ERGO’s monitoring of the European Semester

ERGO Network continues its monitoring of the European Semester and meets the cabinet of Commissioner Nicolas Schmidt

The European Semester had a surprise early start this year, with the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS) released two months earlier than expected, in September 2020. This year’s document is driven by an overriding impetus to fight the immediate consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and build a green and digital Europe, and is built around the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the central pillar of Next Generation EU, which is the European Union’s “emergency temporary recovery instrument to help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, support an economic recovery and build a better future for the next generation. ERGO Network members are already engaging on the ground with the drafting of the National Plans that Governments need to submit to access these funds.

While there is no explicit mention of the European Roma in the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, ERGO Network welcomes that “people with a minority racial or ethnic background” are indicated as having been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus crisis. There is a lack of coordination and complete disconnect between Europe’s growth and recovery strategies and the EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion, and Participation. While it is indicated that the National Resilience and Recovery Plans should be consistent with other national initiatives, such as the Energy and Climate Plans and the Partnership Agreements and Programmes, sadly nothing is said about coherence with the National Roma Integration Strategies. You can read ERGO Network’s full response to the ASGS here.

The situation is mirrored by the draft Joint Employment Report, which was released as usual at the end of November. 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. While the Roma are mentioned a number of times throughout the document, it is exclusively in the context of access to education. While 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, tackling structural problems like persistent poverty or rampant discrimination does not seem to be a concern. The Report also contains no reference to the situation of ethnic minorities or combatting antigypsyism and racism. Read ERGO Network’s full response to the draft Joint Employment Report here.

Based on the extensive work carried out by the ERGO Network to include a Roma perspective on the European Semester and other social and economic inclusion strategies at EU level, we secured a meeting with the Cabinet of Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights. The exchange, attended from the Commission side by Policy Advisors Christoph Nerlich and Anouk Faber, focused on how to create positive synergies between the EU Roma Strategic Framework and the European Green Deal, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027. It also touched upon other social policy topics that ERGO Network is working on, and which fall under the purview of DG Employment, such as the the Youth Guarantee, Child Guarantee, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as social economy and minimum income.

ERGO Network members Katalin Nagy (Butterfly Development, HU), Pedro Aguilera (Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia, ES), and Adriatik Hasantari (Roma Active Albania, AL) spoke about how the upcoming Social Economy Action Plan and the reinforced Youth Guarantee can be very useful tools to contribute towards reducing the gap between Roma and majority populations, as well as about the importance of including the Western Balkans and Enlargement and Neighbourhood Countries in the learning and exchanges about Roma inclusion in Europe. Cabinet members Ms Faber and Mr Nerlich confirmed Commissioner Nicolas Schmit’s commitment to Roma rights and inclusion and exchanged with ERGO Network members and staff about the best ways to engage with the above-mentioned policy frameworks in order to ensure a strong Roma dimension in Europe’s social and economic development strategies, as well as drew the attention to the key role of EU Funds (including InvestEU and ReactEu) to support these processes. Find the full meeting of the report here.

ERGO Network will continue to push for bringing Roma rights and inclusion much more in focus in the processes of the European Semester and the disbursement of Recovery and Resilience funds, and for better alignment with the priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Hopefully the new decade will bring closer alignment between the EU Roma Strategic Framework and these frameworks, to ensure that Europe’s Roma are not left behind, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

For more information about our work on the European Semester, please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro in the ERGO Network Brussels Secretariat.