Ten years after the European Commission adopted its first Roma integration strategy, Europe's largest ethnic minority is still subject to severe and persistent racial discrimination across the EU.
During their February plenary session, the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) discussed the European Commission's renewed
Roma Strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation
, drafted by
(HU/PES), calls for future legislation to allow for more local political participation of Romani people. It also urges the Commission to closely monitor progress at Member State level, enforce the application of existing legislation and swiftly complement it where necessary.
Despite their centuries-long contribution to the cultural diversity and common history of European societies, many of the EU's estimated 6 million Romani continue to suffer from discrimination anti-gypsyism and political and economic exclusion. According to the European Commission, 85% of Romani children are at risk of poverty compared to 20% of children in the general population and 62% of Romani youth are not in education, employment or training compared to 10% of youth in the general population. Furthermore, Romani communities risk to be particularly exposed to the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the year, many communities have been scapegoated for spreading the virus – exacerbating existing segregation problems.
CoR members therefore welcomed that the European Commission set out concrete targets for 2030 in the fields of education, the labour market, housing and healthcare. The Roma strategic framework is part of the Commission's broader action plan to fight systemic racism and build "A Union of Equality".
However, CoR members regretted that the Commission's new plan does not go far enough, given the absence of sanctions for Member States failing to adopt effective measures to fight anti-gypsyism. Throughout the previous ten-year cycle many Member States had already eschewed establishing a national strategic framework due to this being merely optional. In light of this, the CoR called the European Commission to closely monitor the progress and to assess and complement existing EU legislation to properly address Romani discrimination. They also emphasised that local and regional authorities should play a key role in the establishment of national strategic frameworks.
"The Commission should consider the creation of a European advisory board, consisting, inter alia, of experts in Romani policies and involving also local and regional authorities with tangible experience on Romani inclusion on the ground. We are the level of governance with most responsibilities for the integration of Romani populations because of our proximity to local communities. What is more, we are key enablers when it comes to countering Romani-related prejudices and promoting intercultural learning to fight anti-gypsyism. We should therefore be fully involved in drawing up national strategic frameworks", underlined the CoR rapporteur
Jácint Horváth .
Taking the floor during the plenary debate,
Romeo Franz MEP
(GER/GREENS), the European Parliament's rapporteur on the EU Roma Strategic Framework, said: "Romani across Europe are deprived of equal access to education, jobs and healthcare. This situation is alarming and no longer tolerable. Replacing paternalistic approaches of integration by binding legal action that ensures active political participation of Romani-communities is key to their sustainable inclusion into European societies. Some bold regional authorities have already taken action in this regard, demonstrating their potential to drive real change. Now it's time for Member States to further empower local and regional authorities. Implemented by a joint board composed on a parity basis, the state treaty between the Bavarian state and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma serves as a prime example of what is possible if Romani communities' need for self-determination is harnessed for the development of truly diverse communities that allow for the acknowledgement of otherness."
Finally, the CoR opinion also urges for a more efficient allocation of resources to fight Roma discrimination and emphasises the need to improve institutional and absorption capacities. It also calls for the full involvement of Romani people in the design and implementation of national Roma strategic frameworks, while recommending to replace the common denominator "Roma" by the expression "people with Romani identity".
Maximilian v. Klenze
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