Post-2020 European Roma Coalition

Post-2020 European Roma Coalition

In order to ensure a strong commitment and tangible results by European institutions to the post-2020 EU policy on Roma, a number of Roma and pro-Roma civil society organisations have come together and established a Post-2020 European Roma Coalition (working title). The aim of the Coalition is to achieve substantive equality, participation and social justice of Roma in all spheres of life by combating antigypsyism,  strengthening Roma and pro-Roma civil society and by fostering principles of good governance into the Roma policies at the EU and national levels, political will and institutional accountability.

The Coalition started being operational on 17 February 2020, on the occasion of the European Commission`s publication of the Roadmap-setting out the EU post 2020 Roma equality and inclusion policy.

The Post-2020 European Roma Coalition welcomes the commitment of the European Commission to develop a reinforced post-2020 European Strategic Framework and calls for an ambitious and binding “Post-2020 European Strategic Framework for Roma equality, social and economic justice, and  combating antigypsyism” aiming at achieving substantive equality and full participation of Roma as equal citizens across Europe to be created.

In addition, the joint statement addresses several aspects of the Roadmap that should be fully considered when designing the future EU Strategic Framework, such as:

  • Ensuring the fundamental-rights, anti-racism, and empowerment approach;
  • Improving governance, policy mainstreaming, and effective implementation;
  • Increasing investment of the EU and Member states to Roma communities.

The Coalition is also calling for seven main priority areas to be established under the EU Framework, including: (a) fighting antigypsyism and discrimination; (b) effective empowerment and participation in art, history and media; (c) quality and inclusive education; (d) quality and sustainable employment; (e) quality healthcare and universal health insurance; (f) adequate and desegregated housing and (g) eradicating poverty and social exclusion.

Furthermore, the Coalition asked the European Commission to expand the list of cross-cutting priorities within the EU Framework, including, but are not limited to: Environmental injustice/racism; Gender mainstreaming and intersectional and multiple discrimination with a focus on key priority groups: children, young people, women, LGBTQI+ persons, persons with disabilities, and elderly people; Intra-EU mobility and migration; and Diversity of Roma (Sinti, Travellers, Manush, Kale, and other related groups).

All signatory organisations underlined that Roma and civil society organisations should be an integral part in the design, implementation, and monitoring of the Framework. In addition, the Roadmap should transform Roma participation into a binding common quality standard for the future European Strategic Framework and National Strategies.

The full text of the statement is available here.

The Coalition members which have contributed to the letter include: Alliance against Antigypsyism, Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Center for Policy Studies of the Central European University, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC), European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI), Phiren Amenca International Network, Roma Active Albania (RAA), Roma Education Fund (REF), Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI), and ternYpe International Roma Youth Network.

ERGO Network feedback on Commission Roadmap

ERGO Network written feedback on the Roadmap published by DG Justice on 17 Feb 2020. An initiative setting out the EU post-2020 Roma equality and inclusion policy

ERGO strongly welcomes the Roadmap by the European Commission setting out the post-2020 EU Roma equality and inclusion policy, which builds on the previous EU Roma Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS).

The major challenge of the previous EU Framework was its non-binding character, which gave the liberty to Member States to decide whether and how to design their NRIS. Therefore, in its written feedback, ERGO Network called for a comprehensive and binding EU Strategy for Roma inclusion and antigypsyism, which has concrete minimum standards and ambitious targets, including overall common indicators and measuring impact, as well as a joint monitoring process between Member States and the European Commission. The new Strategy should be fully integrated in the European Semester, and work in synergy with the successor of Europe 2020, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

ERGO demanded for a post-2020 EU Roma Strategy and NRIS that put combating antigypsyism at their centre and ensure cross-cutting priorities within, such as antigypsyism, intersectional discrimination, poverty, material deprivation, housing evictions, discrimination, child protection, gender mainstreaming, LGBTQI+, environmental racism, diversity within Roma groups, Roma participation, Roma identity and cultural heritage.

Combating antigypsyism through the existing anti-discrimination legislation is not enough. The four key areas of NRIS should end any form of structural antigypsyism, including all forms of segregation, forced evictions, environmental injustice and other manifestations of prejudice, including in education, employment, health and housing and other relevant areas mentioned above. The next EU Roma Strategy must demand all Member States to formally recognise antigypsyism as a specific form of racism against Roma beyond the general ground already embedded in the EU and national legislation related to “race or ethnicity”.

