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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 4 April 2014

Roma integration: EU Framework triggers first results

Concerted action by the European Commission has put Roma integration firmly on the political agenda across Europe. The first signs of improvement in the lives of Roma are slowly starting to show, says a new report unveiled today on Member States' progress achieved under the EU Framework for national Roma strategies.

The EU Framework which EU leaders signed up to in 2011 (IP/11/789) put in place – for the first time ever – a solid process for coordinating action on Roma integration. Two years later, the national Ministers unanimously adopted the first ever legal instrument for Roma inclusion at EU-level and committed to implementing a set of recommendations from the Commission aiming to reduce social inequalities between Roma and the rest of the population within four areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing (IP/13/1226).

Today's Commission reports assess progress made under the EU framework since 2011 and identify both positive examples and areas for further efforts from Member States. While challenges remain, improvements are visible: more Roma children attend pre-school, mentoring programmes to help Roma find work are increasingly in place, as well as mediator programmes to bridge gaps between Roma and non-Roma communities in housing and access to healthcare. Thanks to the new EU Regulations on the use of EU funds Member States need to dedicate 20% of money from the European Social Fund to social inclusion in the 2014-20 period.

"Four years ago, the topic of Roma integration was nowhere to be seen on the radar of most Member States. Now, thanks to concerted action, we are witnessing a wind of change," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies was a landmark achievement in gaining commitments from national governments at the highest level to work towards improving Roma integration. Of course, we cannot reverse centuries of exclusion and discrimination overnight, but having put the issue firmly on Europe’s political agenda, we are seeing improvements. Three years down the line pre-school attendance of Roma children is increasing for example. As a next step, I could imagine more targeted rules and a funding facility specifically dedicated to Roma – to ensure funding gets to where it is needed.”

"To make a difference to the lives of Europe's marginalised Roma communities, we have to ensure that adequate funds are used effectively to support National Roma Integration Strategies. Member States should also take integration of Roma into account when developing education, employment, healthcare and housing policies", said László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. "Now is the time for Member States to ensure that Roma inclusion is a priority for spending EU funds in the forthcoming seven year financial period."

Although Roma communities continue to face poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, today’s report presents progress in the 28 Member States. Key findings include:

  • Education: There has been good progress in ensuring that all Roma children complete at least their primary school education, including an increase in pre-school participation in Finland from 2% to 60%; a new law in Hungary to make two years of pre-school compulsory for all children; a similar two-year obligatory pre-school period in Bulgaria; and ‘travelling teachers’ who move with Traveller communities in Ireland. At the same time, more efforts will be needed to tackle the issue of segregation in mainstream schools in several EU countries.

  • Employment: Over the past four years there have been some attempts to improve the employability of Roma, but too rarely combined with systematic measures targeting the demand side of the labour market by fighting discrimination and incentivising employers. Some promising practices include: training mentors for Roma looking for work in Austria; EU-funded Roma employment mediators in Finland; a programme for work counsellors in Spain.

  • Housing: Member States have been making strides in promoting Roma inclusion as a two-way street for Roma and non-Roma communities, but small scale projects need to be rolled out Europe-wide to bring about results. Good practices include: 38 housing mediators in Belgium; a local taskforce in Berlin, Germany, to get Roma accepted as neighbours and integrated into the community.

  • Health: Several countries have focused on improving access to healthcare for the most vulnerable Roma, including a commitment by the government in France to reduce financial barriers to healthcare and investment in health mediators for the Roma community in Romania and Spain. Ensuring basic health coverage is still a challenge in some Member States.

  • Discrimination: Commission action has ensured a strong legal framework is in place in all Member States to tackle discrimination, but countries need to reinforce their efforts to apply and enforce the legislation on the ground (IP/14/27). National equality bodies have a crucial role in doing this. Slovakia has introduced temporary positive action measures for Roma.

  • Funding: Allocating sufficient funding to Roma integration remains a challenge. For the first time, 20% of the European Social Fund available to Member States for their programmes must be dedicated to social inclusion, up from the current average of 15%. For the post 2020 financing period, the Commission will explore ways to further improve and make more effective financial support for Roma including through, for example, a specific facility. More country-specific examples can be found in the national factsheets.

EU Roma Summit

This assessment comes as local, national and EU politicians gather with representatives of civil society to discuss advances on Roma integration at the third EU-level Roma Summit. The aim is to take stock of how the national Roma strategies submitted by Member States on an annual basis as a result of the EU Framework are being implemented and if they are improving the life of Roma communities. Around 500 representatives of EU institutions, national governments and parliaments, international organisations, civil society (including Roma organisations) and local and regional authorities will express their views on what has been achieved so far and how to further improve Roma integration in the future. More information on the agenda, topics and participants of the Roma Summit can be found here: IP/14/317.

Background

Roma integration is more than a social inclusion issue. It also has a positive economic impact, in particular in those Member States with a large Roma minority. Roma represent a significant and growing proportion of the school age population and the future workforce in many countries. 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.

The social inclusion and integration of Roma communities is a joint responsibility of Member States and the European Union. The Commission monitors progress made by Member States through the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216). It also regularly brings together a network of coordinators responsible for overseeing the national Roma integration strategies from all 28 EU countries to discuss progress and challenges ahead (MEMO/14/107).

In its 2013 report, the European Commission called on EU Member States to implement their national strategies to advance the economic and social integration of Roma in Europe (IP/13/607). The findings are also used for the annual European Semester process for socio-economic policy coordination which can result in the EU issuing Roma-relevant country specific recommendations. This annual cycle helps to ensure that Roma integration remains firmly and continuously on the European agenda and that mainstream policies do not go against Roma inclusion goals. In 2013 five Member States received country-specific recommendations on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies and on mainstreaming Roma-specific measures (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia).

EU 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 from 2007-2013. Under the new financial period 2014-2020, at least €80 billion will be allocated to investment in human capital, employment and social inclusion through the European Social Fund. At least 20% of the European Social Fund allocation (around €16 billion) must now be earmarked for social inclusion. The aim is to secure the appropriate financial resources for Roma integration. Member States are responsible for managing these funds. To help, the Commission provided guidance to Member States on how their Operational Programmes for spending EU funds and projects for Roma inclusion should be designed in order to ensure an inclusive approach and to better address Roma needs.

For more information

MEMO/14/249

Press pack: 2014 Roma report:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/discrimination/news/140404_en.htm

Speech by President Barroso at the European Roma Summit

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-288_en.htm

European Commission – EU & Roma:

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

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

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

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

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

Follow Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Andor on Twitter:

@VivianeRedingEU @LaszloAndorEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice

Follow the Roma Summit on Twitter with #RomaEU

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

Cécile Dubois (+32 2 295 18 83)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail


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