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Bucharest, 12 October 2010

Statement by Commissioner Andor on the contribution of EU funds to the integration of Roma

Roma and ESF

It is a great pleasure to have been invited to speak at the opening of this High Level Event on the contribution of EU funds to the integration of Roma.

We are here in Bucharest today, namely to:

  • raise awareness about the opportunities offered by EU funds;

  • improve the absorption rate of EU funds;

  • and improve the effectiveness of projects supported by EU funds.

Roma are one of the biggest ethnic minorities in the EU and are disproportionately affected by discrimination, violence, unemployment, poverty, bad housing and poor health standards. They face persistent social exclusion.

Inclusive growth is one of three priorities in Europe’s new ten-year strategy for jobs and growth: Europe 2020. A truly inclusive society means integrating non discrimination and equality within many policies. This covers fighting poverty, improving skills, ensuring social cohesion and increasing levels of employment. It also includes improving the situation of the Roma.

How can we help at EU level?

It's clear that many of the areas that require action to improve the lives of Roma – like employment, education, housing and health - fall under the responsibility of the Member States. But the EU can, does and will continue to provide vital support.

We have a role to play in making sure Roma communities stay on the political agenda. And one of my main tasks in the coming months will be to help decision-makers at all levels to translate EU-level recommendations into concrete actions.

At EU level we must:

  • enforce the relevant legislation,

  • facilitate the cooperation of the EU institutions, Member States at national, regional and local levels, international organisations and civil society.

  • And support the policies or national Roma strategies of Member States through policy coordination at EU level, and funding, especially the European Social Fund.

Because EU funding is crucial. The European Social Fund, the European Regional and Development Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development represent an important part of the EU budget – around EUR 50 billion each year. All three funds can be used to address the specific problems faced by Roma communities and to promote their social inclusion.

For Romania, for example, the social integration the Roma people is an important objective for the European Social Fund to support innovative and sustainable projects.

I am pleased to see that both the Romanian authorities and the Roma NGOs have seized the opportunity of investing to improve the situation of Roma people in the country. This translates into a significant budget (around 83 million EURO from ESF) that has been committed so far for 31 projects that target the Roma.

Today, I will be visiting three projects in Bucharest to see for myself the challenges both those participating and managing projects face

Yet, there is still budget available in Romania for more programmes and projects and I know that additional calls for proposals will be launched in the coming months.

But generally, we would like to see more, quality Roma programmes, and not just in Romania but in other Member States too. Especially in those countries with a high Roma population. All Member States need to anticipate the consequences of migration.

The European Commission has also set up a Roma Task Force to analyse the follow-up given by Member States to the Roma communication of April 2010. In particular, the Task Force will assess the effectiveness and use of EU funds by all Member States for Roma integration – much of what we are discussing today.

We want to know if and where funds are not being used or are not being properly applied. The first findings of the Roma Task Force are expected by the end of the year.

And next year we will present an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. In this context, we will invite Member States to present their own strategies for the inclusion of Roma which could feature in their national reform programme.

The European Union alone cannot solve the complex problems facing the Roma. Effective inclusion can only be achieved if the EU and Member States at all levels act together in a targeted way.

The media also have an important role to play in providing analysis and raising awareness. They can contribute towards developing a constructive attitude to the integration of the Roma, as well as fighting prejudice and stereotypes. That is why meetings like are an important part of our efforts to improving the situation of the Roma.

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