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Roma integration: Progress Report and Recommendation

26 June 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 26 June 2013

The European Commission has called on Member States to deliver on their commitments to ensure equality and to do more to improve the economic and social integration of Europe's 10 to 12 million Roma. The call follows the Commission's progress report released today which shows that Member States need to do better in implementing their national Roma integration strategies submitted under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. The new report is accompanied by a proposal for a Recommendation addressed to EU countries which proposes to Member States on the one hand specific measures, including positive action, and on the other hand, horizontal policy measures, including local actions to improve the situation of Roma people. Member States would have two years to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground.


How does the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies help the Roma?

The EU framework develops a targeted approach for more effective action on Roma integration by setting EU-wide goals in four areas: education, employment, health and housing.

It was thanks to the 2011 EU Framework for national Roma Integration strategies that Member States developed and submitted national Roma strategies specifying how they will contribute to achieving the overall EU level integration goals, including setting national targets and allowing for sufficient funding (national, EU and other) to deliver them.

The Commission assesses these strategies on an annual basis and reports on their implementation. The first progress report was presented in May 2012.

By placing Roma integration firmly on national and the European agenda and by asking for specific measures in the four areas outlined, the European Commission aims to improve the daily lives of Roma people in the European Union.

What does the Commission's latest Roma progress report say?

This year's report looks in particular at how far Member States have established the right structures for effectively implementing Roma integration policies. Overall, the report finds that while some progress has been made by Member States in the past year, it remains very limited and improvement on the ground is too slow.

1) Involving local and regional authorities and civil society

Many Member States have set up mechanisms to better coordinate their Roma integration efforts and advance dialogue with local and regional authorities. But there is room for improvement in involving civil society (including Roma) organisations and in allocating adequate resources to finance the strategies. Overall, 16 Member States have improved coordination on Roma integration policies at national level (AT, BE, BG, CZ, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HU, IT, LT, LV, RO, SE, SK), while 18 have taken action to better coordinate between the local and national levels of government (AT, BE, BG, DK, CZ, EE, ES, FI, FR, HU, IE, IT, LV, NL, RO, SE, SI, SK).

20 countries have established structured dialogues with local and regional authorities (AT, BE, BG, CZ, DK, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HU, IE, IT, LV, NL, RO, SE, SI, SK, UK), but fewer have allocated resources for Roma integration to these authorities (AT, BE, CZ, DE, DK, EL, FI, FR, IE, IT, PL, RO (planned), SE, SI, SK).

In terms of involving civil society, only a minority of Member States have established a structured dialogue at national level (BE, BG, EE, ES, DK, FI, FR, HU, LV, LT, SE, SI, UK) and fewer still at local level.

2) Fighting discrimination

The progress report also finds that public authorities should do more to fight discrimination. Despite commitments made by the Member States and anti-discrimination legislation, racism towards and discrimination against Roma continue. In particular the segregation of Roma children in education is still widespread in several Member States (Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia). There are more day-to-day examples of Roma discrimination, including less favourable access to education, health, police protection and housing compared to the majority population.

While most countries have taken measures to raise public awareness of discrimination (AT, BG, CZ, DK, EE, ES, FI, FR, HU, IE, IT, LV, LT, PT, RO, SI), just three have taken action to enforce anti-discrimination rules at local level (AT, DK, SE).

3) Allocating adequate funding

The Commission's 2012 progress report identified as one of the biggest weaknesses the insufficient allocation of financial resources to Roma integration. This year's report finds that although several countries have taken measures to allocate resources in an integrated way (EL, ES, FI, HU, IT, LV, SI, SK), or on a territorial basis (CZ, EL, ES, HU, IT, PL, SE, SK), overall financing is still inadequate.

Are there any examples of successful policy approaches to draw on?

The report draws attention to a series of good practice examples from the Member States, such as the regional action plan for Roma inclusion developed by the State of Berlin, cooperation between the national authorities and local actors in France, and work done in Bulgaria to better mobilise EU funds.

Hungary has designed a robust system to monitor implementation of its national strategy, Spain has trained 158 police forces to deal with ethnic discrimination, and Romania has earmarked 15,000 places for Roma students in schools, universities and vocational training.

A full list is included in the annex to this MEMO.

What does the Commission's Recommendation aim to do?

The Commission is putting forward a series of specific policy recommendations to help guide Member States in effectively implementing their strategies. They take the form of a proposal for a Council Recommendation which will need to be approved unanimously by the Member States and requires the European Parliament's consent. The aim is to reinforce the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies with a non-binding legal instrument calling on Member States to move up a gear in Roma integration.

The Recommendation focuses on the four areas where EU leaders signed up to common goals for Roma integration under the EU Framework and where Member States can take positive action to make a difference: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing.

It also draws the attention of Member States to the need to allocate appropriate funds to Roma inclusion, to end discrimination against Roma and protect particularly Roma women and children, increase the role of local authorities, and strengthen cooperation within and between Member States.

What are the specific EU-level goals under the EU Framework?

The goals address the four main areas for improving social and economic integration for Roma, all of which are primarily national policy areas:

Education: ensuring that all Roma children complete primary school.

