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Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we are all here today, it is because we are all aware that Roma are among the most
discriminated against and socially excluded minorities in Europe. But if we are here
today, then this is also because we are looking for concrete and specific ways to
improve the situation together building a better future for the Roma in the EU.
And for this we already have already a number of building blocks, all equally
important and essential:
1) First building block: data. Policies need evidence in order to be targeted and
effective. We now have robust data, and greater knowledge about the situation, as
hard evidence has been gathered by the Fundamental Rights Agency, and other
To give you an example: The Agency, in 2008, carried out the largest survey on
minorities on issues of discrimination, rights awareness, racist crime and policing.
Roma were interviewed in 7 EU Member States, including Bulgaria. The results
confirmed that on average the Roma experience very high levels of discrimination and
racist criminal victimisation – in fact the highest levels of any other minority
interviewed in this EU-wide survey.
There were significant differences between the responses of Roma living among the
general population and those living in segregated, mainly rural areas, as was often the
case in Bulgaria and Romania; in those areas Roma experienced lower than average
levels of discrimination, because they are less likely to interact there with those that
may treat them differently because of their ethnic background. This highlights the
complexity of the issues and the need to address the different problems Roma face in
urban and rural settings.
The survey results show clearly the operation of the vicious circle of poverty and
social exclusion: low education levels result in higher unemployment, poverty, and
bad housing conditions in segregated areas, where few jobs are available, but also low
quality healthcare and few, often segregated schools.
This year the Fundamental Rights Agency launched a new survey. This time it is a
pilot survey of Roma households and individuals in 11 Member States, including
Bulgaria, but also “old” Member States, such as Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and
France. This survey is run in close cooperation with a United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) and World Bank survey, which also covers the western Balkans
and other non EU countries. It will provide new comparable data on the socio-economic
characteristics of Roma households, as well as data on their enjoyment of fundamental
rights in the four key areas that were identified by the European Commission’s Roma
Task Force, where concrete changes are necessary: employment, education, health and
housing. Most importantly, the survey also interviews non Roma living in the same
areas. It may well show that they often face similar problems as the Roma.
2) Second building block: political will. Policies can only bring about change if there
is a clear political commitment to implement them. And this must start at the top: In
September 2010 the European Commission set up its Roma Task Force, in which the
FRA participates, to identify concretely how the Member States can implement
effective Roma integration strategies.
In April 2011 Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, said launching
the EU’s framework for national Roma integration strategies that "Member States
have a joint responsibility to put an end to Roma exclusion – from schools, jobs,
healthcare and housing. This is a serious challenge. That is why we are setting goals
for Roma integration and why we now need a clear commitment from all capitals,
regions and cities in Europe to put them into practice. Now is the time to move
beyond good intentions and to take concrete actions."
Let me add that responsibility lies not only with governments, but also with local
authorities, who have often in the past resisted or neglected implementing such
policies. In this regard political will at the level of the central government must be
supplemented by political will at the local level. The success of the national Roma
integration strategies depends on the support and active cooperation of local political
3) Third building block: Know-how and administrative capacity. Promoting Roma
inclusion and ensuring the protection of fundamental rights requires an integrated
approach and coordinated action in the four strategically key areas of employment,
education, housing and healthcare. All these areas must be addressed and available EU
funding must be used effectively.
In its April Communication the Commission asks Member States to appoint a national
contact point for their Roma integration strategy with the authority to coordinate its
development and implementation. In order to overcome lack of know-how or
administrative capacity and the difficulties of combining funds to support integrated
projects the Commission also invites Member States to consider entrusting the
management and implementation of parts of their programmes to intermediary
bodies, such as international organisations, regional development bodies, churches or
communities, as well as non-governmental organisations with a proven track record
on the ground.
4) Fourth building block: Active engagement of the Roma themselves, who must be
invited to help design and implement policies that affect them. Active participation of
the Roma is one of the ten Common Basic Principles on Roma Inclusion, but although
promising practices in this respect can be found increasingly in Member States, it still
needs to become “standard practice”.
At the same time it is also vital that the non Roma living in the same areas as Roma
become part of these efforts. Many of the problems Roma face in housing,
infrastructure, health and schooling are common to all residents in these areas and
therefore efforts to improve them must also be inclusive.
5) Fifth building block: Effective and systematic monitoring of progress made. The
implementation of policies needs to be constantly monitored to ensure it is on track
and achieves results. In this regard the Fundamental Rights has been specifically
tasked by the Commission to work together with the Member States helping them to
develop effective monitoring methods. It has also been tasked to run its own
independent surveys regularly until 2020 to measure progress on the ground on the
situation of Roma with respect to access to employment, education, healthcare and
Ladies and Gentlemen, by putting these building blocks, and many others, together we
can ensure that fundamental rights are becoming a reality.
Let’s start building together.
Thank you for your attention.