László Andor Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion "Roma - Member States must implement effective strategies" Press conference Strasbourg, 23 May 2012
European Commission - SPEECH/12/380 23/05/2012
Other available languages: none
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
"Roma - Member States must implement effective strategies"
Strasbourg, 23 May 2012
Strengths and weaknesses
Let me begin by welcoming the progress which has been made so far and that we are now able to present national strategies.
We have seen very positive examples of countries working together with Roma communities to integrate them further. Some countries, like Finland, despite the relatively small size of their current Roma communities, have a very pro-active approach. Others, like Spain, build on a long history of successful integration work, which is reflected in their strategy.
My colleague Viviane Reding has mentioned good examples in some Member States worth learning from. In terms of positive policy actions I would like to highlight measures to enhance Roma children’s participation in mainstream quality early childhood education and care, which can have a long lasting positive impact on reducing the gap between Roma and non-Roma participation in all subsequent stages of education.
As regards employment, I very much welcome targeted and personalised employment services promoting access of Roma to the open labour market, and programmes training and employing Roma professionals as education, employment or health mediators. These are good examples of projects that should become much more widespread.
However, as Vice President Reding said: the national Roma integration strategies submitted by the Member States vary greatly and there is still much progress to be made.
To highlight just two more of the general weaknesses, in addition to those mentioned by the Vice President:
Unfortunately only a few countries have followed an integrated approach when proposing measures in the four key areas of policy intervention which are education, employment, health and housing.
Despite the large gap in access to employment between Roma women and men, not many strategies address systematically the gender dimension.
Given the weaknesses identified and the need to adapt to changing circumstances I would like to emphasise the need for these strategies to be regularly updated and reinforced.
The strategies are to be completed with precise action plans, a clear timeline, specific earmarked national and EU funding, and implementation mechanisms specifying the respective roles of all stakeholders and a robust national monitoring mechanism.
TWO WEAK AREAS WHERE EU CAN OFFER SUPPORT
I would like to highlight in particular two areas where further work is needed in almost all Member States and where EU support can play a crucial role: funding and monitoring.
As regards funding:
National political commitment has to be expressed in terms of national budgetary allocations.
However EU structural funds (the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Rural Development Fund) can be mobilised to boost national efforts.
Several elements of the Commission proposal for future cohesion policy aim to specifically support Roma inclusion.
In particular we have proposed that, for the 2014-2020 financial period, Member States should have in place an appropriate Roma inclusion strategy before receiving European Social Fund money for it, thus making sure that money is well spent.
We have also proposed a specific investment priority to be devoted to the integration of marginalised communities, such as the Roma, and to focus EU funding on the headline employment, education and poverty reduction targets of Europe 2020, which are also of direct relevance for Roma.
The overlap between the EU framework for Roma integration and Europe 2020 is not accidental: investment in employment and education brings economic growth and reduces poverty at the same time. For many Member States reaching the Europe 2020 targets requires ensuring the socio-economic inclusion of their Roma communities.
This brings me to the second important area, which is monitoring.
Given the overlap between the goals of the EU Framework for Roma integration and those of Europe 2020, the Commission will monitor Member States’ efforts within the so-called European semester.
National Reform Programmes are scrutinised by the Commission for coherence with National Roma Integration Strategies, and this analysis will be reflected in the reports on individual Member States.
In line with the Europe 2020 goal of inclusive growth, Member States will receive Country Specific Recommendations on the fight against poverty and on the inclusion of their marginalised or specifically Roma communities.
In future years, Member States are asked to systematically address the issue of Roma inclusion in their National Reform Programmes in proportion to their Roma populations.
It is important to recognise that Member States have lived up to their commitment and developed strategies for Roma inclusion. It demonstrates their recognition that amidst the current crisis, high unemployment levels, current demographic trends, and the worsening living conditions of Roma communities, Roma inclusion is more than ever a shared economic, social and moral imperative for Europe as a whole.
However Member States' strategies are only a first step in a long process.
Together, we must reduce the gap between the Roma and non-Roma population before it widens further.
Experience shows that only strong national political ownership, public awareness of the benefits of Roma inclusion, efficient local implementation, Roma participation at all levels and robust monitoring can bring results that we can build on.
The Commission stands ready to support Member States willing to turn their good intentions into concrete actions to improve the daily lives of millions of Roma.