Roma strategy: quality at stake

10/04/2011 - Both the Hungarian Presidency and the European Commission emphasised the responsibility of Roma organisations, at the fifth meeting of the European Roma Platform in Budapest on 8 April 2011. According to EU organisations, their involvement is necessary to prevent Member States from watering down the strong proposal of the Commission.

Fotók: Botár Gergely / KIM / 

EU organisations, representatives of international organisations, NGOs, civil and minority rights advocates, Member State Roma experts, and official bodies, discussed the European framework for Roma integration strategies of Member States, at the European Roma Platform.

Roma could contribute to successful strategy
Secretary of State for Social Inclusion, Zoltán Balog, asked for the assistance of European Roma organisations on the second day of the Platform, to enlist the undivided support of Member States for the framework document, which the Commission had recently presented.“Please help us make the governments to support the idea of Roma integration. If the majority rejects the strategy, inclusion will fail”, Mr Balog said.
According to Zoltán Balog, the Commission tabled a, “Bold, courageous, almost provocative document,” in terms of the unanimous support that it takes from all 27 Member States. In an effort to anticipate criticisms, he added, “If I had written it from my soul, I would have included much more.”
Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, also underlined that it is the responsibility of non-governmental Roma organisations to prevent the tough proposal of the Commission from being watered down.
In the next three months the Presidency will have to discuss the Commission’s proposal in the Council with ministers for employment and social affairs, finance, education and youth, and for EU affairs from all 27 Member States; so that heads of state and government can hold a vote at their meeting due to take place in June.


Hungary sets an example
Ms Reding acknowledged the Hungarian Presidency for putting the development of a Roma strategy onto its banner. She stressed that although certain Member States deny having any Roma population in their territories, the Commission’s survey demonstrated that Roma people live everywhere. “Every Member State must develop its own integration strategy,” the Commissioner stated.
Minister of Public Administration and Justice, Tibor Navracsics, highlighted that a Hungarian Roma was also involved in the development of the strategy. “Since 2004, we have delegated the first Roma representative of the European Parliament (EP), who is the rapporteur and developer of the strategy,” he said, referring to Lívia Járóka. The EP representative was the author of the report, which urges for a single European Roma integration strategy. It was recently adopted with an 86 percent majority, by the MEPs.
The Hungarian government actors, participating in the event called Hungary’s system of minority representation, unique within Europe, setting a good example, with currently six thousand elected Roma representatives working for the benefit of the Roma. Ms Reding also welcomed the announcement of the head of government made on 7 April that in the next three years, Hungary will create 100 thousand jobs for the Roma in Hungary.

Ethnic aspect already addressed 
During the conference Commissioner Reding highlighted that a number of EU laws had addressed the ethnic aspect of the matter, long ago. “We only need to make sure they are enforced,” Ms Reding said. She added, “Yet, we do not have the means to eliminate social and economic exclusion.” This is why we need a framework strategy for Roma inclusion.
The framework strategy focuses on four areas: education, employment, healthcare, and housing. “In vain do we say that access to non-segregated and excellent education, is a human right issue, if such education is non-existent in Hungary,” said Zoltán Balog. According to Mr Balog, the right approach is to first create jobs, good education, proper healthcare, and housing, while esuring that Roma are benefiting from this, and not feeling segregated.

Not without inspection
Ms Reding underlined that the strategy can only be successful with a set of proper inspection mechanisms. She added that European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights will play a major role in the monitoring system of the framework strategy, by providing the Commission with Europe-wide surveys on the state of Roma. “If a Member State violates an existing EU law, the Commission will take it to the European Court,” said the Commissioner.

Funding is required
EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, who has worked together with Commissioner Reding on the framework strategy, stressed that the EU will need sufficient resources to implement the strategy. Mr Andor explained the sources for the funding will be specified in both the current and future budgets.
"We will put forward specific proposals on structural funds,” said Mr Andor suggesting that 70 percent of the funds earmarked for Roma inclusion remains untapped. At the same time, Mr Andor underlined that, “Political will has to come first; and better funding should come second.”