Roma Integration – 2014 Commission Assessment: Questions and Answers
European Commission - MEMO/14/249 04/04/2014
Brussels, 4 April 2014
Roma Integration – 2014 Commission Assessment: Questions and Answers
What is the EU's and Member States' role in the area of Roma integration?
By adopting, in April 2011, an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216), the European Commission put in place – for the first time –a comprehensive and evidence-based annual process to coordinate and assess Member States' efforts in the area of Roma integration.
The European Commission succeeded in putting Roma integration firmly on the political map, not only at European but also at national level. In 2011, EU leaders signed up to the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/789). In December 2013, 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 the social inequalities between Roma and the rest of the population within four areas: housing, education, healthcare and employment (IP/13/1226).
As a result, Member States submit now every year information on the implementation of their national Roma strategies specifying how they will contribute to achieving the overall EU level integration goals, including setting national targets and allowing for sufficient funding (national, EU and other) to deliver them. The Commission assesses and reports on the implementation of these strategies on an annual basis. The first progress report was presented in May 2012 (see IP/12/499) and the last in June 2013 (see IP/13/607).
The findings are also used for the annual European Semester process for economic policy coordination which can result in the EU issuing Roma-relevant country specific recommendations. In 2013 five Member States received country-specific recommendations on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies and on ensuring access for Roma children to quality inclusive mainstream education (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia).
What are the specific EU-level goals compared to the current situation?
The EU Framework addresses the four main areas for improving social and economic integration for Roma, all of which are primarily national policy areas:
Education: ensuring that all Roma children complete at least primary school education. In addition, access to quality early childhood education and care should be improved and segregation reduced.
In education, Roma children generally have lower attainments and often face discrimination and segregation in schooling. Although the situation differs between EU countries, a survey by the Open Society Institute in six EU countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) found that only 42% of Roma children complete primary school, compared to an average of 97.5% for the general population across the EU as a whole.
Employment: cutting the employment gap between Roma and non-Roma citizens.
Having fewer Roma people complete primary education has a knock-on effect in the labour market, where young Roma are less well-equipped and less qualified to find a job. The Europe 2020 strategy sets a headline target of 75% of people in the EU aged 20-64 to be in employment, compared to a current rate of 68.8%. For Roma, the employment rate is significantly lower, with a gap of around 26 percentage points according to World Bank research covering Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, and Serbia.
Health: reducing the gap in health status between the Roma and the general population and improving access to health care, especially for women and children.
Roma generally have a life expectancy of 10 years less than the average European and a child mortality rate that is significantly higher than the EU average of 4.2 per thousand births (2010). United Nations Development Programme research in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic put Roma infant mortality rates there at 2-6 times higher than those for the general population, depending on the country. These outcomes reflect poorer living conditions, reduced access to quality healthcare and higher exposure to risks. There is also evidence that Roma communities are less well informed about health issues and can face discrimination in access to healthcare.
Housing: closing the gap in access to housing and public utilities such as water and electricity.
While between 72% and 100% of EU households are connected to a public water supply, the rate is much lower among Roma. Research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency points to wider problems in accessing housing, both private and public. This in turn affects Roma health and broader integration prospects.
What does the Commission's 2014 assessment find in these areas?
While centuries of exclusion and discrimination cannot be reversed overnight, the European coordination process is showing promising first results.
Progress in this area has been good. The Commission's report shows that Member States have taken a series of specific measures which delivered results on the ground. For instance, there is a clear positive general trend with regard to access to early childhood education and care.
A series of legislative measures, such as compulsory pre-school years (in Hungary or Bulgaria) or in-cash incentives (Hungary) have been implemented to raise the number of Roma children attending pre-school. Positive results can be registered: in Finland for example, over the past years, the participation of Roma children in pre-primary school increased from 2% to 60%. The same applies to Hungary, where the enrolment rate of Roma children in pre-school reached 79% and is likely to further improve as a new law is making two years of pre-school compulsory. In Ireland there are also "travelling teachers" who move with Travellers'.
