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Brussels, 2 October 2012
Roma integration: national representatives discuss progress and pool ideas
Four months after the European Commission's first report on the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (see IP/12/499), a network of coordinators responsible for the national Roma integration strategies from the EU's 27 Member States is today meeting in Brussels to discuss progress and the way forward. The national 'Roma contact points' were set up following the EU's adoption of common objectives for Roma integration in 2011 (see IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216). They are responsible for coordinating national efforts to improve the situation for Europe's largest ethnic minority, for tracking the progress made under the national Roma integration strategy and reporting to the European Commission.
European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner said: "EU action has succeeded in placing Roma inclusion on the political agenda – at EU and national level. Now we need to see concrete results. Earlier this year, I called on EU countries to put their Roma integration strategies into practice. Today's meeting is the next step in helping Member States develop and pool the best approaches to improving the daily life for Roma communities throughout Europe."
On 23 May 2012, the Commission called on Member States to step up implementation of their national strategies for Roma integration. The meeting, which continues tomorrow, aims to share results from national Roma inclusion measures, exchange best practices, and peer-review implementation of the national Roma plans.
In addition, a separate pilot group of national Roma coordinators will also meet for the first time to examine successful Roma inclusion policies in more detail. The group consists of EU countries which have volunteered to share their experience in Roma inclusion. On the basis of their work, the Commission will at a later stage put forward recommendations to Member States based on good practices in Roma integration.
Roma – Europe's largest ethnic 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. 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.
Several EU funds are available to Member States to support national Roma inclusion policies, namely the European Social Fund (ESF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The EU already co-finances projects for the Roma in sectors like education, employment, microfinance and equal opportunities (in particular equality between men and women).
For the forthcoming financial period (2014-20) the Commission has proposed an increase in the ESF budget of at least 7.5%, amounting to at least €84 billion over seven years. Furthermore, the ESF of the future will have a stronger social dimension. The Member States will be required to allocate at least 20% of their European Social Fund resources to social inclusion. This could significantly increase funding in some countries with big Roma minorities where only 5 to 10% of ESF is currently spent on social inclusion.
European Commission – Roma:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
National Contact Points for the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies: