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.

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

Social Economy and Roma Inclusion in times of Covid-19

ERGO Network Annual Public Conference with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy

This past 17 November, ERGO Network organised its annual public event, together with Social Economy Europe and the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy. This year’s conference, which took place online, was dedicated to exploring the key potential of the social and solidarity economy to positively contribute to Roma equality, inclusion and participation, particularly in a pandemic and post-pandemic context.

Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic crisis, brought about by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones, but Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to better social and economic inclusion and improved societal outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups, social economy can play a key role in ensuring equal eights and wellbeing for Roma communities in the recovery process in different countries.

The online conference served as the formal launch of ERGO Network’s position paper “The role of Social Economy in supporting Roma social and economic inclusion in the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery”, rooted in an extensive data collection exercise across ERGO Network’s national membership. The Key Messages of the paper, presented at the conference, are:

  1. Legislative framework prioritising social goals over financial gain and promoting sustainability
  2. Meaningful partnerships supporting Roma participation and ownership
  3. The Roma named explicitly as target group for social economy interventions
  4. Fostering Roma social entrepreneurship through awareness and training
  5. Access to stable, dedicated, transparent funding
  6. An economy based on solidarity that works for all, including for Roma

The event equally aimed to showcase concrete good practices of Roma- and Traveller-led social enterprises on the ground, as well as to put forward positive ways to ensure that the potential of social economy to support Roma inclusion is placed at the heart of recovery packages and the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy and Social Innovation, in full alignment with the recently released EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The event was very well attended with almost 100 participants, and it brought together ERGO Network and Social Economy Europe national members from the grassroots level in many European countries, as well as other national practitioners, European civil society organisations, EU policy-makers from the European Parliament and the European Commission, and other stakeholders.

If you attended this event, or watched the recording, don’t forget to let us know what you thought about it by filling in this Evaluation Form. Thank you!

See more:
Agenda of the event

Full recording of the Facebook livestream

ERGO Network position paper

– Conference Report (coming soon!)

For more information about this event, or about ERGO Network’s work on social economy, please don’t hesitate to contact us: a.ferro@ergonetwork.org

Meeting with Cabinet of Commissioner Nicolas Schmit

ERGO Network delegation meets Cabinet of European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit

On 5 November 2020, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network facilitated an online exchange meeting between its national members and Ms Anouk Faber and Mr Christoph Nerlich, members of the cabinet of European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit (DG EMPL).

The objectives of the meeting were:

  • How to create positive synergies between the new EU Roma Strategic Framework and the European Green Deal, Next Generation EU, and the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027?
  • How to ensure that the upcoming Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers on Roma inclusion, equality, and participation?
  • How can ERGO Network support your work and feed Roma perspectives from the grassroots level, also in light of the adapted European Semester?

During the meeting, ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova and Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro presented our work on social policy across a number of files which fall under the competence of DG Employment, such as the European Semester, the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Youth Guarantee, Child Guarantee, the MFF, the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as social economy and minimum income. They stressed the need to better integrate the EU Roma Strategic Framework in mainstream initiatives like the European GreenDeal and the recovery packages, and reaffirmed ERGO Network’s readiness and commitment to support the European Commission, as well as national Governments, in its efforts to promote Roma equality, inclusion, and participation.

Our 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. However, they cautioned, a lot lies in adequate implementation, and civil society organisations have a key role to play in promoting the partnership principle in both funds and policy making, to ensure that the right priorities are being chosen and that the funds reach the most in need, including disadvantaged Roma communities.

ERGO Network hopes that this meeting marked the beginning of a fruitful cooperation with the Cabinet of Commissioner Schmit, and will continue to engage very closely with DG Employment on these issues.

Find the full meeting of the report here.

For more information, please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro in the ERGO Network Brussels Secretariat.

Dream to Grow – how to make Europe’s labour markets a place for all?

Dream to Grow: How to make Europe’s labour markets a place for all

ERGO Network together with the Romani Early Years Network (REYN) – an initiative of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) – hosted a virtual human library on 7 October, where Roma professionals told the stories of their pathways to become who they are today, showing the difference that enabling, inclusive and diverse educational and working environments can make for society.

The human library took place online, where the participating “readers”, composed of practitioners and policymakers, academics, students and activists, could listen to the diverse and compelling stories of Enzo (Italy), Davie (Scotland), Tünde (Hungary), Milan (Croatia), Maria (Serbia), Ani (Bulgaria), Fatime (Belgium) and Manda (Romania). Four of them are Early Childhood Development practitioners working with national members of REYN, while the other four work in a variety of fields. All of them experienced antigypsyism in education, from wider society and in employment, but against all odds now have fulfilling jobs where they make a change for the children and adults they are working for.