Employment: cutting the employment gap between Roma and other citizens.

Health: reducing the gap in health status between the Roma and the general population.

Housing: closing the gap in access to housing and public utilities such as water and electricity.

How does the Commission check on progress?

The Commission reports annually to the European Parliament and to the Council on progress on the integration of the Roma population in the Member States and on the achievement of the Roma integration goals.

It bases its monitoring notably on:

    the national Roma integration strategies as submitted and updated by Member States;

    the results of the Roma household survey regularly carried out by the Fundamental Rights Agency, the United Nations Development Programme in cooperation with the World Bank;

    national reform programmes in the frame of the Europe 2020 Strategy, in particular for those countries with a high share of Roma population;

    Member States' contributions based on their own monitoring systems which national authorities are requested to include in their national Roma integration strategies;

    input by civil society (including the reports by civil coalitions coordinated by the Decade for Roma Inclusion Secretariat in six Member States and two enlargement countries).

It will also take into account the work of the European Platform for Roma Inclusion (the next meeting of which will take place in Brussels on 27 June).

How does the Commission involve civil society in this process?

The Commission has been working with civil society groups representing and working with Roma communities for quite some time (the first Roma Communication was published in July 2008), including regular meetings of the European Platform for Roma inclusion.

On 15 May 2013, Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Andor met with key players from Roma civil society to discuss Roma integration in Europe. Their discussions helped to feed into and prepare the Commission's progress report and Recommendation released today.

On 27 June 2013, the Commission's report and Proposal for a Council Recommendation will be presented at the meeting of the European Platform for Roma inclusion, which, this year, will focus on the urgent need to improve the situation of Roma children and youth.

Who are the Roma?

There are around 10-12 million Roma people in Europe. They have been part of Europe for centuries and are integral to its society and economy, but frequently face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and exclusion.

Estimates by the Council of Europe (see annex) show that almost all EU countries have Roma communities of varying sizes. They form a significant proportion of the population in Bulgaria (around 10%), Slovakia (9%), Romania (8%), Hungary (7%), Greece, the Czech Republic and Spain (each 1.5-2.5%).

Around a third of these live in the countries of the western Balkans, such as Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and in Turkey.

The term "Roma" is used to include groups of people who have more or less similar cultural characteristics, such as Sinti, Travellers, Kalé, Gens du voyage, etc. whether sedentary or not.

How do EU policies support Roma integration?

Many of the most important areas for improving Roma integration – such as education, employment, health and housing – are national or regional responsibilities. But the EU has an important role to play in coordinating action by Member States. It can support this with powerful policy and financial tools: the Europe 2020 economic governance framework, European legislation against discrimination, policy coordination, common integration goals and structural funding.

EU legislation (the Race Equality Directive) obliges Member States to give equal access to ethnic minorities, such as the Roma, in education, housing, health and employment. While all EU Member States have transposed this Directive into national legislation, it needs to be applied in practice in order to offer effective protection to individuals, and if need be, access to justice in cases of discrimination. The European Commission will publish an implementation report in 2013.

Within the European semester the Commission scrutinises the synergies and discrepancies of National Roma Integration Strategies and National Reform Programmes focusing on Member States with large Roma communities who need to address Roma inclusion in order to meet their Europe 2020 target in the fields of education, employment and fight against poverty. This helps to ensure mainstreaming of Roma integration goals into other policies, without which Roma-specific measures alone cannot bring sustainable results.

Several EU funds are available to Member States to support national Roma inclusion policies, namely the European Social Fund (ESF), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The EU already co-finances projects for the Roma in sectors like education, employment, microfinance and equal opportunities (in particular equality between men and women).

For the new funding period 2014-2020, the Commission has proposed a specific investment priority to be devoted to the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma, and a requirement that an appropriate Roma inclusion strategy is in place, where EU funds are spent for this purpose. It has also proposed to allocate a significant share of cohesion policy budget to investment into people through the European Social Fund and use at least 20% of ESF resources for social inclusion in each Member State.

What is the role of Member States?

Member States have the primary responsibility for Roma integration, because the key areas which are the biggest challenge for Roma inclusion are national responsibilities. These include access to quality education, to the job market, housing and essential services, and healthcare.

Policies in these fields are often handled by regional and local authorities, depending on the country. This means different levels of government have a joint responsibility for Roma inclusion and need to cooperate closely to achieve results. For example, the EU makes funds available to support inclusion and employment of Roma, among other things, but Member States and regions are responsible for allocating and implementing funding for specific integration projects.

What are the main areas where Roma face exclusion?

In education, Roma children have lower attainments and often face discrimination and segregation in schooling. Although the situation differs between EU countries, a survey by the Open Society Institute in six EU countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) found that only 42% of Roma children complete primary school, compared to an average of 97.5% for the general population across the EU as a whole.

This has a knock-on effect in the labour market, where young Roma are less well-equipped and less qualified to find a job. The Europe 2020 strategy sets a headline target of 75% of people in the EU aged 20-64 to be in employment, compared to a current rate of 68.8%. For Roma, the employment rate is significantly lower, with only one in three Roma in employment.

