The Roma is Europe’s largest minority group, with a presence in almost all EU Member States. Wherever they live, the Roma tend to suffer social exclusion and deprivation. A new initiative from the European Commission aims to change this situation by encouraging Member States to do more for their Roma populations.

An estimated 10 and 12 million Roma live in Europe, often in difficult circumstances. Roma are at greater risk of poverty and unemployment than other members of the local population. Poor health, low educational attainment and inadequate housing conditions are also constant features in the lives of many Roma.

These difficulties contribute to the shocking fact that the Roma have a life expectancy that is 10 years less than the average European, along with a child mortality rate significantly higher than the EU average.

A Catalyst for Change

The EU is committed to changing Roma lives for the better by mainstreaming actions to help them in all policy areas.

To help make this happen, the European Commission published the ‘EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies’ in April 2011.

The Framework is intended to support Member States as they develop their own national, regional and local policies for the Roma. It also seeks to ensure that full use is made of available funding at EU level – including the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – so they can better support Roma inclusion.

The Framework has the Following Four Goals:

  • In education, ensure that all Roma children complete primary school;
  • In employment, cut the employment gap between the Roma and other members of society
  • In health, reduce the health gap that exists between the Roma and others, for example by cutting child mortality rates
  • In housing, improve Roma access to decent places to live, as well as to public utilities like water and electricity.

Under the Framework, Member States will present national Roma strategies by the end of 2011. These strategies will show how each country intends to meet the four integration goals. They should also include national targets and set out levels of funding – both from EU and national coffers.

Member States also have been asked to look at the operational programmes which use EU structural funds so they can find ways to give more support to projects for the Roma.

Monitoring Progress and the Regime

To ensure progress is made, the Commission has called for the establishment of a robust monitoring regime. In this context, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency will carry out regular surveys to take stock of the economic and social situation of the Roma, and work will be carried out with national statistical authorities to obtain better data.

In addition, EU countries have been asked to designate national contact points to manage, report on and monitor their own national strategies. The Commission will report annually to the European Parliament and the Council on the progress being made by Member States.

Care has been taken to ensure that the Framework goals underpin the headline targets in the field of social inclusion, employment and education set out in Europe 2020, the EU’s strategy for economic growth.

Under Europe 2020, Member States are expected to work towards getting 75% of people aged 20 to 64 into employment. In education, the target is to reduce school drop-out rates to below 10%. The strategy also aims to have at least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020.

EU Funding is Transforming Roma Lives

Over the years, the EU’s financial clout has been used to help the Roma play a fuller role in society. The ESF in particular has funded hundreds of projects to help the Roma access better health services, education, counselling and job training.

In Ireland, for example, the ESF contributed to the Roma Cultural Mediation Project. This project has provided Roma people in the greater Dublin area with improved access to health, social, educational and probation services. Funding was also used to improve the professional skills and competences of those who deliver services to the Roma. The project encouraged members of the Roma Community to act as advocates and to forge links between their people and service providers.

The ESF is putting a lot of effort into helping the Roma populations that live in the new Eastern European Member States. In Bulgaria, one project is being financed that aims to include Roma children in mainstream schools. The project also addresses early school leaving – a problem that afflicts many Roma youngsters – and provides teachers who are qualified to work in an intercultural environment.

Find more by using European Commission Website

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Published: 26 June 2013