Five years of the European Framework of the National Roma Strategies have passed. What is next?

29 June 2016

On June 29, 2016 in Brussels was held the conference “Five years of the European Framework of the National Roma Strategies have passed. What is next?” Organizer of the conference was MEP Peter Niedermuller from the S&D Parliamentary Group of the European Parliament. Part of the opening speech of MEP Peter Niedermuller can be seen here.

The conference brought together numerous representatives of the Roma civil society and aimed to discuss the progress of the Roma Integration process in the EU and the EU-enlargement countries. Moreover, the conference became the venue of discussion of the issued by the European Commission on the previous day Communication on effective Roma integration measures in the Member states 2016.

The conference was opened by Tiina Astola, Director General of DG Justice and Consumers. Mrs. Astola underlined the widespread discrimination European Roma suffer from, and especially the one in the labour market. She stated that Roma should be targeted explicitly under mainstreaming programs such as the Youth Guarantee and that stronger monitoring and fighting discrimination are needed. The states of Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Sweden were given as examples for forced evictions of Roma. Mrs. Astola strongly condemned the forced evictions of Roma people across Europe: “Any eviction should be accompanied by an offer for alternative housing”. Astola added that “The Commission will not shy away to assure full implementation of the antidiscrimination legislation”. The European Commission has invested in the establishment of National Roma Platforms, similarly to the European Roma Platform that is being held annually in Brussels (next EU Roma Platform to be held on 29-30 November 2016) and so far 16 Member States have taken an advantage of this opportunity. National Roma Platforms will have the role to enforce antidiscrimination law, prevent evictions, eliminate school segregation, collect data and monitor the integration process, and to support grassroots level organizations. Part of the speech of Mrs. Tiina Astola can be watched here.

Abel Ravasz, Slovakian Roma Plenipotentiary who is non-Roma, and who will work under the up-coming Slovakian Presidency of the EU, made a point that there is lacking effective empowerment of young Roma and announced a Roma Youth Meeting to be held on 10-11 October 2016 and to gather 250 young Roma. His main message was that integration needs to happen at local level: “We are trying to achieve complexity and we are trying to achieve it locally, through municipalities”. Ravasz also mentioned that Slovakia will appoint 15 social workers to facilitate the Roma integration process but this is not sufficient, as Slovakia has about 150 municipalities.

Zeljko Jovanovic, Director of the Roma Initiatives Office of the Open Society Institute in Budapest stated that the European Commission should not expect to gather information from organizations when organizations are dying and he underlined that independent civil society needs to be supported. With regards to the Roma Integration 2020 Iniative that aims at the integration of Roma on the Western Balkans and Turkey, Jovanovic stated that the debate with the Commission “is not about money, but about priorities”. Jovanovic stated that the antigypsyism is not being tackled by the National Roma Integration Strategies: “National Roma Integration Strategies are dealing with Roma parents who presumably do not want to send their children at school. But they do not deal with the teachers who even without realising, underestimate the skills of the Roma children and expect less from then. Antigypsyism is not about the parents, it’s about the teachers. Antigypsyism is part of the DNA of nowadays public institutions”.

Sala Saastamoinen, Director for Equality at DG Justice, stated: “It took us time to make the linkage between EU Funding and National Roma Integration Strategies. It has taken five years. The first funding reaches the ground this years and the change is yet to come in the next five years until 2020”. Saastamoinen mentioned that EU Member States do no put sufficient funds in the Roma Integration Measures.

Andor Urmos from DG Regio mentioned that there are 1.5 billion euro specifically allocated for Roma Integration but that there are numerous mainstream measures that can be also beneficial for Roma. However, these funds are mostly coming from the European Social Fund, and very little is allocated for Roma at the European Regional Cohesion and even less from the European Rural Development Fund.

Gabriela Hrabanova from the ERGO Network stated that additional measures to voice civil society in the monitoring of the National Roma Integration Strategies are needed. Hrabanova expressed her concerns that governments do not share their reports on NRISs with civil society and there is no existing template for civil society to report on the implementation of the Roma Strategies. “We are missing the views of the beneficiaries, what we see is the Member States Reports”.

 

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