NSOP Training on Presentation and Communication Skills

NSOP Training on Presentation and Communication Skills

From 24-26 November 2020 the Regional Roma Education Youth Association (RROMA) held an online training on “Presentation and communication skills” in the framework of the project “New solutions to old problems – exchange of new approaches in the field of Roma integration” funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and the Norwegian Regional Cooperation Grants Fund.

The workshop was attended by about 30 participants from all 11 partner organizations from Romania, Northern Macedonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Ukraine, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

The first day of the workshop focused on presentation skills, where we gained many new tips and tricks on how to best promote our work for Roma inclusion and the fight against anti-Gypsy, with our expert Dimitrij Mihajlovski.

The second day, November 25, was a day for communication and presentation skills training. With the help of the journalist Sunai Sabrioski participants have a chance to improve their communication skills – returning to the basics and understanding the key elements, understanding the importance maintaining an effective article / speech / exercise.

On the third day a meeting was held between the partner organizations where they exchanged views on how to use the previously acquired communication and presentation skills, as well as on the future plans provided by each partner organization for the realization of the project.

ERGO’s response to EC proposal for Joint Employment Report 2021

European Commission releases proposal for Joint Employment Report 2021 – What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 18 November 2020, the European Commission published the draft Joint Employment Report, published this year separately from the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS), which was released in September (see ERGO Network’s reaction to it here).

This year’s disconnect between the ASGS and the draft Joint Employment Report means that the former was not underpinned by the latter, and that Europe’s priorities for a green, digital, sustainable and inclusive recovery were not guided by in the in-depth analysis of realities on the ground that the Report provides. The structure of the Joint Employment Report does not appear to have changed (as it was the case for the ASGS), as it continues to track Member State performance in the areas covered by the Employment Guidelines and by the Social Scoreboard of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The impact on the pandemic on the employment and social situation in Member States is equally included in detail throughout the Report, as well as the national measures aimed at mitigating it.

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the multiple explicit references to the European Roma in the draft Joint Employment Report, but laments that, once again, they are exclusively mentioned in relation to education (pages 61, 88, and 107). The Report highlights that “Roma inclusion in education is a challenge that could become more prominent as a result of the COVID-19 crisis”, that “Effective enforcement of legislative changes for Roma inclusion in mainstream education remains important”, and that The NEET rate of Roma is much higher than that of the general population.” Travellers are also named once in the document, in the same section.

The focus on improving Roma access to quality and inclusive mainstream education is very welcome, particularly as it also refers to obstacles such as severe poverty and housing exclusion. ERGO Network shares the concerns related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a large number of Roma children deprived of the possibility to access online education, which only contributes to widening the gap with the general population. The digital divide is equally mentioned, in what concerns lack of access to infrastructure (internet coverage, electricity), equipment (PC, tablets etc) and knowledge (digital skills).

While the importance of affirmative action is recognized as a useful approach for ensuring equal opportunities, the Report takes a strong stance against segregation, calling for active measures to prevent it, as well as additional financial and professional support. Measures include educational mediators, scholarships, after school activities, language courses, free public transport, access to early childhood education and care, setting up antisegregation working groups, combatting the placing of Roma children in special needs classes or schools. These are very positive steps, already recorded in a number of countries, very much in line with ERGO Network’s own position and recommendations on quality, inclusive, and desegregated education.

Despite the very positive content on combatting school segregation and improving Roma educational attainment and completion, 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. This is despite the Report’s own admission that “In all Member States, the poverty risk for children raised by a single parent or in families with more than 3 children or with a migrant or Roma background is two to three times higher than that of other children.”

Tackling structural problems like 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 EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation is not mentioned anywhere in the text, nor is its predecessor. The Report completely overlooks the fact that the Roma are overrepresented in unemployment and poverty rates and face significant obstacles in accessing adequate social protection and key services, such as affordable housing, or quality health- and long-term care, including childcare. The Report also contains no reference to the situation of ethnic minorities or combatting antigypsyism and racism.

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 and implementation of policies that concern them (page 122), which is also stipulated in Guideline 7 of the Employment Guidelines.

ERGO Network hopes that the new decade will bring closer alignment between the EU Roma Strategic Framework and the European Semester, in full synergy with delivery on the of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights, to ensure that Europe’s Roma are not left behind, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

ERGO response to public consultation on the Social Pillar Action Plan

How to ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation?

