The European Commission’s EU framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP11/400, MEMO/11/216) was endorsed at the highest political level. European leaders meeting in Brussels today backed a plan to end the centuries-old exclusion of the continent’s Roma minority.
Under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies, each of the EU’s 27 countries will set out how they intend to improve the situation of the most vulnerable Roma communities living on their territory. Member States will have to address four key areas for better social and economic integration – education, employment, healthcare and housing – and set out measures proportionate to their Roma population. EU funding and a strong legal framework to combat discrimination are available to support national efforts. Governments have until the end of 2011 to submit their national strategies. The European Commission will then assess the plans and report back next spring.
European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, said, “Today’s agreement is a huge step forward for millions of Roma around Europe. The EU is sending a strong signal: the exclusion of the Roma is not compatible with our societal values and our economic model.”
She continued: “European leaders have made an unprecedented commitment to improving Roma integration and I would like to thank the Hungarian Presidency in particular for its determination in obtaining this commitment. I also welcome the cooperation from other experienced international bodies such as the Council of Europe, which is working closely with local and regional authorities across Europe for better Roma integration.”
Reding added that “Now is the time to translate words into action. The EU Framework cannot succeed without the strong and sustained support of all Member States. I look forward to seeing how each national government intends to achieve a better integration of Roma people in their country.”
László Andor EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion stressed the importance of immediate action to integrate the Roma saying, “The situation for Roma people across Europe has worsened which is why we need to move urgently from hopes and aspirations to practical action that actually makes a difference on the ground.”
“Today’s support from EU leaders for an EU framework is an important step that shows Europe does not accept the social and economic exclusion of millions of Roma people. The national strategies, which I hope will be ambitious and realistic, can now get off the ground”.
He added: “Roma representatives can play a decisive role in ensuring that Roma integration strategies are both appropriate and implemented effectively. Monitoring will be crucial ensuring that national strategies are effectively implemented and that money intended for Roma integration really reaches the final beneficiary”.
Europe’s 10-12 million Roma continue to face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go to waste. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion.
Many of the areas for improving Roma integration – such as education, employment, health and housing – are primarily national or regional responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role in coordinating action by Member States and helping with financial instruments, including the Social and Structural Funds; and supports such efforts being carried out in other bodies such as the Council of Europe.
On 5 April 2011, the Commission put forward an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP11/400, MEMO/11/216). The Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support integration efforts. It focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals that reflect each of their population sizes and the current status of their integration policies.
As set out in the EU Framework, Member States will have to submit national Roma strategies by the end of 2011. They will have to specify how they will contribute to achieving the overall EU level goals for Roma integration. The Commission will then assess the national strategies and report back to the Council and the European Parliament in spring 2012. This exercise will be repeated on an annual basis, thus launching a regular review of progress made at national level within the EU framework.
In the summer of 2010, the European Commission publicly defended the position that Roma are EU citizens and should benefit fully from their rights and comply with their obligations under EU law