In health, Roma have a life expectancy of 10 years less than the average European and a child mortality rate that is significantly higher than the EU average of 4.3 per thousand births. United Nations Development Programme research in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic put Roma infant mortality rates there at 2-6 times higher than those for the general population, depending on the country. These outcomes reflect poorer living conditions, reduced access to quality healthcare and higher exposure to risks. There is also evidence that Roma communities are less well informed about health issues and can be confronted with discrimination in access to healthcare.

Roma also face significant gaps as compared to the average European in terms of access to housing and essential services. While between 72% and 100% of EU households are connected to a public water supply, the rate is much lower among Roma. Research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency points to wider problems in accessing housing, both private and public. This in turn affects Roma health and broader integration prospects.

What are the benefits of better Roma integration?

Better Roma integration is key to a better respect for the fundamental rights of a large number of EU citizens and greater social cohesion, it also holds out considerable economic benefits.

The Roma represent a growing share of the working age population, with an average age of 25 compared to the EU average of 40. Some 35.7% of Roma are under 15, compared to 15.7% of the EU population. Roma also form 1 in 5 new labour market entrants in Bulgaria and Romania.

According to a recent research by the World Bank (1), full Roma integration in the labour market could bring economic benefits estimated to be around € 0.5 billion annually for some countries.

What about Roma outside the EU?

To improve the situation of the estimated 3.8 million Roma in the western Balkans and Turkey, the Commission intends to step up support for integration in the context of EU enlargement.

The enlargement process includes funding for social development projects, among other things. The Commission will support the national efforts to improve Roma inclusion by improving delivery of aid under the Instrument on Pre-Accession Assistance and encourage Roma involvement in formulating, implementing and monitoring policies. It is currently implementing or planning projects which could exclusively or partly benefit Roma worth €50 million.

The Commission will also closely monitor the economic and social situation of Roma in its enlargement progress reports for each country.

Further information

European Commission - the EU & the Roma people

Annex: Examples of successful actions by Member States

Example of the active involvement of local and regional authorities

In Germany, the government of the State of Berlin adopted a strategy on Roma inclusion on 7 August 2012. It calls for the development of a regional action plan on Roma inclusion. A steering group was set up including different Senate Departments of the Berlin government and local authorities that deal with Roma migrants. Civil society helped develop this regional action plan.(2)

Examples of working closely with civil society

In France, a national monitoring group has been set up by the National Roma Contact Point. It brings together associations, representatives from the various Ministries involved, and local actors. It and its four thematic sub-groups were set up as a platform to exchange expertise and reach a consensus on the measures that need to be taken next. It will propose these measures to the inter-ministerial steering committee in charge of coordinating the implementation of France's strategy.

In Latvia, a call for proposals aimed at working closely with the Roma community was launched in October 2012. Financed by the State, the call, open to organisations representing Roma, aimed to encourage their participation in society and ensure cooperation between them and public authorities (local government and other stakeholders). Selected projects will include organising practical seminars to come up with local cooperation projects involving all stakeholders and developing a cooperation platform between employers and Roma.

Examples of underpinning the strategies with appropriate financing

Bulgaria has set up an inter-ministerial working group dedicated to mobilising EU funds for Roma integration. The group is chaired by the Ministry of EU Funds Management and comprises deputy ministers, experts from the managing authorities and operational programmes and representatives of Roma NGOs. It aims to propose instruments and schemes and verify the measures planned under each operational programme. It will prepare an annex to the national strategy setting out activities and sustainable financing to implement them.

In Hungary, based on an indicator system set up by national law, the most disadvantaged micro-regions were identified. These micro-regions suffer severe economic, employment and infrastructural problems. To develop them, targeted measures are used, consisting of social interventions, community and rural development measures and human resource services.

Examples of robust monitoring systems

The Hungarian monitoring system will aim to measure the social impact of the national strategy and follow the state of play of its implementation. The system's four basic components are:

1. a set of indicators measuring societal changes, aligned to the targets set in the national strategy,

2. a regular reporting system being set up in cooperation with an external international consultant to monitor whether the measures in the action plan have been implemented,

3. research,

4. a social inclusion information system enabling the collection of data in various policy areas. Local authorities will also use it to develop equal opportunity plans.

Estonia has recognised the need to further map the situation of Roma to determine the appropriate measures for Roma integration. The situation of Roma is therefore being assessed in a survey being carried out from 2012 to 2013. The aim is to use the findings to plan the next steps of the strategy.

Examples of fighting discrimination

Spain carried out various activities to train police forces. Training on equal treatment and ethnic discrimination was given to 158 regional, local and national security forces in 2012.

In Germany, the Land of Schleswig-Holstein decided in 2012 to amend its constitution to recognise Roma and Sinti that are German nationals and live there as an ethnic minority.

In Romania, special places in secondary schools, vocational training classes and in universities in the public education system are earmarked every year for Roma pupils and students. Thus far around 15,000 Roma pupils and students have benefited from this form of positive action.



: World Bank, Roma Inclusion: An Economic Opportunity for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania and Serbia, September 2010.

2Berlin strategy for Roma inclusion


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