Brussels, 26 June 2013
Roma: Commission calls on Member States to step up efforts on integration
The European Commission has called on Member States to deliver on their commitments to ensure equality and to do more to improve the economic and social integration of Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma. The call follows the Commission's progress report released today which shows that Member States need to do better in implementing their national Roma integration strategies submitted under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. The new report is accompanied by a proposal for a Recommendation addressed to EU countries which proposes to Member States on the one hand specific measures, including positive action, and on the other hand, horizontal policy measures, including local actions to improve the situation of Roma people. Member States would have two years to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground
“If Member States are serious about their national strategies, they need to move up a gear on Roma integration. The EU Framework for national Roma integration has been in place for over two years. It's time that strategies are followed by concrete actions," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "Although some progress has been made, it remains only limited. That's why we are now giving specific guidance to help Member States strengthen and accelerate their efforts: action to help Roma needs to go local, different countries need to work together, and urgent intervention is needed to address the situation of young Roma."
"Roma inclusion measures must be implemented and monitored with the full involvement of civil society, including representatives of Roma communities themselves. They – together with National Roma Contact Points – must also be involved in the current planning of the use of EU funds for 2014-2020", said László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. "Member States – especially those with large Roma communities – must urgently and forcefully promote effective equal access for Roma to education and the labour market. The Commission has also proposed Country Specific Recommendations to the Member States most concerned. Providing equal opportunities to Roma will contribute to meeting the Europe 2020 targets in the fields of education, employment and poverty reduction."
Today’s Roma progress report finds that while many Member States have set up mechanisms to better coordinate their Roma integration efforts and bolster dialogue with local and regional authorities, there is room for improvement in involving civil society organisations and putting in place sound monitoring and evaluation methods to measure results. The report also finds that a majority of Member States have not allocated sufficient resources from their national budgets to implement the strategies. In addition, public authorities should do more to fight discrimination and explain the social and economic benefits of Roma integration.
Despite criticism, the report also draws attention to a series of examples of good practice from Member States, such as the regional action plan for Roma inclusion developed by the State of Berlin, cooperation between the national authorities and local actors in France, and work done in Bulgaria to better mobilise EU funds. Hungary has designed a robust system to monitor implementation of its national strategy, Spain has trained 158 police forces to deal with ethnic discrimination, and Romania has earmarked 15,000 places for Roma students in schools, universities and vocational training.
The Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation is the first EU legal instrument for Roma inclusion. The proposal would recommend Member States to take positive 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 by setting the conditions for an effective inclusion of Roma people in the Member States. Based on previous Communications, the proposed Recommendation focuses on the four areas where EU leaders signed up to common goals for Roma integration under the EU Framework: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. For putting in place the targeted actions, it asks Member States to allocate not only EU but also national, private 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 offers guidance in helping Member States transform horizontal issues into actions 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.
The proposed Recommendation suggests Member States allocate sufficient funding to their national and local strategies and action plans for Roma inclusion from any available sources. This should be facilitated by allocating an adequate share of EU cohesion policy resources to investment into people through the European Social Fund, and allocating at least 20% of this amount in each Member State on social inclusion. The proposed Recommendation also suggests that Roma integration is included in the Partnership Agreements of the Member States concerned. In order to ensure effective implementation, the capacities of local authorities and civil society organisations should be strengthened.
To enter into force, the proposal for a Council Recommendation will first need to be unanimously adopted by Member States in the Council and receive consent from the European Parliament. This will reinforce the existing political commitments of Member States. EU countries have two years time to put into practice the necessary measures to comply with the Recommendation. They will need to inform the Commission on an annual basis on how they have applied it. 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, the Commission proposed country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for five Member States under the European Semester on issues related to Roma (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia). This annual cycle makes sure that Roma integration remains firmly and continuously on the European agenda.
The Country-Specific Recommendations focus on the most important structural impediments affecting progress towards the Europe 2020 targets to reduce poverty and social exclusion and to boost education in each Member State. Therefore, they also indicate funding priorities for the period 2014-2020. The on-going negotiations with Member States on the use of EU funds should ensure an appropriate allocation of funds for turning commitments into concrete actions.
Roma integration is 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. In countries like Bulgaria and Romania, one in every four to five new labour market entrants are Roma. Efficient labour activation policies and individualised and accessible support services for Roma job seekers are crucial to allow Roma people live up to their potential and actively and equally participate in society.
In its 2012 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 – the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - as well as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) have been mobilised to boost national efforts and are an important financial lever in ensuring the translation of national Roma integration strategies into real socio-economic inclusion of Roma communities, alongside national budgets. But although, the three funds total €50 billion per year, not enough benefits disadvantaged people, including Roma.
On 15 May 2013, Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Andor met key players from Roma civil society to discuss Roma integration in Europe and prepare today's Recommendation proposal (MEMO/13/437).
On 27 June 2013, the Commission's report and proposal for a Council Recommendation will be presented at the meeting of the European Platform for Roma inclusion, which, this year, will focus on the urgent need to improve the situation of Roma children and youth.
For more information
European Commission – Roma:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
Homepage of Commissioner László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs:
Follow László Andor on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/LaszloAndorEU
Overview of efforts for a successful implementation of the national Roma strategies:
1. Involving local and regional authorities: further efforts are needed
2. Working closely with civil society: civil society involvement not yet sufficient
3. Allocating proportionate financial resources
Weaknesses in allocating financial resources matching the policy commitments made in the strategies remain a major obstacle to implementation.
4. Monitoring and evaluation
5. Fighting discrimination convincingly
II. Roma population figures - Council of Europe estimates
Document prepared by the Support Team of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for Roma Issues.
Updated on 2 July 2012. Most estimates include both local Roma, Roma-related groups (Sinti, Travellers, etc.) and Roma migrants.