ERGO Network’s Response to the Country-Specific Recommendations

European Semester: European Commission releases Spring Package 2020
What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 20 May 2020, the European Commission published the so-called Spring Package, comprising the 28 Country-Specific Recommendations 2020 (including the United Kingdom), and the accompanying Communication on Country-Specific Recommendations, in the framework of the 2020 European Semester. Together with its national members, ERGO Network has reviewed the Package, to see to which extent it explicitly mentions Roma rights and inclusion, as well as other key issues, such as ethnic minorities, discrimination, racism, and the role of civil dialogue.

Overall, while our members welcome references to Roma communities in the Communication and in some countries, they lament that most documents don’t explicitly mention them, where the Roma are present in all Member States except Malta, and experience rates of poverty and social exclusion of over 80% in all of them except the Czech Republic. This situation was exacerbated by the current public health, social, and economic crisis and associated containment measures, as highlighted also by the Package, hence it would have warranted more attention paid to one of Europe’s most left-behind communities. For the CSRs that do mention the Roma, our members agree with the challenges identified for their countries, however they would have liked to see a more comprehensive, integrated approach across the four pillars of the National Roma Integration Strategies, with notably housing being conspicuously missing from the analysis. This is particularly important in the context of the upcoming renewal of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Inclusion, scheduled for later this year.

While the recurrent focus on mitigating the consequences for vulnerable groups is very positive, it is our members’ experience that, unless the Roma are explicitly named as key target beneficiaries of support measures, mainstream initiatives and dedicated national and EU funds end up not reaching them. Europe’s Roma must be specifically prioritised in the EU’s Recovery Package and associated funds, if the EU is serious about delivering on its commitments for Roma inclusion. Our members equally express disappointment that issues of discrimination and antigypsyism are not present in the Package, as these have increased in recent years, and even more so during the pandemic. Finally, they deplore the lack of recognition and support given to civil society organisations in the documents, given that most of them were not only on the frontlines during the pandemic, providing essential support to communities in need, but they equally possess the knowledge, expertise, and direct links to beneficiaries which are needed to inform the design of public policies and ensure both ownership and effectiveness of interventions.

See below the Key Findings of the analysis, and access the full report here.

Key Findings

  1. The Communication accompanying the Country-Specific Recommendations highlights the Roma as one of the most affected groups by poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.
  2. In contrast, for the first time since 2012, not a single Country-Specific Recommendation 2020 mentions the Roma, while there were 4 in 2019 (Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia).
  3. The Roma are only mentioned in the Preamble for 4 Member States (Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia), the same ones as the 2019 Preambles, minus the Czech Republic.
  4. Ethnic minorities, discrimination, and racism are completely absent from all 28 documents, while only the blanket, vague term of “vulnerable groups” is typically used.
  5. Civil society is only mentioned in 4 Preambles (Finland, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia), while in contrast social partners are referred to in 3 CSRs and 16 Preambles.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, Europe 2020, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

News from Slovo 21

Recent activities of ERGO member Slovo 21

Slovo 21 has been very active in the last weeks, focusing their efforts on their contributions to ERGO Network’s Annual Work Programme Roma Included in Social Europe (RIISE).

National Roma Integration Strategy:

Since May 2020 NGO Slovo 21 has been organizing meetings with the network of Roma NGOs in the Czech Republic  to discuss the Strategy of Roma Integration 2021 – 2030. Roma representatives met with the coordinators of the Strategy (SRI) at the Office of the Government to express disagreement with the SRI prepared by the government. On June 19th, Roma representatives together with the relevant government resorts met with EU Commission desk officers to discuss the SRI. So far, Roma NGOs cooperate closely and prepare suggestions for new goals of the SRI in order to reach the best results and to include Roma indicators in new SRI.

Community-Led Local Development

On May 21st Slovo 21 met with the representatives from the newly built Roma Centre in Náchod to discuss further cooperation between local authorities, Local Action Group (LAG) and the Roma community in Náchod city. We were informed about the achievements and planned activities. After the meeting with the Roma representatives, we met with the representatives of LAG Stolové Hory to discuss future cooperation with the Roma community from Náchod city, the membership of NGO Slovo 21 in LAG Stolové Hory and our contribution to CLLD.

On 29 June, we met with Roma activists to prepare our next steps. We targeted issues and discussed about a survey to find out the needs of the Roma community in Náchod city. We then met with the mayor of Náchod to discuss our cooperation and offer our activities to the city, including the organization of a festival of Roma culture in Náchod. The meeting was successful: The mayor is positive about the planned activities and is supporting the festival.

On 15 June, we also met with representatives of the LAG Opavsko to learn about opportunities, discuss issues of the Roma community and plan a meeting with the mayor of the city – Budišov and Budišovkou.

CLLD Capacity-Building

On 29/30 May, Seven Roma women – the local coordinators from five different Czech localities – participated in a two-day capacity building meeting in Prague. During the meeting participants received information about the CLLD process, small grants and future activities. An important part of the capacity building meeting was to share  experiences, challenges and successes with the cooperation with local authorities and plan the next steps of their work.

From 26-28 June, more than 15 Roma women participated in the next capacity building meeting together with their local coordinators. During the meeting, the Roma women from 5 localities improved their competences to work in the CLLD process. Our goal was to inform them about the CLLD process and the activities they could organize in their localities. The meeting was organized together with the coordinator of Roma women group Manushe.

Amaro Drom: Jekhipe – Together

Jekhipe – Together

German ERGO Network member Amaro Drom produced two interesting online lectures by Prof. Dr. Hristo Kyuchukov that are dedicated to 8th April, the International Romani Day and 16th May, the Romani Resistance Day. These lectures were recorded within the framework of the project „Jekhipe – Together” in video format due to restrictions caused by COVID-19 epidemics. Both lectures are recorded in Romani language and subtitles in English and German are also provided in order to cover a wide audience.