European Commission making headway on Roma integration

European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding (Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights) and Commissioner László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) will today meet with civil society organisations to discuss Roma integration in Europe. Today’s Roma Roundtable event brings together key players from Roma civil society (see Annex) – such as the European Roma Information Office, the European Roma Education Fund, Amnesty International and the Roma Grassroots Organisations Network. It comes ahead of the next Commission report on progress in implementing national strategies for Roma integration, due to be adopted this year.

“Civil society organisations are the eyes and ears for Roma people on the ground. Discussions like today’s roundtable provide us with invaluable input as to how best address the challenges facing Roma," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "The organisations' input will translate into actions - to make a difference in the daily lives of Roma in Europe. This means close involvement of Roma communities, from local to European level. Today’s discussions will be reflected in our next progress report and recommendations to Member States on Roma integration which we will present this year."
"Local authorities and local civil society have a crucial role to play because it is their task to implement on the ground most of the measures required to achieve Roma inclusion. However their capacity to obtain funding and design and implement Roma inclusion measures should be substantially improved, especially in countries with large Roma minorities. I therefore welcome the efforts of the Coalition of International Organisations for Roma inclusion, uniting major donors in an effort to help designing and implementing Roma inclusion measures, and to invest in the economic and social development of those regions where many Roma people live, often in poverty and without work opportunities", said Commissioner Andor.
Since 2010 the European Commission has continuously kept Roma integration high on the political agenda: thanks to the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/400), all Member States with Roma populations now have national integration strategies which the Commission evaluates every year (see IP/12/499).
The next progress report will be presented before the end of the year. At the same time, the Commission will also propose 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.
Details on the Roma Roundtable today: it starts at 17.00 – European Commission Berlaymont building, Room François-Xavier Ortoli (13th floor). Journalists wishing to attend should contact to see if last-minute registrations are possible.
Roma integration is in the interest of Member States, especially for 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 individualised and accessible support services for Roma job seekers are crucial to allow 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/11/400MEMO/11/216which 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 – the 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 has made it a requirement that an appropriate Roma inclusion strategy is in place. We have 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.
For more information
European Commission – Roma:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
Homepage of Commissioner László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs:
ANNEX: List of organisations participating in the roundtable meeting
European Network Against Racism (ENAR):
Roma Education Fund
Roma Decade
Open Society Foundation (OSF)
European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO)
European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
Amnesty International
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)