Brussels (1 October) - Today, the European Commission has for the first time given awards for Roma integration to civil society organisations from Western Balkans and Turkey. The awards honour the contribution and the valuable work of civil society in supporting social inclusion of Roma people. The seven winning organisations, announced during a ceremony in Brussels, have all shown comprehensive and innovative approaches.

The winners were chosen from 21 short listed organisations, mostly working at grass-root level and either Roma-led or having Roma staff members. The selected projects cover diverse areas: from education and children's or women's rights, to housing, employment and health.

"We all - the European Commission, the governments, civil society organisations - need to send out the same message: Roma integration is an important policy. And it is not only investment for the benefit of this minority but it is also an investment to the benefit of society. Living in an environment in which each member of society contributes with their spirit and work force, will allow countries to grow strong and prosperous, from an economic, social and cultural perspective.", said Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, at the award ceremony.

The award's aim is to raise the political importance of integration of Roma as part of the enlargement process, to enhance the role of the civil society and to show the commitment of the European Commission to support Roma people. Through recognising the achievements of the winning organisations, the initiative is expected to support further implementation of the awarded activities. Each of the seven winners was awarded a prize of €14,000.

Watch the Award for Roma Integration Ceremony : Watch the Award for Roma Integration Ceremony