European Commission releases Autumn Package – ERGO Response

European Commission releases Autumn Package
What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 17 December 2019, the European Commission published the so-called Autumn Package, including the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2020 and its annex, the draft Joint Employment Report, thus marking the beginning of the 2020 European Semester.

In a clear attempt to revamp the cycle, the document has been renamed Strategy (from Survey) and includes the additional word Sustainable. However, disappointingly, the word Social was not added to the title, despite repeated calls of civil society to that effect. On a more positive note, the previous definition of the European Semester recommended it as a mechanism for economic policy coordination, whereas now it looks at both economic and employment policies. This mirrors the structure of the Integrated Guidelines and brings some hope that social concerns (currently dealt with in Guideline 8 of the Employment Guidelines) are officially taken on board in the process. The document equally indicates that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) are delivered through the European Semester, and that these initiatives will be the object of dedicated, separate sections (and annexes) of the upcoming Country Reports (Winter Package). However, no explicit mention is made of the Europe 2020 Strategy, or its potential successor.

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the explicit mention of the European Roma the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, where they are highlighted as one of the groups most at risk of exclusion and inequality (page 6), however laments that this preoccupation is not underpinned by a desire to improve quality of life and respect human dignity, but so that the Roma can better serve the economy. Other measures contained have the potential of being positive for Roma communities, hinging on the right implementation: warnings against energy poverty, an appeal for fair wages and open-ended contracts, supporting adequate social protection systems (regardless of employment status), investment in quality and inclusive education. Disappointingly, nothing is said about combating discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities, nor about access on behalf of vulnerable groups to essential services, such as housing and healthcare.

In what concerns the Joint Employment Report, the Roma are exclusively mentioned in the context of inclusive and desegregated education (pages 46, 76). This is a much appreciated focus, particularly as it also refers to obstacles to education attainment and completion such as severe poverty and housing exclusion. The Report reminds that “school-leaving rates of Roma are with 70% significantly higher than for other categories of pupils”, and stresses the importance of desegregation, promoting the inclusion of Roma pupils into mainstream education through financial and professional support, including educational mediators, scholarships, after school activities, language courses, free public transport, access to early childhood education and care, increased funding for schools working with vulnerable children, setting up working group on antisegregation, combatting bullying and the placing of Roma children in special needs classes or schools. These very positive steps, recorded in a number of countries and supported by the Report, are very much in line with ERGO’s own position and recommendations on quality, inclusive, and desegregated education.

On a less positive note, all the above measures are one sided and refer exclusively to educational establishments, while no mention is made of wrap-around support for families, access to adequate income, support towards quality jobs, decent housing, other services. Unfortunately, the Report contains no reference to the specific situation of ethnic minorities, racism, antigypsyism, combatting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all (the latter, only from a gender perspective). Travellers are not mentioned anywhere in the document. Tackling structural problems, such as persistent poverty or rampant discrimination, does not seem to be a concern, nor is proposing an integrated approach to the multiple difficulties faced by Roma citizens in Europe. The Report completely overlooks the fact that they are overrepresented in unemployment and poverty rates, for instance, and face significant obstacles in accessing adequate social protection, as well as key services, such as affordable housing, or quality health- and long-term care, including childcare. This trend is consistent with the European Semester only discussing Roma rights and inclusion in relation to education, as evidenced by European Semester documents in previous years. Not even employment is highlighted, although the European Commission deemed it the worst-performing of the four thematic areas under the Eu Framework for Roma Integration Strategies (employment, education, health, housing).

The lack of coordination and complete disconnect between the implementation and monitoring of overarching social inclusion strategies, such as the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Social Pillar, and the EU Framework for Roma Integration Strategies is apparent. The latter remains marginal – and, indeed, is not even mentioned by name – in the European Semester. ERGO Network hopes that the new decade will bring closer alignment in the delivery of these initiatives, as well as concrete, measurable indicators for the dimensions of the Roma Strategy, and an alignment with the priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Encouragingly, the Joint Employment Report contains a full paragraph supporting the participation and direct engagement of beneficiaries and their civil society organisations in the design, implementation, and monitoring of policies that concern them (page 112), which is also stipulated in Guideline 7 of the Employment Guidelines. Sadly, this support is not mirrored in the actual Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, where only the vague phrasing “social partners and (other relevant) stakeholders” is employed.

