Roma groups cautiously welcome new EU social plan

Roma and human rights groups have given a cautious welcome to a new plan launched by the European Commission this week to improve the social and economic integration of Roma into mainstream society.

The Commission's communication, released on Wednesday (7 April), called on member states to actively use EU funds so that Roma communities have better access to jobs and non-segregated education, housing and health services. The report, plus a Commission evaluation of EU progress in this area over the past two years, is currently being reviewed by a large stakeholder conference in Córdoba, Spain, under the auspices of the Spanish EU Presidency.


Commission's track record is poor, say Roma groups
Roma and human rights organisations told EurActiv they hoped the plan could mark a step in the right direction. However, they cautioned that the EU executive has a poor track record in following through on its ambitions for Roma inclusion.

The director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Michaël Privot, said that EU efforts to improve the dire situation facing Roma in Europe had "disappointingly little impact on the continued discrimination, exclusion and poverty they face". Meanwhile, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) yesterday (8 April) published a Roma Rights Record, timed to coincide with the start of the Córdoba conference. The factsheet highlights dozens of specific cases of racism, discrimination and violence against Roma in the past two years.

A comprehensive Roma strategy?
Nevertheless, the organisations in question expressed their approval of the Commission's language, which echoed their own calls for a comprehensive Roma policy strategy. The communication outlined specific steps, such as the need to mobilise EU regional funds, including the European Social Fund; the drive to take Roma issues into account in all relevant policy areas at national and EU level; and the need to integrate Roma policies into the Europe 2020 strategy for green growth and jobs.