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IP/11/400

Strasbourg, 5 April 2011

European Commission calls on Member States to set national strategies for Roma integration

Europe's 10-12 million Roma continue to face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go wasted. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion. The European Commission is therefore today putting forward a European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. This EU Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support inclusion efforts. The Framework focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals in proportion to the population on their territory and depending on their starting point.

"Despite some good intentions from national politicians, too little has changed in the lives of most Roma over the last few years," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "Member States have a joint responsibility to put an end to Roma exclusion – from schools, jobs, healthcare and housing. This is a serious challenge. That is why we are setting goals for Roma integration and why we now need a clear commitment from all capitals, regions and cities in Europe to put them into practice. Now is the time to move beyond good intentions and to take concrete actions. Most important to me is that Member States help ensure that all Roma children complete at least primary school."

Roma people in Europe live in considerably worse socio-economic conditions than the population at large. A survey in six EU countries1 found that only 42% of Roma children complete primary school, compared to an EU average of 97.5%. For secondary education, Roma attendance is estimated at only 10%. In the job market, they face lower employment rates and higher rates of discrimination. In housing, they often lack access to essential services such as running water or electricity. They also face a health gap: life expectancy for Roma is 10 years less than the EU average of 76 for men and 82 for women.

EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, declared: "The persistent exclusion of Roma people is unacceptable in 21st Europe built on principles of equality, democracy and the rule of law. The living conditions of the majority of Roma and their relations with mainstream society have just worsened in recent years."

He further underlined: "For some countries it will be simply impossible to achieve the Europe 2020 targets without a breakthrough in Roma integration."

Roma integration could mean considerable economic benefits. Roma represent a growing share of the working age population, with an average age of 25 compared to the EU average of 40. They make up one in five new labour market entrants in Bulgaria and Romania. Research by the World Bank suggests full Roma integration could be worth around €0.5 billion a year to the economies of some countries by improving productivity, cutting welfare bills and boosting tax receipts.

In the past, the EU has repeatedly stressed the need for better integration of Roma, most recently with a report in April 2010 (IP/10/407). EU legislation (the Race Equality Directive) already obliges Member States to give equal access to ethnic minorities, such as the Roma, to education, housing, health and employment. In December 2010, the Commission's Roma Task Force found that strong and proportionate measures are still not in place to tackle the social and economic problems of a large part of the EU's Roma population (MEMO/10/701). It is now crucial to step up a gear and ensure that national, regional and local integration policies focus on Roma in a clear and specific way.

Building on these findings, the EU Framework develops a targeted approach for Roma inclusion by setting goals in:

  • Education: ensuring that all Roma children complete at least primary school;

  • Employment: cutting the employment gap between Roma and other citizens;

  • Health: reducing the health gap, for example by cutting child mortality among Roma;

  • Housing: closing the gap in access to housing and public utilities such as water and electricity.

Member States will have to submit national Roma strategies by the end of 2011 specifying how they will contribute to the achievement of these goals. The Framework is in line with the EU's broader Europe 2020 targets for employment, social inclusion and education. The achievement of these goals is important to help Member States reach the overall targets of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The Commission is also proposing solutions to make sure that EU funds that can support Roma integration are more effectively used. Member States are invited to amend their operational programmes co-financed by Structural Funds and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to better support Roma targeted projects.

Finally, to make sure the EU Framework for national strategies makes a tangible difference to Roma on the ground, the Commission wants to put a robust monitoring mechanism in place to measure results. The EU's Fundamental Rights Agency has a key role to play, by collecting data on the social and economic situation of Roma, in cooperation with other organisations. Member States are asked to appoint national contact points to manage, monitor and report the implementation of their national Roma integration strategy. The European Commission will report back annually on the progress made in the Member States.

Background

The Roma – Europe’s largest ethnic minority – have been part of Europe for centuries, but frequently face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and exclusion.

Many of the areas for improving Roma integration – such as education, employment, health and housing – are primarily national or regional responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role in coordinating action by Member States and helping with financial tools.

In summer 2010, the European Commission publicly took the position that Roma are EU citizens and should fully benefit from their rights and fully comply with their obligations under EU law (SPEECH/10/428 and MEMO/10/502).

Further information

DG Justice Newsroom:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/news/intro/news_intro_en.htm

The EU and Roma:

http://ec.europa.eu/roma

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Homepage of László Andor: EU Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/andor

ANNEX : Roma Population Estimates

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1 :

Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia


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