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.

Strategies against antigypsyism

Strategies against antigypsyism

The international conference „Strategies against antigypyism“ took place in Tenerife on 12 and 13 December 2019. It was organized by the Karipen association in cooperation with the Ministry for Health, Consumers Affairs and Social Welfare of the Canary Island Government, Cabildo of Tenerife and Khetane Platform. At the invitation of FAGIC ERGO member, Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network director presented strategies against antigypsyism from grassroots to EU level and vice versa.

The conference brought together political and public representatives from European, national and local, Roma leaders and activists countering antigypsyism.  Among them Soraya Post, ERGO Network co-chair, Romeo Franz, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA group and Juan Fernardo Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the LIBE Committee in the European Parliament. It also gathered many local and national Roma politicians from Spain, including Ismael Cortes, a Member of the Spanish parliament.

The conference focused on three topics: 1) the concept of antigypsyism throughout history up to present; 2) institutional antigypsyism and ways to combat it through politics and 3) antigypsyism and gender issues.

The historical aspect was covered by Iulius Rostas, visiting professor at the Central European University and the Spanish academic of Romani origin, Helios Fernandez. The main message was that over the centuries, but also in recent years, institutions have been perpetuating a paternalistic approach under the pretence of making Roma better, by changing the names of programs and policies aiming at including Roma in societies, but very often achieving only their assimilation. The important next step is to introduce the policy of reconciliation, to narrow the centuries of hardship of Roma.

It was also discussed that often Roma might not know how to describe and what antigypsyism is, however many experiences it on the daily basis. For example, school segregation is a reality in Spain, while Roma surnames or home addresses can lead to discriminatory practices when accessing jobs or advancing in the career.

On a positive note, the regional and local government of Canary Islands and Tenerife have shown interest in working together with the local association Karipen, not only by hosting this event, but also by allocating a budget line for Roma inclusion.

ERGO conference on education, 19 November

Roma access to mainstream education: ERGO Network annual conference

Time: 19 November 2019, 10:00-12:30

Place: Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union, Rue Belliard 60-62 (Brussels)

We kindly invite you to attend ERGO Network’s conference on Roma access to mainstream education.

Education is an increasingly important topic in the European public and political discourse, with objectives on education in the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. However, the Roma are still too often left behind when it comes to accessing educational opportunities on equal footing with majority groups. Existing legal and policy tools, including targeted actions on Roma education, as well as infringement procedures, are not as effective as they could be in challenging ingrained patterns of Roma exclusion and discrimination.

The conference will be kindly hosted by the Members of the European Parliament Romeo Franz (Greens/EFA) and Peter Pollák (EPP). It will bring together ERGO Network members from the grassroots level, European civil society organisations and other Brussels stakeholders, and EU policy-makers across the institutional spectrum, to discuss how to achieve real policy change for Roma in the area of education.

Have a look at the agenda of the conference.

Please don’t forget to register for the conference by following this link.

Venue: Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union, Rue Belliard 60-62 (Brussels)

For questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch: info@ergonetwork.org, +32 2 893 10 49.

This conference is kindly supported by a grant from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

ERGO Network receives financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation EaSI (2014-2020). For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi

Civil society united in their demands for the post 2020 EU Roma Strategic Framework

Civil society united in their demands for the post 2020 EU Roma Strategic Framework

Around 40 members of the civil society and other close partners worked hard in September to coordinate and prepare civil society’s input into the ‘Workshop on future policies for Roma’ organised by the European Commission’s DG Justice on 1 October 2019.

We organised two preparation meetings in ERGO Network: one on 16 September, ahead of a DG Justice consultation meeting, and another one on 30 September, ahead of the mentioned 1 October workshop.  We also organised an online meeting and had intensive communication over emails to be well prepared and give our best to put together our priorities in terms of concrete demands for the future EU policies for Roma.

