, it should also form part of an “integrated approach” designed and implemented by the national and regional authorities to cover other issues such as education, skills development, employment, and health.

The European Structural Funds already co-fund a number of projects targeted at Roma communities, for example, in early childhood education, employment, micro-finance, and equal opportunities (especially gender equality). For example, thanks to EU investment (€1.11 million), a new urban-regeneration project will be put in place in one of the biggest Roma neighbourhoods in Hungary, in the city of Nyiregyhaza. The segregated school will be abolished, with roads, playgrounds, and child-care services to be renewed.

As well as the funding available through regional policy programmes, the European Parliament has assigned € 5 million to the European Commission for a pilot project on Roma inclusion with three strands: early-childhood-education, micro-finance and awareness-raising. The project is being implemented during 2010 and is mainly targeted at Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe.

Note for editors

The Commission brought forward its proposal in July 2009 which was then discussed by the European Parliament and the Member States in the Council.

Research findings show that in Central and Eastern European countries, over 50% of the Roma population live in partially or totally segregated neighbourhoods - an isolation trend that has been reinforced in the last 15 years.

2010 has been designated European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion.

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