ERGO Network responds to the European Commission public consultation on the Social Pillar Action Plan

In 2017, the European Union broke new ground by adopting the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), the first set of social rights proclaimed by EU institutions since the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the year 2000. While not legally binding, this comprehensive initiative of 20 social policy principles, complemented by a Social Scoreboard of 14 indicators, aims at supporting well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems, with a focus on better integrating and delivering on social concerns. The European Commission has pledged to make the Social Pillar “the compass of Europe’s recovery and our best tool to ensuring no one is left behind”, so that Europe’s future is socially fair and just.

ERGO Network has prepared a comprehensive response to the public consultation launched by the European Commission this year, with a view to prepare an Action Plan for the Implementation of the Social Pillar, announced for 2021. In it, we set out our analysis and policy recommendations for each of the 20 principles of the Social Pillar, to ensure that its implementation specifically includes the Roma and that meaningful interplay is sought with the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation.

Access ERGO Network’s consultation response.

While it is a crucial framework document for EU social policy, the Social Pillar is not a strategy per se, as it lacks measurable targets. The Social Scoreboard does not measure progress towards ambitious objectives, but simply maps Europe in terms of best and worst performers compared to EU averages. The process needs to be reformed so that the Scoreboard brings about concrete policy triggers for change. At the moment, the 14 indicatorsdo not fully correspond to, nor completely reflect, the 20 policy principles. Additionally, indicators under the Social Scoreboard should be disaggregated to include data on key groups, such as the Roma, and also be aligned with the measuring undertaken under the National Roma Strategic Frameworks, to ensure a coherent approach.

Delivery on the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation, and Inclusion must be fully integrated in the European Semester and other key social processes, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. These must be mutually reinforcing. Unfortunately, the EU Roma Strategic Framework targets makes few specific links to the Social Pillar and its 20 principles, and a footnote even reduces the scope to only 3 principles. The Framework Communication does not mention that the Pillar will also contribute to implementing the Roma Framework – only the other way around. Additionally, it is crucial that the Social Pillar Action Plan itself is placed at the heart of the European Semester processes, including the new focus on the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the assessment of National Plans to that effect.

The fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms, including antigypsyism, must be a key element of the Social Pillar Action Plan, both in itself (under Principle 3), as well as in a cross-cutting manner across the remaining principles, to ensure that Roma in Europe can access employment, education, health, housing, and social protection. The Action Plan must take full account of other important EU initiatives, such as the Action Plan Against Racism 2020-2024,  the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Race Equality Directive (RED), Victims’ Rights Directive, Employment Equality and Recast Directives, Framework Decision against Racism, Charter for Fundamental Rights, as well as the OSCE Action Plan for Roma and Sinti and the Council of Europe Roma and Travellers Action Plan.

With Europe 2020 coming to an end, there is currently no European strategy to combat poverty and social exclusion. Encouragingly, the new EU Roma Strategic Framework contains an explicit cross-cutting priority objective, with concrete targets, to reduce Roma poverty. The Social Pillar Action Plan must reflect this commitment for all groups across the European Union, and embed a strong anti-poverty dimension, combined with an ambitious EU-wide poverty-reduction target.

The implementation of the Social Pillar and its Action Plan remain contingent on the availability of necessary financial resources to deliver on the commitments made. Recovery packages (NextGenEU, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, InvestEU and ReactEU) and the next programming period 2021-2027 will play a key role. The European Commission must ensure that mainstream funding reaches the Roma. Clear guidelines must be given to Governments and Managing Authorities to make sure allocations are made for the vulnerable and Roma especially – including through a corresponding enabling condition and Roma-specific indicator, aligned with the National Roma Strategic Frameworks. The Partnership Principle must be reinforced and applied.

Finally, the Social Pillar Action Plan will only be effective if it achieves wide ownership by beneficiaries, if it is rooted in direct evidence from the ground, and if its delivery is underpinned by a comprehensive and meaningful partnership of all stakeholders. Roma communities and their NGO representatives must be involved at all stages in the design, delivery, and monitoring of measures, at both national and EU level. Clear dialogue and cooperation protocols need to be put in place, to ensure that the voice of marginalised communities is heard and taken into account, while necessary financial resources need to be made available to support Roma NGOs and build awareness, participation, and active citizenship, as well as more resilient democracies.

We are looking forward to the European Commission’s proposal for the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, and hope to see our key concerns reflected!

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