April 14, 2014
Good news is that the 3rd European Romma Summit has gathered high level political attention from both the EU Leaders (Commission President Barroso, Commissioners Reding, Andor and Vassiliou) and from Member States (Romanian President Basescu and 7 Ministers). Bad news is that that was it: there were no real chance either for Roma contribution or for meaningful civil society involvement.
Why do Roma matter at EU level?
Is Roma integration not a Member State issue with regard to the principle of subsidiarity?
Yes and no.
Yes, Member States have the lion’s share as regards Roma integration with particular emphasis on the local communities. Real Roma integration is not possible with the active involvement of the communities.
And No, because Roma integration is beyond the means of single Member States: look, 5 EU Member States (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) host the biggest Roma communities which would constitute alone enough reason for EU level action. In addition to that, Roma are not only present in almost every Member States, but due to the free movement of persons – which is an inviolable right of EU citizens – Roma can easily move from one Member State to another. Finally, Roma are leaving outside of the EU – look at Albania, Serbia, Montenegro of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, just to name a few.
Roma integration in the binding EU law
Taking into account all of this factors, one of the biggest achievements of the successful Hungarian EU presidency in the first half of 2011 was to set up the European Roma Framework and the assessment of the national Roma integration strategies.
EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies
In the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies, all Member States are expected to present to the European Commission a strategy for Roma inclusion or sets of policy measures within their social inclusions policies for improving the situation of Roma people on a yearly basis. For this purpose they set up national contact points .
The European Commission assesses these strategies and publishes its conclusions. The national strategies are available in the language version provided to the European Commission. Factsheets of the assessment made by the Commission are also available for each country on a yearly basis.
In 2012, the Commission assessed for the first time the national strategies on Roma presented by the Member States and adopted horizontal conclusion according to the relevant strengths and weaknesses. The Commission decided to publish the next set of assessment of national Roma Strategies on 4th April 2014, on this Roma Summit.
Commitments of Member states on Roma Integration
Member States made clear their political commitments on Roma integration. The Council adopted conclusions on May and June 2011 on Roma integration. Most recently, at its 9-10 December 2013 meeting, the Council of the European Union adopted unanimously the Council recommendations on effective Roma integration measures in the member states . They focus on the main vulnerability factors of Roma such as poor health, poor housing, poor nutrition, exclusion, discrimination, racism and violence. All of these pledges mark an unprecedented commitment by EU Member States to promoting the inclusion of Roma on their territory
Why does Roma integration need urgent action?
Because there is clear evidence that Roma suffer worse housing condiditons, education, employment situation and health outcomes than the majority population, and as a consequence, there is unacceptable differences between life expectancy of Roma and non-Roma. The discrimination comes to it as an additional factors: Roma are “ideal scapegoats ” for societal level frustration and are subject to discrimination.
What was good at the Roma Summit?
We have to be fair: Roma gathered considerable political attention and the Roma issue cannot be swept away from the European policy framework anymore. The high level attendance is a clear sign of it and we have to welcome these developments since they have the promise that Roma integration can be a reality in our lifetime. The presence of Traian Basescu can be considered as an apology from the Romanian president for his recent negative statement on Roma.
What was bad at the Roma Summit?
The lack of discussion. We have heard the statements of statesmen and stateswomen, Members of the European Parliament, Directors etc. without having the opportunity to have meaningful contributions. Despite the few Roma speakers, there were no civil society panel and the representative national and European NGO speakers adocating for better Roma integration were missing, too. Finally, due to the large size of panels, even the question and aswer session was far too short and from that point of view, we could consider the Roma summit as a missed opportunity for Roma dialogue.
Conclusions – an alternative Roma Summit?
If there are no improvements, I am afraid the pro-Roma civil society might organise an alternative Roma summit. But I am sure that this will not be necessary and the next Roma Summit may well integrate the inputs from civil society in an institutionalised way.
Source of the photos (Roma population in Europe © Wikipedia; Health Status of Roma and non-Roma © Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Pilot survey 2011)
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Related earlier updates:Zoltán Massay-Kosubek