International Roma Day: Commission calls for decisive action to further Roma integration
To mark International Roma Day, the European Commission has underlined the need for further efforts by the Member States to improve the situation for Roma communities in Europe. Despite efforts in the Member States towards Roma integration, much more progress has yet to be made at national level to fight discrimination and improve access for Roma to employment, education, housing and healthcare in particular.
In a joint statement, Vice-President Viviane Reding (EU-Justice Commissioner), László Andor (Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), Johannes Hahn (Commissioner for Regional Policy) and Androulla Vassiliou (Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth) said:
"Improving the situation for Roma people is one of the biggest challenges we face in Europe. Making a real difference to their daily lives requires long term commitments, adequate resources, and concerted action at local, regional, national and European level.
"The EU has laid down a strong framework for action and Member States have drawn up national strategies for Roma inclusion. This is a good first step. The key is now to make sure these policies are implemented on the ground.
"Because Roma inclusion makes sense: research by the World Bank suggests full Roma integration could be worth around half a billion euros a year to the economies of some countries by improving productivity, cutting welfare bills and boosting tax receipts. Roma integration thus must not be seen as a cost, but as a social investment, and will be key in achieving the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
"Roma integration cannot be left to Sunday speeches that are not followed up come Monday morning. What we need is a genuine political commitment from the Member States to implement national strategies. The drafting of national strategies was certainly a good start but we still need more to make changes happen.
"We will adopt our 2013 report on progress in implementing the national strategies before the summer and will evaluate to what extent our recommendations have been followed up by Member States.
"In addition, the negotiations on EU Funds for the period 2014-2020 will be decisive. It is crucial to ensure that National Roma Contact Points, Roma NGOs and experts are involved in the planning as early as possible. International Roma Day is an opportunity to reflect on our achievements but also to mobilise efforts to continue the crucial work towards Roma equality."
Since 2010 the European Commission has continually been keeping Roma integration high on the political agenda: thanks to the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/400) all Member States now have national integration strategies which the Commission evaluates every year (see IP/12/499). The next progress report will be presented before the summer. At the same time, the Commission will propose also a Recommendation on Roma inclusion to be adopted by the Council. Finally, the Commission has proposed better targeting of EU funds to support Roma integration in the next financial programming period 2014-2020.
Roma integration is in the interest of Member States, especially of those with a large Roma minority. Roma represent a significant and growing proportion of the school age population and the future workforce. In countries like Bulgaria and Romania, one in every four to five new labour market entrants are Roma. Efficient labour activation policies and enabling individualised and accessible support services for Roma job seekers are crucial to let Roma people live up to their potential and actively and equally participate in society.
In a report adopted on 23 May 2012, the European Commission called on EU Member States to implement their national strategies to improve the economic and social integration of Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma. Member States developed these plans in response to the Commission's EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies adopted on 5 April 2011 (see IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216) which was endorsed by EU leaders soon afterwards (IP/11/789).
In its assessment of the national Roma integration strategies, one of the primary findings was that Member States, for financial or administration reasons, are not making good use of these funds. Only 12 countries have clearly identified allocated funding and presented specific amounts for Roma inclusion policy measures in their strategy papers (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden).
EU Structural Funds - European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) - have been mobilised to boost national efforts and are an important financial lever in ensuring the translation of national Roma integration strategies into real socio-economic inclusion of Roma communities, alongside national budgets. But although, the three funds total €50 billion per year, not enough benefits disadvantaged Roma communities. The Commission therefore urges the national Roma contact points to be closely involved in the planning of the use of EU Funds.
For the new funding period 2014-2020, the Commission has proposed a specific investment priority to be devoted to the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma and ensuring requirement that an appropriate Roma inclusion strategy is in place, where EU funds are spent for this purpose. It has proposed to use at least 20% of ESF resources for social inclusion, which would be a huge improvement in countries with a large Roma population.
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