EU auditors slam shortcomings in Commission support to Roma integration

10/07/2016 - EU policy initiatives and financial support came too late to have an impact on Roma integration during the previous programming period 2007 - 2013. Unfortunately the audit recommendations may also come too late for the current period 2014 - 2020.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA), the EU watchdog, issued recently (28 June) a special audit report on EU-funded projects to promote Roma integration in the Member States . The audit, the first of its kind by ECA, started formally in October 2014 and was completed in June 2016 with the replies from European Commission.

“As things stand, we don’t really know how well Roma are being integrated because we don’t have robust data; we don’t even know how many Roma there are. Of course, ethnicity is a sensitive issue; but unless this problem is resolved, policy-making will soon be hampered all the way to 2020,” said Mr Henri Grethen, the ECA member responsible for the report.

In fact, the report states that no indicative figures are available for how much of a total EU funding of 277 billion euro in 2007-2013 was spent on Roma integration. For the current period, 2014-2020, 1.5 billion euro out of total budget of 283 billion euro has been earmarked for the socio-economic integration of “marginalized communities”, such as Roma.

“Unless swift action is taken, the situation will remain unchanged for the current period.”

The auditors examined 19 projects, all completed by 2013, in Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary and Romania - all member states with a significant Roma minority population. There are also significant Roma minorities in candidate countries such as Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

During the pre-accession period before 2004, minority protection was the most weakly defined membership criterion and relatively small amounts were allocated to Roma integration projects. A lot of hope was therefore raised in 2004 when EU was enlarged with 10 new member states, the majority of them in central and Eastern Europe with substantial Roma minorities.

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