Before the 1 October workshop, the European Commission published three short background papers to provide a basis for discussion. The background papers proposed six different policy options for a future EU Roma Framework:

  • Option 1: “Do less” – no new framework
  • Option 2: “Do the same” – carrying forward the current framework
  • Option 3: “Do differently (1)” – fighting antigypsyism approach
  • Option 4: “Do differently (2)” – Social inclusion approach
  • Option 5: “Do better” – a revised EU Roma Framework
  • Option 6: “Do more” – broadened approach to equality and inclusion

During the meeting on 16 September, we created four working groups, based on topics of the published background papers, expertise and interest of civil society actors and we split the responsibilities to analyse the papers. We were soon ready to present our analysis to other civil society partners during the next civil society meeting in ERGO Network on 30 September.

Our position: Option 7

During the 30 September meeting, after very intense and fruitful discussions, the civil society partners agreed to present an “Option 7” at the European Commission workshop the following day. Option 7 can be seen as a combination of options 3,4 and 6, as it takes a double approach of focusing on social inclusion and combating antigypsyism. It combines mainstreaming of Roma inclusion across policy areas with a stronger monitoring component, asks for ensuring funding and puts emphasis on the importance of Roma participation.

At the 1 October workshop, ERGO Network Director Gabriela Hrabanova opened the civil society statements by presenting our option, and Roma civil society as a whole convinced with taking a very strong and united position, asking for a new Council Recommendation on Roma inclusion and combating antigypsyism. The activists furthermore also advocated for a new focus on so far unaddressed forms of antigypsyism such as environmental injustice.

As a follow-up to the workshop, we are asking for Option 7 to be further developed by the European Commission’s experts. Together with our partners we also continue to pursue other advocacy goals, such as asking the Fundamental Rights Agency to develop indicators to measure Member States’ answers to antigypsyism.

We now need everyone on board to continue lobbying for our demands also within the Member States and aim to create a strong and wide civil society support for an effective Post 2020 Framework both in the EU and in neighbouring countries.

If you would like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with ERGO at g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org.

International Congress on Discrimination based on Work and Descent

International Congress on Discrimination based on Work and Descent tackling Casteism, Antigypsyism, Traditional and Contemporary forms of Slavery and Other Analogous Forms of Discrimination (ICDWD)

21-23 September 2019, New York

From 21 to 23 September, a delegation of Roma activists from ERGO Network took part in the International Congress on Discrimination based on Work and Descent tackling  Casteism, Antigypsyism, Contemporary forms of Slavery and Other Analogous Forms of Discrimination, which was held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The ERGO Network delegation consisted of ERGO Network director Gabriela Hrabanova, Michal Miko (RomanNet, Czech Republic), Isaac Blake (National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, UK) and Vesa Batalli (Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo). The conference was co-hosted by the Asia Dalit Rights Forum, the African Network on Discrimination based on Work, Descent and Contemporary Forms of Slavery, ERGO Network, the Inclusivity Project, Trust Africa and Boston Study Group.

The Conference was preceded by a Parliamentarian’s Roundtable on discrimination based on work and descent, hosted in the Permanent Mission to the UN of Senegal.

Communities discriminated based on Work and Descent (DWD) are some of the most excluded, segregated, and marginalized groups at the global and local levels within their social, economic, political, and cultural systems. The inequalities and disadvantages they experience exist in various services like education, hunger alleviation, health, water and sanitation, employment, voting rights, equal access to land and housing, access to religious institutions in the public sphere, disaster risk reduction and environmental health, some of which are represented in SDGs through definite goals. Gender equality, peace and justice constitute cross-cutting, significant determinants, which must be addressed to mitigate inequalities within the countries.

The Congress adopted the New York Declaration: Global March Forward to Eradicate Discrimination, calling upon the United Nations and States Parties to adopt effective measures towards ending all forms of discrimination based on work & descent, untouchability, antigypsyism, socio-cultural beliefs, and other analogous forms of discrimination including contemporary forms of slavery.

The ERGO delegation furthermore took part in the People’s Assembly organized by the Global Actions against Poverty and the United Nations Civil Society SDG Forum, which aimed to create a space for constructive and propositional dialogue between civil society and UN Member States, international organizations and other related constituencies on the possible responses to the challenges exposed by the first four years of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.