Documents considered by the Committee on 11 May 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


7 Integration of Roma

(32664)

8727/11

COM(11) 173

Commission Communication: An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020

Legal base
Document originated5 April 2011
Deposited in Parliament8 April 2011
DepartmentCommunities and Local Government
Basis of considerationEM of 20 April 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council19 May 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

7.1 Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union ("the TEU") says that the European Union is founded on the following values, which are common to the Member States: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Article 3 TEU sets out the objectives of European Union action, which include, amongst other things, combating social exclusion and discrimination, and promoting social justice and protection in accordance with the competences conferred on it by the EU Treaties. Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ("the TFEU") requires the EU to seek to combat discrimination on a variety of grounds, including racial or ethnic origin, in all its policies and activities. It is supplemented by a specific legal base (Article 19 TFEU) for the adoption of EU laws to combat discrimination, as well as non-binding EU incentive measures to support action taken by Member States in tackling discrimination.[46]

7.2 In 2000, the Council adopted a Directive which established an EU framework to combat discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin ("the EU Race Directive").[47] It prohibits direct or indirect discrimination in relation to:

  • employment and working conditions;
  • education and vocational training;
  • social protection, including social security and healthcare; and
  • access to, and supply of, goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.[48]

7.3 Hungary is one of four EU Member States in which Roma constitute more than 7% of their total population. In its EU Presidency Programme, the Hungarian Government highlighted the adoption of an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies as a "high political priority" in order to tackle a "common European challenge."[49]

The Commission Communication

7.4 The Commission says that the exclusion of Roma is "one of the most serious social challenges in Europe" and requires concerted action at national, regional and local level to improve the social and economic integration of Roma.[50] The Communication has a dual purpose. It seeks, first, to establish an EU framework for Roma integration based on four EU Roma integration goals covering access to education, employment, healthcare, and housing and other essential services. It then seeks to encourage Member States to incorporate these goals within their own national Roma integration strategies. The Communication is intended to complement existing EU laws and policies concerning equal treatment and non-discrimination, fundamental rights, the free movement of EU citizens, and the rights of the child.

The need for an EU framework

7.5 According to the Commission, the term "Roma" describes a variety of groups of people sharing broadly similar cultural characteristics. It includes, for example, Gypsies and Travellers, and constitutes Europe's largest minority, comprising approximately 10-12 million in countries belonging to the Council of Europe, of which around six million are in EU Member States.

7.6 The Commission says that EU equality legislation, while important, is insufficient to combat the "prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion" which Roma face in their daily lives.[51] It highlights the need for better educational outcomes and labour market integration to reduce the social and economic marginalisation of Roma, to boost economic productivity and tax yields, and to meet the Europe 2020 headline targets on employment, education and social inclusion.[52] The Commission emphasises that the EU Framework is intended to make "a tangible difference to Roma people's lives"[53] without, however, replacing Member States' "primary responsibility" for their integration and well-being. It should ensure that "national, regional and local integration policies focus on Roma in a clear and specific way" by establishing explicit Roma integration goals, targeted action and funding to achieve them, and a "robust monitoring mechanism" to measure progress.[54]

Roma integration goals

7.7 The EU Framework establishes four Roma integration goals:

  • Access to education: Member States should, as a minimum, ensure that all Roma children complete their primary school education; they should also seek to broaden access to good quality early years education, ensure that Roma children are not subject to segregation or discrimination, and encourage them to participate in secondary and higher education;
  • Access to employment: Member States should seek to increase the employment rate of Roma through initiatives designed to attract Roma to the labour market, such as better opportunities for training, self-employment and access to micro-credit, as well as personalised employment services;
  • Access to healthcare: Member States should seek to reduce gaps in health outcomes, especially as regards life expectancy and infant mortality, by ensuring access to good quality health and social care; and
  • Access to housing and essential services: Member States should ensure non-discriminatory access to housing and public utilities, while also addressing the needs of Roma (estimated to be 20% of the total) who are not sedentary.

National Roma integration strategies

7.8 The Communication invites all Member States to prepare national Roma integration strategies by the end of 2011, which will provide the basis for a report by the Commission to the Council and European Parliament in spring 2012 assessing progress to date. The national strategies should "actively contribute to the social integration of Roma in mainstream society and to eliminating segregation where it exists" while also complementing national reform programmes drawn up to implement the Europe 2020 Strategy.[55] Member States which already have national Roma integration strategies should amend them to include the four Roma integration goals identified in the EU Framework and to extend their planning period to 2020, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Commission urges those Member States that do not have national strategies for Roma to "set similar goals, in proportion to the size of the Roma population living in their territories and taking into account their different starting points as well as the specificities of such populations."[56]

Funding for Roma integration

7.9 The Commission suggests that there is scope for Member States to make much better use of EU funds, including EU Structural Funds and a recently established Microfinance Facility,[57] to support Roma projects and national Roma integration strategies. While the amount of funding available from 2014 onwards will depend on the outcome of negotiations for the next Multiannual Financial Framework, the Commission says that it will seek to ensure that the future regulatory framework governing the EU's cohesion policy simplifies procedures and addresses the barriers which make it difficult for potential beneficiaries to access EU funding to support Roma integration.

