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October 31, 2020

 

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Civil society skeptical as to whether EU Member States will align with European Commission's 10-year Roma Strategy

14.10.2020 9:44
PHOTO:  Petr Zewlakk Vrabec
PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a new 10-year plan, including a proposal for an EU Council Recommendation, on how to support Romani people in the European Union. According to the EC, it is necessary to focus on seven key areas:  equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health care and housing.

Many pro-Romani organizations see certain gaps in the EU Roma Strategy and believe it may not resolve the bad situation in which Romani people find themselves in Europe. They are most concerned about how the Member States intend to uphold their own national strategies, which are meant to be developed by September 2021. 

For each area the EC has set forth new aims and issued recommendations to the Member States as to how to achieve them. The aims and recommendations are meant to serve as important instruments facilitating the measuring of progress achieved and ensuring that the EU improves its provision of the essential support so many Romani people living in the EU still need. 

“Simply put, over the last 10 years we have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU," said EC Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová. "This is inexcusable."

"Many continue to face discrimination and racism. We cannot accept it [and] we are relaunching our efforts to correct this situation, with clear targets and a renewed commitment to achieve real change over the next decade,” she said.

Speaking to Euronews, Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, said: "This new framework will not solve it [the plight of the Roma] because there is no political will to push for the reforms that need to take place." A statement by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an advocacy group, said in part that "Whilst the new strategy is an improvement on the previous EU Roma Framework, and it contains much of merit, the problem of implementation remains the same. In ... Member States with the largest Roma populations, weak governance, endemic corruption, and routine segregation have gone hand-in-hand with unabashed anti-Roma racism from the highest public offices," adding that it is necessary to stop EU financing to governments that continue to violate fundamental human rights.       

The ERRC expressed appreciation in its statement for Commission President von der Leyen's commitment to "replace antigypsyism with openness and acceptance, hate speech and hate crime with tolerance and respect for human dignity." The organization went on to say that "We appreciate the decade-long commitment of the European Commission to promote Roma inclusion, and fully recognize that the primary obligation to combat anti-Roma racism lies, as it always has, with Member States."

The director of the European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network, Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová, is convinced it is important for the governments of the Member States to uphold the EC recommendations. "Now national governments need to step up. They have to ensure the highest commitments under EU Council recommendations to fight antigypsyism, make school segregation illegal, sanction hate speech, hate crimes and police ill-treatment, prevent forced evictions, invest in infrastructure, clean and safe housing, employment, healthcare and empowerment at the grassroots level,” she said in a statement.   

The EC has called on the Member States to submit their own national strategies by September 2021 and to report on their implementation every two years. The EU executive will follow the Member States' progress on fulfilling their own domestic aims between 2021 and 2030, basing that assessment on data produced by surveys conducted by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and contributions by civil society.  

Halfway through the 10-year period a thorough assessment of the entire new plan and its implementation will also be undertaken. The new EU Roma Strategic Framework is the first direct contribution to implementing the EU's Anti-racism Action Plan for 2020-2025 and is a component of Commission President von der Leyen's commitment to a "Union of Equality".     

SB, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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ERRC, ERGO Network, European Commission, Fundamental Rights Agency, Open Society Foundations, Roma



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