On the other hand, there are still Member States which will need to intensify their efforts, especially when it comes to tackling segregation of Roma children in special schools or classes (e.g. Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece). A forthcoming survey by the Fundamental Rights Agency looked at the proportion of Roma children attending special schools or special classes in mainstream schools. For segregation in mainstream schools attended by Roma it found the following: SK: 58%, HU: 45%, EL: 35%, CZ: 33%, BG: 29%, RO: 26%, FR: 24%, ES: 10%, IT: 8%, PT: 7%, PL:3%.
Reducing the number of Roma early school leavers also requires additional efforts, including extracurricular activities and close cooperation with the families. Good examples need to be rolled out on a larger scale. For example, in three years (2010-2013), a Bulgarian educational project brought down the number of children who dropped out of school by almost 80%. Other good practices include: all day schooling in Bulgaria and Slovakia or after-school activities provided specifically for disadvantaged children in Hungary; the use of mediators in Finland; the inclusion of Roma culture in curricula in Slovakia and Hungary, providing language support in Bulgaria and France, providing bilingual education (Romani-Romanian); preparing Romani language teachers in Romania, and teacher training in Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria; and dedicating places for Roma for admission to public universities in Romania (in the academic year 2010/11, 555 places were granted, and in 2012/13, 564 places).
Over the past four years progress towards improving employment rates for Roma Europe-wide has been limited.
Promising examples to improve employability of Roma exist but they need to be rolled out Europe-wide and be accompanied by systematic measures addressing discrimination in the labour market and reaching out to private employers. Success stories include: in Austria, counselling and training 'mentors' exist to support Roma looking for work. In Finland, EU-funded Roma employment mediators exist; and in Spain the Acceder programme uses work counsellors to advise Roma in their job searches. In France (Lyon), the Andatu project mobilised local, civil, national involvement as well as EU funding to improve access to employment and housing. As the programme targets mobile EU citizens, French language courses are offered. The programme also finances short professional training and provides individualised support. The European Social Fund supported the launch of the programme with €350,000. Currently reaching 73 beneficiaries, the intervention is planned to be extended to 400 participants requiring a total budget of €1.2 million.
One of the biggest challenges remains tackling direct and indirect discrimination of Roma in the labour market reveals a relatively high share of Roma experiencing discrimination in the past 5 years when looking for work: CZ 74%, EL 68%, IT 66%, FR 65%, PL 64%, PT 56%, HU 51%, SK 49%, BG 41%, RO 39%, ES 38%.
Member States should also put in place measures that address the low skill levels of Roma job seekers through vocational training and counselling. Measures are also needed to give incentives to employers to employ Roma, such as recruitment subsidies, job trial and apprenticeship schemes. Other measures could include targeting Roma under the youth guarantee schemes, introducing social considerations into public procurement and employing Roma in national and local civil service.
Barriers to healthcare for Roma are closely linked to their social and economic situation and include poor accessibility of health services in terms of distance (e.g. Roma settlements in remote areas or Roma without settlement), lack of access due to financial difficulties (affordability of medicines), lack of registration with local authorities, lack of awareness especially about preventive services, cultural differences and discrimination. No health coverage often also means no vaccination for children, which in turn can prevent them from being accepted by schools and kindergartens. Ensuring basic health coverage is still a challenge in some Member States, in particular in Bulgaria, Romania and also in Greece.
Several countries have focused on improving access to healthcare for the most vulnerable Roma, including a commitment by the government in France to reducing financial barriers to healthcare or the investment in health mediators for the Roma community in Romania and Spain. Ensuring basic health coverage is still a challenge in some Member States. In some countries vaccination campaigns and projects for Roma exists (e.g. in Belgium, Ireland, Italy or Poland) with sometimes even mobile medical units (e.g. in Bulgaria, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom).
These small-scale projects should be extended.
Member States have been making strides in promoting Roma inclusion as a two-way street for Roma and non-Roma communities. With the help of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) quality temporary lodgings have been built with the involvement of the Roma community in France. In Germany, housing projects also include measures that promote the integration of Roma families in neighbourhoods: in Berlin the 'Task Force Okerstraße' is for example working to get Roma accepted as neighbours and integrated into the community. In Belgium, around 38 mediators work to gain trust of both Roma and non-Roma for acceptable housing interventions. In Hungary, cities are required to prepare a desegregation plan as part of city development strategies. In Croatia and Slovenia, the legalisation of current Roma settlements is a legal condition for the construction of basic infrastructure.
