Roma exclusion: it’s time for Member States to tackle this European “scandal” seriously

8 July 2013

In 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 which was endorsed by EU leaders soon afterwards.

Last 26th June 2013 the European Commission launched a Progress Report on Roma integration within the Member States taking stock of how Member States are implementing their national plans to improve the lives of Roma communities in their country under the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. The Commission´s main conclusion is that insufficient progress has been made and another push to Roma integration needs to be done. Their assessment is reinforced by the presentation of Recommendation to Member States, to be adopted by the Council.

The European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) shares this general assessment and welcomes the new impetus given by the EC to the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies by submitting, together with its annual progress report, a proposal for an EU legal instrument for Roma inclusion: a Council recommendation to be voted by the Council of Ministers and adopted by Member States.

ERPC agrees with the European Commission that the National Roma Integration Strategies are far from making a positive change in Roma’s daily lives, a European population suffering from high levels of discrimination and poverty.

Commissioners Reding and Andor emphasized at the EU Roma Platform the need to send a wake-up call to EU Member Statesand make them reiterate their commitment to stop excluding Roma from society. The proposal for a Council recommendation sends a strong message to national governments that strategies need to be properly implemented in order to make a positive difference on the ground and not only remain a commitment on paper.

Overall, a clear link has finally been made between social inclusion, discrimination, racism and Roma participation. However, a lot still needs to be done, especially at national and local levels. As highlighted by the EC, the overall financing is still inadequate for the implementation of the NRIS (specifically Structural Funds), and coordination mechanism at national, regional and  local level have not been properly implemented as a means to assure effective and efficient public policies for tackling inequality and discrimination of Roma in Member States. The ERPC urges Member States to be politically determined to face for once the inequality and discrimination suffered by many Roma in Europe: there are the financial and the technical tools to do so, it´s just a matter of bringing together the efforts and will of various actors on the ground and work to achieve results and change.

The ERPC calls on the Commission and EU Member States to specifically and actively pursue anti-discrimination measures. "Member States have received bad marks particularly in the fight against discrimination. Countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are for instance singled out for continuing and pervasive school segregation. The assessment confirms the urgency of pressing Member States to immediately implement European anti-discrimination law in practice. Where necessary, the European Commission should trigger infringement procedures to ensure compliance", said Belén Sánchez-Rubio, ERPC chair.

ERPC also welcomes the shift in the European Commission’s approach and hopes it will serve to improve the most worrying situation Roma are living in Europe. Their situation is worsening as they are both increasingly affected by discrimination and racist attacks and by the economic crisis Europe. So far, the EU Framework has not improved their socio-economic situation nor visibly decreased anti-Gypsyism. Indeed, such a comprehensive political tool should be used to alleviate the situation of the Roma, one of the most disadvantaged groups in Europe and to defend their vulnerability as targets of shameless racist attacks.

We hope the EC will follow closely the reaction of MS after its Progress Report and the Council Recommendations. Next Roma Platform should be one of the spaces to follow up on these developments, focusing on quantitative and qualitative indicators that provide information about the progress made in the four key areas (education, employment, housing and health), and also in terms of Roma participation (in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the NRIS), in equal treatment and the fight against discrimination.  We actually call for the introduction of indicators for genuine Roma participation and empowerment as well as for antidiscrimination progress.

“We therefore urge Member States to adopt the proposed Council recommendation and to clearly show their political determination to serve all EU residents, including Roma on an equal basis”,  Sánchez-Rubio concluded.

 

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Note to the editors: The European Roma Policy Coalition is an informal gathering of non-governmental organisations operating at EU level on issues of human rights, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, social inclusion, and Roma and Travellers’ rights. Its members are Amnesty International, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the European Roma Information Office (ERIO), Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), the Open Society Foundations, the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, and the Roma Education Fund.

 

For further comment/background and interviews, contact:


Fundación Secretariado Gitano (current chair of the ERPC)
Tel +34 654 567 697; belen.sanchez@gitanos.org/www.gitanos.org   


European Roma Information Office (co-chair)

Tel +32 2 73 33 34 62; office@erionet.eu/ www.erionet.eu

European Roma Rights Center (co-chair)

Tel +36.1 413 22 00; marek.szilvasi@errc.org/ www.errc.org

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