EU Commissioner for Values: EU money is meant to help the Roma too, data collection is important so we aren't flying blind
The European Union will be financially supporting the fight against socially excluded localities during the next budget period, and one target group for that financing is meant to be Romani people. The EU wants to support their economic and social integration.
European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová has delivered that message in an interview for ROMEA TV. "We want to continue financing projects, but in the past that aid did not always make its way to the places where it is needed. Impoverished people live in areas where they have less of a chance of applying themseves on the labor market, the children living in such areas have limited opportunities, from the very beginning of their lives, to get a good-quality job when they grow up and to enjoy a better quality of life. For that reason, we want this financing to target the places that need it," she said in an interview with journalist and Romani community member Richard Samko.
A European Social Fund document even expressly mentions Romani people, but this financial aid is not exclusively intended just for them. Just as under the previous European Commission strategies for such investment, impoverished people will be targeted generally during the next budget period.
Romani people are given as an example of a group endangered by poverty toward whom the aid is meant to be targeted. "This is meant to assist people endangered by social exclusion, such as Romani people. We have never said, and we are not saying now, that this money is meant to be exclusively aimed at Romani people. We are especially concerned about the children whom we would like to see enjoy a better quality of life than their parents have experienced, and we want to help achieve that with this money. Romani people have been named as one of the groups who should be supported," the Commissioner said.
According to Jourová, the anonymous collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity, which some Czech ministries do not want to undertake, is also important. "There is no problem with collecting such data if it is anonymized. It should never appear anywhere as a matter of record that Mr XY declares himself of Romani ethnicity, that is a general rule. However, collecting data for the purposes of designing projects and monitoring where the money has gone is absolutely in order. We cannot finance something absolutely blindly and say we hope the money will go where it is needed, this can't be done that way," she warned.
The financing will make its way to chosen projects through the Education Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. Those ministries are tasked with administering and distributing this European funding through their two biggest and most crucial programs.
"I would be glad if the Czech Republic were to manage this so the money could aid the situation there. In Brussels we agreed the Czech Republic is one of several countries that have longstanding problems where we need to implement projects that are not one-offs, but that provide more permanent, stable assistance," the Commissioner explained.
During the previous funding period, the EU invested about EUR 2.5 billion into addressing the issue of socially excluded localities. Despite that, today there are more impoverished neighborhoods in the Czech Republic than were first mentioned in a report by the sociologist Ivan Gabal in 2006.
"That money was not exactly targeted. For that reason, we have made our strategy more concrete so that it is clear our intention is to support people endangered by poverty with an emphasis on education and job creation. We also want mechanisms that facilitate easier access to this money. To speak a hard truth, bureaucratic obstacles force project managers to consume these resources themselves, and that means not all of this money goes toward the purpose of the spending," the Commissioner said.
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