These small-scale projects offer useful policy lessons but need to be extended to bring about tangible progress in the housing sector. In some Member States, legislation is necessary to clarify the legal status of existing dwellings (e.g. Romania or Slovakia). Regular urban planning interventions are needed to eliminate and prevent ghettoisation in cities and social exclusion in rural areas. Given the scarcity of public resources, especially as housing belongs to the competence of municipalities in most Member States, better use should be made of funds available from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
Is there any progress in fighting discrimination?
Commission action has ensured a strong legal framework is in place in all Member States to tackle discrimination, but countries need to apply and enforce it on the ground (IP/14/27). Thirteen years after the EU’s landmark anti-discrimination directives were adopted in 2000, discrimination against Roma, notably anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speech, is still widespread.
In order to strengthen the fight against discrimination, legislation needs to be combined with policy and financial measures. The Council Recommendation which Member States adopted in December proposes specific measures to Member States, including positive action to fight discrimination. In Slovakia, for example, an amendment to the Anti-discrimination act has introduced temporary equalising measures (positive action) for Roma. The Commission's upcoming progress reports on the implementation of the national Roma integration strategies will look carefully at the areas highlighted in the Recommendation.
What EU funds are available for Roma integration? How is the money being spent?
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).
Countries with large Roma populations still face major challenges in using EU funds. While progress is evident in terms of commitment and planning, problems remain with making sure the money arrives at where it is most needed. The main difficulties are finding national co-financing and combining funds, overly complex administrative structures, lack of administrative capacity and expertise, insufficient use of technical assistance for the use of EU funds, and poor cooperation between authorities and Roma.
In the 2007-2013 period, around €26.5 billion was made available for social inclusion projects as a whole. During 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 (up from the current average of 15% which is not compulsory). The aim is to secure the appropriate financial resources for Roma integration. Member States are responsible for managing these funds, including selecting specific projects.
In addition, the Commission introduced an "ex-ante conditionality mechanism" for its Cohesion Policy 2014-2020. This means that an appropriate national Roma inclusion strategy has to be in place where the Member State in question wants to use funds for Roma integration. This establishes a direct link between the EU policy framework and funding and aims to maximise the effectiveness of the funding.
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.
What about Roma outside the EU?
To improve the situation of the estimated 5 million Roma in the western Balkans and Turkey, enlargement countries need to step up their efforts to integrate their Roma population, including refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom are Roma. Within the enlargement process, the Commission is reviewing in its annual progress reports the commitments and efforts in this area.
The Commission will support the national efforts to improve Roma inclusion by improving delivery of aid under the Instrument on Pre-Accession Assistance and encourage Roma involvement in formulating, implementing and monitoring policies. For the period 2007-2013 over €100 million has been provided for projects which could exclusively or partly benefit Roma in the enlargement countries, including housing.
The Commission will:
Who are the Roma?
There are around 10-12 million Roma people in Europe. They have been part of Europe for centuries and are integral to its society and economy, but frequently face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and exclusion.
Estimates by the Council of Europe (see annex) show that almost all EU countries have Roma communities of varying sizes. They form a significant proportion of the population in Bulgaria (around 10%), Slovakia (9%), Romania (8%), Hungary (7%), Greece, the Czech Republic and Spain (each 1.5-2.5%).
Around a third of these live in the countries of the western Balkans, such as Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and in Turkey.
The term “Roma” is used to include groups of people who have more or less similar cultural characteristics, such as Sinti, Travellers, Kalé, Gens du voyage, etc. whether sedentary or not.
How does the Commission check on progress?
The Commission reports annually to the European Parliament and to the Council on progress on the integration of the Roma population in the Member States and on the achievement of the Roma integration goals.
It bases its assessment notably on:
For more information
Press release: IP/14/371
Press pack: 2014 Roma report:
Speech by President Barroso at the European Roma Summit
European Commission – EU & Roma:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Homepage of László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:
Follow Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Andor on Twitter:
Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice
Follow the Roma Summit on Twitter with #RomaEU
Annex: 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.