The European Parliament adopted a report on the “Cohesion Policy and Marginalized Communities”

15 December 2015

The report on Cohesion policy and marginalized communities is an own-initiative report of the German MEP Terry Reintke from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance that aims to bring the attention of the European Commission and the European Council on more effective use of the EUR 351, 8 billion euro that the European Union plans to invest in Europe’s regions, cities and the real economy for the programming period 2014-2020 so that Europe’s most marginalized communities do not remain excluded but become a priority of Europe’s cohesion policy instruments.

Through the Cohesion policy instruments, each year EU will invest approximately EUR 50 billion which aim to reduce the social and the economic inequalities between the Member States, to create better transport corridors between the European regions, to invest in sustainable sources of energy, research and innovation, low carbon economy, employment and many more. Among the priorities of the EU Cohesion policy 2014-2020 approximately EUR 32.4 billion is envisaged to be invested in social inclusion solely. For comparison, in the program period 2007-2013 the amount that was aimed at social inclusion was approximately EUR 11.4 billion (Cohesion Data, European Commission 2015). The attention on social inclusion is even stronger as the requirement of the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020 is that each Member State must allocate at least 20% of the ESF funds to promote inclusion and to combat poverty and all forms of discrimination.

The Report states that often local municipalities do not have the necessary instruments to prevent segregation and to deal with marginalized communities (recital I) as well as that in times of economic crisis social exclusion and poverty increase even more (recital H), affecting more severely women from marginalized communities (recitals J,K). The document does not provide a definition of what ‘marginalized community’ is, as this is left to be indicated by each Member State, according to their national criteria. However, the report provides a guidance on identifying marginalized communities:

‘marginalisation can be established by looking at a set of relevant indicators such as social exclusion, high long-term unemployment, a low level of education, (extremely) poor housing conditions, a high level of discrimination, and excessive exposure to health risks and/or lack of access to healthcare, i.e. those populations considered to be most vulnerable and most in need of help’ (Recital N).

As examples of marginalized communities are mentioned “minorities, Roma, people with disabilities, people living below the poverty line or at risk of poverty, migrants, refugees and socially excluded groups of society” (Recital O) as well as “communities living in rural areas and disadvantaged neighbourhoods”, “refugees and asylum seekers”, “ethnic and linguistic minorities”, “people with disabilities, elderly people, homeless, as well as indigenous people” (recital P).

The report pays special attention to the Roma people recognizing them as “Europe’s largest ethnic minority and one of the most marginalised communities” (Recital Q) and calls for combatting Roma’s social exclusion and improving their living conditions (General principles, 2). Anti-Gypsysism is recognized as “type of marginalization leading to systematic exclusion” (Monitoring and Recommendations, 42)

The report encourages cross-financing and an integrated approach in the implementation of the programs, calls for mainstreaming of the issue of marginalized communities in programs aiming at education and employment and for urban renewal and regeneration programmes for deprived urban ghettos, and more investments in rural or mountainous territorially isolated areas. The Commission is requested to ensure the equal participation of the marginalized communities in all programs and measures that are being designed for marginalized communities.
Moreover, the text highlights obstacles for the effective implementation of Europe’s cohesion policy such as xenophobia, homophobia and other kinds of discrimination and racism, such as segregation. A special highlight is that projects funded by Europe’s Cohesion policy should respect the fundamental human principles and should not contribute to segregation in any way (General Principles, 6). The reports also calls for more efforts to fight the corruption and the fraud in the use of European funds (General principles, 11).

The report is handled to the European Commission and the European Council which are expected to follow the given guidelines in their policies with regard to Cohesion policy funding. What concrete measures will be undertaken by the Commission in reply to the Report is still early to say.

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