Brussels, 9 December 2013
First ever EU legal instrument for Roma inclusion adopted
All 28 European Union Member States today committed to implementing a set of recommendations, proposed by the European Commission, to step up the economic and social integration of Roma communities. The Council Recommendation was adopted unanimously by ministers meeting in the Council less than six months after the Commission’s proposal (IP/13/607, MEMO/13/610). It is the first ever EU-level legal instrument for Roma inclusion. With the adoption of the Recommendation Member States commit to taking targeted action to bridge the gaps between the Roma and the rest of the population.
“Today’s agreement is a strong signal that Member States are willing to tackle the challenging task of Roma integration head-on. Ministers have made a unanimous commitment to improve the situation for Roma communities on the ground," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "The key tools for Roma integration are now in Member States' hands and it is important that words are followed with action. We will not hesitate to remind EU countries of their commitments and make sure that they deliver."
"Adoption of the Recommendation is an important demonstration of the Member States' joint commitment to invest more, and more effectively, in human capital so as to improve the living conditions of Roma people across Europe, said Commissioner László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion."We cannot afford to let them down. Now is the time for Member States to allocate substantial EU funding in the 2014-20 period, together with national money, to help Roma communities to realise their full potential, and to demonstrate the political will at all levels to ensure the money is well spent."
The Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States adopted today gives specific guidance to help Member States strengthen and accelerate their efforts. It recommends that Member States take targeted action to bridge the gaps between the Roma and the rest of the population. It reinforces the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies agreed by all Member States in 2011 (IP/11/789) by setting the conditions for an effective inclusion of Roma people in the Member States.
Based on Commission reports on the situation of the Roma over recent years, the Recommendation focuses on the four areas where EU leaders signed up to common goals for Roma integration under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. To put in place the targeted actions, it asks Member States to allocate not only EU but also national and third sector funds to Roma inclusion – a key factor identified by the Commission in its evaluation of Member States' national strategies last year (IP/12/499).
In addition, it gives guidance to Member States on cross-cutting policies for Roma integration, such as ensuring that the strategies go local, enforcing anti-discrimination rules, following a social investment approach, protecting Roma children and women and addressing poverty.
Although the Recommendation is not legally binding, Member States are now expected to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground. A progress report by the Commission in June showed that Member States need to do better in implementing their national Roma integration strategies under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (see country by country factsheets). The Commission will again report back on progress made by Member States in spring 2014.
Although formally the European Parliament is not required to vote on the matter, it has also supported the Council Recommendation, following a vote on 5 December by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE). The Committee endorsed a draft resolution on progress on implementing National Roma Integration Strategies which underlined the role of local and regional authorities in developing and implementing the Roma policies, as well as the importance of allocating adequate financial resources to Roma inclusion policies. The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the European Parliament in plenary session early in 2014.
The Commission for its part will continue to assess progress in its own annual Roma progress reports each spring. The findings will also feed into the European Semester process for economic policy coordination. In the May 2013 exercise, based on the Commission's proposal, the Council issued country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for five Member States under the European Semester on issues related to Roma (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia). These country specific recommendations called upon the five Member States to ensure the implementation of their national roma integration strategies and to mainstream Roma specific measures into relevant horizontal policies. The European Semester annual cycle makes sure that Roma integration remains firmly and continuously on the EU agenda.
To have tangible and sustainable results on the ground, budgetary allocations should be ensured from national and EU resources as of 2014. The EU Structural Funds, in particular the European Social Fund, will remain an important financial lever to support Roma inclusion. For the forthcoming financial period, the Commission has proposed that the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma, should be a specific investment priority. Related to that a dedicated ex-ante conditionality was proposed to ensure that EU support is part and parcel of a comprehensive Roma inclusion strategy. In order to secure the appropriate financial resources, Member States must earmark at least 20% of their European Social Fund allocation to social inclusion.
Roma integration is not only a moral duty, but in the interest of Member States, especially for those with a large Roma minority. Roma represent a significant and growing proportion of the school age population and the future workforce. Efficient labour activation policies and individualised and accessible support services for Roma job seekers are crucial to allow Roma people to realise their human capital and to actively and equally participate in the economy and society.
In its 2013 report, the European Commission called on EU Member States to implement their national strategies to improve the economic and social integration of Roma in Europe. 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 in June 2011 (IP/11/789).
EU structural funds are available to Member States to finance social integration projects, including for improving Roma integration in fields such as education, employment, housing and health. Around €26.5 billion was made available for social inclusion projects as a whole over the 2007-2013 period. Member States are responsible for managing these funds, including selecting specific projects. Much of the funding goes to projects aimed at socially excluded groups more generally and is not necessarily only meant for Roma communities. In order to ensure more effective and targeted projects, the Commission has asked Member States to set up national contact points to help plan use of funds for Roma within Member States, involving local and regional authorities too.
For more information
The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation:
The Commission’s 2013 Progress report:
European Commission – Roma:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice
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