Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Roma: EU - "Our objective is to get Roma accepted on equal terms, to be integrated into society"

FOCUS Information Agency - Roma communities, the European Union’s largest ethnic minority, continue to face persistent discrimination and segregation. The European Commission urged Member States in a report Wednesday to use EU funds for the social and economic integration of Roma, the Commission's press service informs.

Ensuring these communities’ access to jobs and non-segregated education, housing and health services is vital to their social inclusion, the report said. The integration of the estimated 10 to 12 million Roma – a population as large as Belgium’s or Greece’s – is a joint responsibility of Member States and EU institutions.

A separate report evaluated the progress achieved in integration over the past two years. Participants at the second Europe-wide Roma Summit, to be held in Córdoba, Spain on 8-9 April, will review these reports.

"As a Union founded on strong values, we must ensure that Roma's fundamental rights are respected. Discrimination against this ethnic minority is not acceptable,” said Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

“Addressing their problems benefits our societies and economies. It is only through sustained and coordinated action that we can make a real difference for Roma all over Europe," Commissioner Reding added.

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion underlined that the efforts to integrate the Roma people need to cover an entire life cycle starting earliest stages of kindergarten to mainstream education for children, jobs for adults and care for the elderly.

"Roma communities are part and parcel of our fight against poverty and joblessness," he added
In his words, Roma people do not need a separate labour market, but schools that prolong the segregation of Roma children.

"They do not want renovated Roma ghettos," the Commission stressed.

"Our objective is to get Roma accepted on equal terms, to be integrated into society. The European Social Fund is a powerful lever in supporting this cross-cutting approach," Andor noted further.

In its policy Communication adopted today, the Commission outlines an ambitious mid-term programme to meet the biggest challenges for Roma inclusion, including:

- Mobilising the Structural Funds, including the European Social Fund – which together represent almost half of the EU's budget – to support Roma inclusion;

- Taking Roma issues into account in all relevant policy areas at national and EU level, from employment to urban development and from public health to EU expansion;

- Harnessing the potential of Roma communities to support inclusive growth as part of the Europe 2020 strategy.

Although the situation of many of Europe's Roma people remains difficult, important progress has been made at EU and national levels. In the last two years, the EU and Member States have focused on making anti-discrimination laws and EU funding more effective in promoting Roma inclusion. This includes fighting discrimination, segregation and racist violence as well as supporting programmes to address the vicious circle of poverty, social marginalisation, low school achievement and poor housing and health.

For example, the Commission launched legal proceedings against 24 Member States to make sure that EU anti-discrimination law on the grounds of race is correctly transposed into national legislation. Out of these cases, 12 are still open while 12 were successfully concluded.

To encourage Member States' effective use of Structural Funds, the Commission is conducting two studies that will identify successful projects, programmes and policies for Roma inclusion – one covering the funds as a whole and a second on the European Social Fund's support for Roma.

The Communication and progress report will be discussed at the second European Roma Summit, which is organised with the Spanish EU Presidency. The event brings together high-level representatives of the EU institutions, Member States and civil society to review progress since the first summit in 2008.

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