ERGO Network calls for introducing EU and national measurable anti-discrimination indicators in the key areas of education, employment, housing and health, in addition to social inclusion programmes, including ambitious targets and concrete objectives, that must be monitored on an annual basis. Indicators should also be structural, showing legislative, policy and practical changes and their impact on institutions as a way to address structural and institutional racism and discrimination. In addition, indicators should meet the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Social Pillar etc. The Strategy should also contain a clear methodology on how Member States can collect ethnic data on Roma, in line with Race Equality Directive and GDPR.

Finally, ERGO demanded that the Roadmap ensures Roma participation at all levels throughout the entire process, in line with Art 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

For more information, please contact Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová, ERGO Network Director, at g.hrabanova@ergonetwork.org.

European Semester – ERGO response to the country reports

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

On 26 February 2020, the European Commission published the so-called Winter Package, comprising the 28 Country Reports 2020 (including the United Kingdom), and the usual Communication on Country Reports, in the framework of the 2020 European Semester.

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network warmly welcomes the explicit mention of the European Roma in the Communication on the Country Reports, which states “Equal access to high-quality education and training from an early age is also essential to promote equality of opportunities and to foster inclusion, including of underrepresented groups such as Roma…”. However, we are disappointed that the Roma are mentioned exclusively under education and training. There are no references to the fact that Roma people in Europe face poverty and social exclusion at rates of over 80% in most Member States, that their employment, health, housing and other indicators are extremely low compared to the majority of the population, and that antigypsyism and discrimination continue to be rampant.

This approach is mirrored by the very vast majority of the individual Country Reports included in the Package, according to the review performed by the ERGO Network and its national members. Read below the Key Messages derived from this analysis and access the full report here:

  1. Only 6 Country Reports explicitly refer to the Roma, despite most of them across Europe experiencing severe discrimination, marginalisation and segregation, poverty, poor living conditions, and very low employment, education, and health outcomes.
  1. The National Roma Integration Strategies are not given enough prominence and support in the vast majority of Country Reports, evidencing a lack of effective integration of the EU Roma Framework in the European Semester and its processes.
  1. The national approach to Roma rights and inclusion continues to be piecemeal in most countries, while a comprehensive, integrated policy response, rooted in realities across all social areas and equally tackling antigypsyism, is lacking.
  1. The approach to Roma communities is consistent with an unfortunate lack of prioritizing of issues related to ethnic minorities and discrimination throughout the Country Reports.
  1. Civil society organisations are only rarely mentioned as key partners in the design, implementation, and monitoring of public policies, thus weakening the effectiveness of interventions, as well as undermining ownership and democratic decision-making processes.

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.

 

ERGO Network meets new EU Commissioners

ERGO Network meets European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, and is part of the Social Platform delegation to meet Executive Vice Presidents Frans Timmermans (cabinet) and Valdis Dombrovskis

In the first months of 2020, ERGO Network took the opportunity to get to know three of the new EU Commissioners who are essential for our work towards fostering social inclusion of Roma and combatting antigypsyism and to convey our key messages.

On 28 January 2020, a delegation of 14 ERGO Network member organisations met with the new European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as to discuss about the challenges faced by Roma civil society organisations in fighting antigypsyism and advocating for Roma rights and inclusion, and a meaningful and participatory post-2020 Roma Strategy. “Roma people have been living in Europe for more than 700 years and have massively contributed to the richness of the European heritage. Yet, for centuries, European societies have turned a blind eye to racism and widespread discrimination of Roma people. We have to change that”, committed Commissioner Dalli. Topics discussed included:

  • combating antigypsyism as horizontal and stand-alone priority, in all its forms and manifestations, including through strong legislative measures;
  • a comprehensive, binding, EU Strategy for Roma inclusion that includes enlargement countries on equal footing, with concrete minimum standards, ambitious targets, and common monitoring at the EU level;
  • capacity-building, support and channels for Roma civil society to meaningfully engage in the design, implementation, and monitoring of public policies that affect them;
  • prioritising Roma inclusion in the next MFF programming period, ensuring that Roma communities are involved in the delivery of European funds at the national and local level.

On 19 February, the ERGO Network was part of the Social Platform delegation to meet with the cabinet of European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, to put forward the Roma rights perspective in discussions about how to put social inclusion at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal in post-2020.

On 25 February, the ERGO Network was part of the Social Platform delegation to meet again with European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. We reiterated the importance of Roma-related indicators and data, the need for a specific investment priority on Roma, the importance of diversity, especially of including LGBTQIA+ Roma in the next EU Roma Framework, and the need to work together with civil society.

On 6 March, the ERGO Network was part of the Social Platform delegation to meet with European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, in charge of an Economy that Works for People. We stressed the importance of ambitious targets, common indicators, and a strong EU monitoring process for the post-2020 Roma Integration Strategies, and for poverty reduction and social objectives in general.

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.