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Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice
Roma Integration: Commitments and strategies are only as good as the action that follows
Press room statement/Brussels
26 June 2013
Today we are doing two things:
First, looking back and taking stock of what has been done– or has NOT been done – in the Member States to address the challenges of Roma integration. The Commission is presenting a progress report looking at the implementation of national Roma integration strategies.
Second we are looking ahead: The Commission is putting forward a Recommendation addressed to EU countries which proposes specific measures, including positive action measures, to improve the situation of Roma people in Europe.
Let me briefly say a few words on the progress report: The EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies has been in place for over two years now. Member States have submitted national Roma integration strategies. The commitment is there. But frankly: there is a big gap between commitment and delivery.
Progress is the exception rather than the rule. We see reports almost on a daily basis about Rome people living in ghettos, facing discrimination or being victims of racist remarks. I know Roma integration is not popular amongst national politicians. But it is necessary. Roma people are Europeans. And Member States have a joint responsibility to put an end to Roma exclusion – from schools, jobs, healthcare and housing.
There are some positive signs: Many Member States have set up mechanisms to better coordinate their Roma integration efforts (nationally and between countries). Member States have also established a dialogue with local and regional authorities and made some efforts to fight discrimination.
There are some good examples. Take Spain, which has trained 158 police forces to deal with ethnic discrimination. Or Romania, which earmarked 15,000 places for Roma students in schools, universities and vocational training. This is good.
But this is not enough. Today's report finds that a majority of Member States have not allocated sufficient resources from their national budgets to implement their strategies. Let me say it very clearly: Member States should put their money where their mouth is. Commitments and strategies are only as good as the action that follows.
The Commission is ready to help.
We have provided an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. We have offered Member States the possibility to earmark EU funding for Roma inclusion. We are addressing country specific recommendations to guide Member States' efforts where the integration of Roma is a real challenge. And we also used all our power to ensure the full transposition of the Race equality directive in each Member State to fight discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin.
Today we are moving up yet another gear: the Commission's proposal for a Council Recommendation is the first EU legal instrument for Roma inclusion.
The Recommendation focuses on the four areas where EU leaders signed up to common goals for Roma integration under the EU Framework: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing.
The Recommendation asks Member States to earmark funds for Roma inclusion. And it offers specific guidance on how Member States can use positive action in each of these four areas to protect Roma children and women, address poverty and fight discrimination.
The moment of truth has come: if Member States are serious about their national strategies, they need to deliver actions beyond paper.
The Recommendation will need to be adopted unanimously in the Council and it will have to be implemented within two years. This is the chance to show commitment and leadership.
I know I can count on the European Parliament and on the numerous NGOs and civil society organisations who have been working tirelessly to improve the situation of Roma.
I hope I can also count on Member States to do their job. The Commission will report back. We will keep Roma integration high on the political agenda.
Roma integration is too important to be left to Sunday speeches that are not followed up come Monday morning.