EU enlargement

7.10 The Commission notes the precarious situation of Roma in the Western Balkans and Turkey and says that it will seek to improve their social and economic inclusion by:

  • improving the delivery of support for programmes benefiting Roma communities under the EU's Instrument on Pre-Accession Assistance;
  • strengthening the involvement of Roma representatives in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring at national, regional and local levels; and
  • closely monitoring the economic and social situation of Roma in its annual enlargement Progress Reports.

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion

7.11 The Commission suggests developing a more active role for the European Platform for Roma Inclusion — which brings together the EU institutions, national Governments, international organisations, academics and representatives of Roma communities — in promoting the four Roma integration goals and monitoring the effectiveness of national Roma integration strategies.

Developing monitoring mechanisms

7.12 The Commission says that a robust monitoring mechanism is needed to measure the impact and effectiveness of funding and measures which are intended to tackle Roma exclusion and promote integration. It therefore proposes publishing an annual report to the Council and European Parliament on progress towards achieving the four Roma integration goals, which will draw on data on the situation of Roma collected by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and other EU bodies, as well as information based on Member States' own monitoring of their national Roma integration strategies.

The Government's view

7.13 The Minister (Grant Shapps) notes that the Communication contains no proposals for legislation and that the EU Framework it proposes is intended to "complement and reinforce the EU's equality legislation by creating a political commitment to address the specific needs of Roma in the four integration goal areas."[58] He recalls that Member States are already required, under the terms of the EU Race Directive, to ensure non-discriminatory access to education, employment, vocational training, healthcare, social protection and housing for all EU citizens.

7.14 The Minister adds that the Hungarian Presidency is likely to invite the Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) to agree Conclusions on 19 May which it will then submit to the European Council for endorsement on 24 June. He continues:

    "The UK is keen to be helpful to the EU Presidency in reaching agreement on Roma integration issues. This document emphasises that the new framework, while seeking to make a tangible difference to the lives of Roma people, 'does not replace Member States' primary responsibility in this regard.' The Communication makes a point of acknowledging the very different situations of Member States in this area. Nonetheless, the Commission is proposing that national Roma integration strategies are designed or, where they already exist, are adapted to meet EU Roma integration goals. It also envisages the establishment of 'a robust monitoring mechanism to ensure concrete results for Roma'.

    "The Government's priorities therefore are to ensure that the Conclusions which will be adopted by 19th May EPSCO encourage those Member States with large, and often seriously disadvantaged Roma populations to take effective action; whilst at the same time not ceding any new powers or competence to the Commission and without accepting additional requirements above what the UK is in any case already doing, such as by ensuring sufficient flexibility around what constitutes national strategy, not imposing unhelpful targets, nor accepting burdensome reporting obligations on those, like the UK, with relatively few Roma citizens."[59]

Conclusion

7.15 We note the political significance which the Hungarian Presidency attaches to the adoption of an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. We also recognise that more effective policies to promote the social and economic integration of Roma communities may help to defuse the political tensions which surfaced last September when a number of Roma exercising free movement rights were expelled from France.

7.16 As the Minister indicates, the EU already has the legislative framework in place to tackle discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin in the areas of employment, education, healthcare and housing — areas which correspond to the four Roma integration goals set out in the proposed EU Framework. The Communication states that Member States bear the primary responsibility for combating discrimination and promoting the integration of their Roma communities. It also recognises that, whilst Roma constitute Europe's largest minority, the size of the Roma community as a percentage of the total population in each Member State varies significantly,[60] and that the scale of the challenges which Member States face, as well as their starting points for tackling Roma exclusion, are likely to differ in magnitude.

7.17 We do not expect the Communication to change the Government's existing policies and approaches to identifying and reducing inequalities, for example, amongst the Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK, and we are content to clear the document from scrutiny. However, in light of the differences in the situation of Roma across the EU, we agree with the Government that any Council Conclusions based on the Communication should not be prescriptive as to the form or content of national Roma integration strategies and that any EU monitoring mechanism should be proportionate to the challenges confronting different Member States.


46   EU laws must be adopted by unanimity, whereas incentive measures only require a qualified majority.  Back

47   Council Directive 2000/43/EC; OJ L No. 180, 19.07.2000, p. 22-26. Back

48   See Article 3 of the Directive. Back

49   See http://www.eu2011.hu/files/bveu/documents/HU_PRES_STRONG_EUROPE_EN_3.pdf.  Back

50   See p. 14 of the Communication.  Back

51   P. 2 of the Communication. Back

52   These are to raise the employment rate of men and women aged 20-64 to 75% by 2020; to reduce school drop-out rates to less than 10% and to increase the share of 30-34 year olds having completed post-secondary education to at least 40% by 2020; and to promote social inclusion by lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and exclusion by 2020.  Back

53   P. 3 of the Communication. Back

54   P. 4 of the Communication. Back

55   P. 8 of the Communication. Back

56   IbidBack

57   Decision No. 283/2010/EU establishing a European Progress Microfinance Facility for employment and social inclusion - OJ L No. 87, 7.4.2010, pp. 1-5. Back

58   See p. 2 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

59   See p. 2 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

60   Council of Europe data included in an Annex to the Communication show that Roma constitute less than 1% of the total population in 20 Member States. The percentage for the remaining seven is as follows: Spain - 1.57%; Czech Republic - 1.96%; Greece - 2.47%; Hungary - 7.05%; Romania - 8.32%; Slovak Republic - 9.17%;Bulgaria - 10.33%. The EU average is 1.73%.  Back


 
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