The participants had the chance to read two of the books, and the human library experience was touching and captivating, each story denoting particular characteristics but a common dream – to grow.

The event was opened by Stanislav Daniel, co-chair of ERGO Network and Aljosa Rudas, Program Officer and REYN International Coordinator at ISSA , who introduced the concept and aim of the event and of the corresponding  campaigns of the two host organisations: A Place for All (ERGO Network) and Dream to Grow (REYN).

They highlighted the aim of the event: to raise awareness of the benefits of ensuring equality, inclusion and diversity in education and at work, and of the obstacles that Roma need to overcome to be able to find decent employment. Besides offering an inspiration for the readers, the human library was also a call to action to policy-makers and employers that more needs to be done to overthrow these obstacles and to ensure diversity and inclusion on Europe’s labour markets.

Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, welcomed the continuous work of ERGO Network and REYN to shed light on this important topic, and explained the role that the updated European Youth Guarantee should play to ensure that those young people furthest from the labour market, including Roma, receive support to find decent employment.

Margareta Matache, Director at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights’ Roma Program and Harvard instructor, spoke about the history of racism against Roma and how the majority society needs to change its perception of Roma in order to ensure discrimination on the labour market and in general society will end.

After these introductory remarks, the most awaited part of the event took place, the online human library. In smaller libraries, the human books told their stories of how they reached the place they are at right now, who and what supported them along the way and which challenges they met. Librarians from ERGO Network and REYN facilitated the dialogue between books and readers in four smaller groups, ensuring human interaction.

In the debriefing, participants were asked to “review” the books they have read. They described their experience in the libraries as “inspiring”, “powerful”, “eye-opening” and “brave” and said that stories of courageous people like these will help Roma children to dream again. Some readers also expressed the importance that the stories are also read by other people, which you can do on the websites of ERGO Network and REYN.

Also Anu Ritz, representing the European Commission Directorate – General for Justice and Consumers, where she works in the Non-discrimination and Roma coordination unit for the EU Platform for Diversity Charters, thanked the human books for sharing their stories, as far too often the real stories of Roma practitioners themselves are not listened to. She presented the current efforts made at EU level to increase diversity and promote inclusion in employment, also linking the event to the EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Equality that was published the day prior to the event.

Stanislav Daniel and Alyosa Rudas closed the event by sharing their final reflections. Stanislav pointed out that the eight human books who presented their stories all succeeded despite a discriminatory system. Going forward, we need to work for a world where people can succeed thanks to the system, not despite it.

Alyosa highlighted that the human dimension presented in the human library is often not reflected in national or EU policies and strategies, and not always needs and views of the community are captured in policy documents. This is why listening to personal stories and creating opportunities for dialogue are so important.

Listening to the life stories of the books and how they overcame prejudice and discrimination in education and employment, and how they are making a change in our societies through their work could be a first step towards a more inclusive future.

Look back at videos from the event here.

Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19

Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19

A contribution to Europe’s Action Plan on Social Economy

ERGO Network and Social Economy Europe are delighted to invite you to attend their joint online conference entitled “Social economy and Roma inclusion in times of Covid-19: A contribution to Europe’s Action Plan on Social Economy”, to take place on 17 November 2020. The event is kindly hosted by the European Parliament Intergroup on Social Economy (click here to see agenda).

Europe is facing an unprecedented social and economic shock, brought about by the devastating effects of the coronavirus. Many Europeans have lost their incomes, their homes, their security, and even their loved ones, but Roma communities throughout the continent have been particularly hard hit. Because of its explicit objective to contribute to better social and economic inclusion and improved societal outcomes, particularly for vulnerable groups, social economy can play a key role in ensure equal rights and wellbeing for Roma communities in the recovery process in different countries.

This online conference will bring together national practitioners, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, as well as EU policy makers, to discuss how to achieve real policy change for Europe’s Roma in a social economy setting. The objectives are to showcase concrete good practices of Roma- and Traveller-led social enterprises on the ground, and to put forward positive ways to ensure that the potential of social economy to support Roma inclusion is placed at the heart of recovery packages and the upcoming Action Plan on Social Economy and Social Innovation, in full alignment with the recently released EU Roma Strategic Framework.

REGISTER HERE by 15 November

AGENDA

We are looking forward to debating with you – join the conversation! #RomaSocialEconomy

For questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch: info@ergonetwork.org.

 

This conference is kindly supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation EaSI (2014-2020).