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European Commission calls on Member States to implement national plans for Roma integration

Commission Européenne - IP/12/499   23/05/2012

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European Commission - Press release

European Commission calls on Member States to implement national plans for Roma integration

Brussels, 23 May 2012 –The European Commission has called on EU Member States, in a report adopted today, to implement their national strategies to improve the economic and social integration of Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma. Member States developed these plans in response to the Commission's EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies adopted on 5 April 2011 (see IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216) which was endorsed by EU leaders soon afterwards (IP/11/789).

The EU Framework identifies four pillars where national efforts to improve the integration of Roma are required: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. For the first time, all Member States committed to developing an integrated approach across these four policy areas and delivered national strategies to address these priority areas.

In today's report, the Commission concludes that Member States have made an effort to develop a comprehensive approach to Roma integration. However, the Commission report highlights that much more needs to be done when it comes to securing sufficient funding for Roma inclusion, putting monitoring mechanisms in place and fighting discrimination and segregation.

"It is good news that Member States have delivered on their commitment and presented Roma integration strategies. Presenting national strategies is a first and important step," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s Vice-President. "However, Member States now need to move up a gear and strengthen their efforts with more concrete measures, explicit targets, earmarked funding and sound monitoring and evaluation. We need more than strategies that exist on paper. We need tangible results in national politics that improve the lives of Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma."

EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said: "The inclusion of Roma in Europe is a shared economic, social and moral imperative, even if the challenges facing Roma communities vary between Member States. This report underlines the need for our October 2011 proposal that Member States, for the 2014-2020 financial period, should have in place an appropriate Roma inclusion strategy before receiving European Social Fund money for it."

In their strategies, all Member States acknowledge the need to reduce the gap between Roma and non-Roma in the four key areas identified by the European Commission.

Most Member States have presented specific measures on how they intend to reach the agreed objectives.

Good examples include:

  • promoting Roma inclusion in education in Slovenia, Spain and Finland

  • schemes to improve employment in Bulgaria and Spain

  • support for Roma access to healthcare in Hungary, Ireland and Romania and measures to improve housing in France and Hungary (see Annex for more examples).

A further positive aspect is that all Member States have responded to the Commission's call to establish national contact points to follow up on the implementation of the national strategies. This shows that there is a strong political will to tackle the challenges of Roma integration.

However, today's assessment also highlights that the majority of Member States have so far failed to allocate sufficient budgetary resources for Roma inclusion. Only 12 countries have clearly identified allocated funding, whether from national or EU sources, and presented specific amounts for Roma inclusion policy measures in their strategy papers (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden).

For each of the four key areas for Roma integration, the Commission makes policy recommendations to the Member States and provides specific feedback on each national strategy, highlighting the key elements and identifying the main gaps.

The Commission will regularly assess the steps taken by Member States as a follow-up to today's report. The Commission will publish annual progress reports on measures taken at national level within the EU framework. These progress reports will not only keep Roma integration firmly on the EU's agenda, but also put peer pressure on Member States to implement the Commission's recommendations as well as actions that they themselves have announced in their strategies.

Background

Roma Europe's largest minority are often victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. Many Roma children are still on the streets instead of going to school. Roma are often denied a fair chance on the labour market. Roma women are still victims of violence and exploitation.

A report released today by the Fundamental Rights Agency on the situation of the Roma in eleven Member States. (see: http://fra.europa.eu) shows that, of the Roma surveyed, one in three is unemployed, 20% are not covered by health insurance, and 90% are living below the poverty line. Many face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives. They are marginalised and mostly live in extremely poor socio-economic conditions.

Governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go to waste. In these times of crisis, better economic and social integration of all EU citizens is therefore an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion. World Bank research 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.

The aim of the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies is to make a tangible difference in Roma people's lives by bringing about a change in the approach to their inclusion. Instead of a scattered approach that focuses on individual projects, the EU Framework raises Roma inclusion to the EU level for the first time and clearly links it with the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU’s growth strategy. In addition, national reform programmes within the European semester will be scrutinised for coherence with national Roma integration strategies and – where needed – Member States will be asked to address the issue of Roma inclusion in their national reform programmes.

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 instruments, including the Social and Structural Funds.

Further information

Today's Policy Communication and the Report on the national integration strategies can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/roma

A version of the national strategies as submitted by the Member States can be found here:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/roma/national-strategies/index_en.htm

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

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

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

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/andor/index_en.htm

Follow László Andor on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/LaszloAndorEU

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

European Social Fund: Roma: http://ec.europa.eu/esf/main.jsp?catId=63

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

Nadège Defrère (+32 2 296 45 44)

Annex: Examples of national measures to promote Roma inclusion in the four priority areas identified in the EU Framework

1) Education

Slovenia is using Roma assistants and mediators and seeking to include Roma children in pre-school education so as to improve the completion rate for Roma in general education (currently 18.7% for Roma compared to an average of 54.3% for non-Roma in Ljubljana).

Spain is setting up new mediation programmes to help reduce early school leaving and absenteeism (aiming to reduce it from 22.5% today to 15% by 2015 and to 10% by 2020 in primary education).

The city of Kauhajoki in Finland uses instructors with Roma backgrounds to support children and their families at pre-school and comprehensive school levels as well as to support young adults in further studies and seeking employment.

2) Employment

Spain aims to increase the employment rate for Roma from 44% (in 2011) to 50% in 2015 and 60% in 2020, setting a specific objective for Roma women, through programmes to promote skills and access to training.

Austria promotes access for young Roma to the labour market through a project which includes community work, coaching and training. The aim is to help Roma into jobs, including in self-employment.

Bulgaria is increasing the numbers of Roma in employment, primarily with European Social Fund support, by organising training courses to improve 28 000 people's employability and by training 1 500 people in management and entrepreneurship.

3) Healthcare

Hungary aims to train 2 000 Roma women as family support social workers, community developers, employment facilitators and healthcare mediators with the help of the European Social Fund.

Ireland has made available a wide range of Travellers-dedicated health services, such as the Traveller Health Units and the Primary Health Care Projects (including health mediators and public health nurses for Travellers).

Romania is employing approximately 450 health mediators to increase access for Roma to public health services. Their role is to facilitate the dialogue between Roma and medical institutions and staff. They actively support Roma in obtaining identification documents, health insurance and registering with family doctors.

4) Housing

Welsh authorities in the UK have put in place specific measures to improve accommodation and access to services for Roma and Travellers. The Welsh Government has increased funding to local authorities for refurbishment and creation of new sites from 75% to 100%.

Hungary is improving social, community, educational, healthcare, employment and housing conditions for those living in segregated environments through integrated programmes using both European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund resources.

France has developed "insertion villages", projects aiming to meet the needs of disadvantaged people, including Roma, who live in illegal settlements. The projects will be replicated by various local authorities with the support of the European Regional Development Fund.


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