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Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

The EU Framework for national Roma Integration Strategies: Moving from good intentions to concrete action

Fifth meeting of the European Roma Platform

Budapest, 8 April 2011

Dear Ms Izsák, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you at this 5th meeting of the European Platform for Roma Inclusion. The European Platform for Roma Inclusion provides a unique forum for debate and cooperation between all stakeholders: from national governments, EU institutions and international organisations to academia and Roma civil society representatives.

Since its first meeting in 2009, the Roma Platform has significantly contributed to making both European and national level policies more sensitive to the needs of Roma. The adoption of the ten common basic principles of Roma inclusion was crucial for this achievement.

I would like to thank the Hungarian Presidency for its commitment to promoting the social and economic integration of Roma and for organising this meeting of the European Platform in Budapest. I would also like to thank the Member States, the Roma civil society and a large number of international organisations, for their contribution to the preparation of the EU Framework for national Roma Integration Strategies.

Last but not least, I would also like to thank the European Parliament, and in particular it's Rapporteur, Livia Jaroka, for the resolution on the EU Roma Strategy, which shows the unparalleled commitment across the whole political spectrum to keep Roma inclusion high on the political agenda.

I am very pleased to be able to present to you the Commission's Communication on the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020.

The EU Framework comes at a moment when the situation of Roma has become the centre of attention – and a matter of collective shame for Europe.

The EU has made available to the Member States a range of legal, policy and financial instruments to address the situation of the Roma through different perspectives: non-discrimination, free movement of people or enlargement strategy. The 2000 Race Directive is our legal basis to combat discrimination against Roma in Europe. And the European Commission is ensuring that it is correctly transposed in all Member States.

However, it is clear that the legal instruments already in place are not sufficient to address the Roma issue if they stand alone. The economic and social marginalisation of Roma persists, which is neither acceptable nor sustainable in the European Union of the 21st Century.

Action is needed both at national and at EU level. We need to join forces and step up our efforts to end discrimination against the Roma and to make sure they enjoy the same rights as any other EU citizen. That is why the European Commission has come up with a new and innovative instrument: an EU Framework designed especially for Roma economic and social integration in all Member States.

The social and economic integration of Roma is in the interest of European societies. The economic integration of Roma will also contribute to social cohesion and will improve respect for fundamental rights.

The primary responsibility of Roma lies with the Member States. The EU Framework is complementary to Member State activities in support of the Roma. Yet it is clear to us that the measures in place so far are not adequate. We must now focus on Roma needs specifically and comprehensively in our national, regional and local policies.

While the situation of the Roma differs within and between countries, they generally find it harder than the majority population to gain access to education, employment, health and housing. We are committed to closing this gap and to concentrate on common goals in these four areas, with targeted actions and sufficient funds to deliver them.

The four goals are:

Firstly, to ensure that all Roma children have access to high quality education and do not face discrimination or segregation. As a minimum, all Roma children should complete primary school. It is a shocking fact that many do not.

Secondly, the sizeable gap between Roma and non-Roma employment rates has to be addressed. We won't achieve our Europe 2020 goals without a higher labour market participation of Roma.

Thirdly, health care needs to be equally accessible, for Roma just as for any other EU citizen.

Finally, housing. Many Roma do not have access to public water supply. We call on Member States to make sure all Roma households are connected to water and electricity networks.

We want all Member States to build these goals into their existing Roma strategies. For Member States that do not yet have them, it is time to develop Roma strategies for the period up to 2020.

We all know that we need regular monitoring to make sure we are on the right track towards our intended goals. Therefore the EU Framework lays the foundations of a robust monitoring mechanism to ensure concrete results for Roma.

We ask Member States to include a strong monitoring system and a methodology for data collection to evaluate the impact of their endeavours in their national strategies.

This monitoring mechanism will ensure that national Roma integration strategies are implemented, that money intended for Roma integration reaches its final beneficiaries and that there is progress towards achieving the EU Roma integration goals.

The EU's Fundamental Rights Agency has a key role to play, by collecting data on the social and economic situation of Roma, in cooperation with other organisations.

The Commission will report annually on progress towards integrating the Roma population in Member States.

I will come to the Roma Platform next year to present our analysis of the Member States' integration programmes.

The EU Framework provides an opportunity to join forces at all levels, with all stakeholders, to put an end to the exclusion of Roma. I would like to call on the Platform to support the European Commission Framework. We need to be united and send together a strong signal to the Member States to put in place their national strategies.

Because the Platform gives this unique opportunity to have an ongoing, focused dialogue with all stakeholders, including Roma civil society, the Commission has decided to take a stronger role in the Platform.

The strengthened Platform can support Member States to design policies through the exchange of good practices and the discussion of approaches from international organisations with experience in promoting Roma inclusion. It will also provide the Commission with feedback on the results of national efforts on the ground.

Supporting the inclusion of Roma is for everyone's benefit. That is why the European Commission will remain firmly committed to promoting the inclusion of Roma in our societies.

Now is the time to change good intentions into more concrete actions.

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