European Commission releases Annual Sustainable Growth Survey (ASGS) 2022

European Commission releases Annual Sustainable Growth Survey (ASGS) 2022

What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 24 November 2021, the European Commission published the Annual Sustainable Growth Survey 2022, accompanied by the draft Joint Employment Report 2022 (among other annexes), thus launching the European Semester 2022.

  • Read our full response to ASGS and the JER 2022 here!

The Annual Sustainable Growth Survey reaffirms that “the European Semester will remain the overall EU framework for the coordination of economic, employment and social policies”, while the Recovery and Resilience Facility remains “the key tool to implement the policy agenda” and is fully embedded in the European Semester. It also confirms the commitment to the four complementary dimensions of environmental sustainability, productivity, fairness, and macroeconomic stability.

For the second consecutive year, there is no mention of Europe’s Roma in this year’s Annual Sustainable Growth Survey and, unlike in previous years, there is equally no reference to ethnic or racial minority background. Similarly, the text contains no mention of antigypsyism or even discrimination anywhere in its content.

The main focus is on the green and digital transitions and, while social concerns are integrated as a component of these transitions and also have a dedicated section under the fairness objective, the prioritizing doesn’t seem to be at least on equal footing. The fairness section extensively covers education and training, as well as employment, however these are understood very narrowly from the perspective of their contribution to the twin transition. We appreciate the focus on combatting inequalities in education (including the digital divide) and the impetus to promote inclusion, diversity, and gender equality, as well as calls to stem energy poverty. However, we are missing references to ensuring access to fundamental services and rights, such as health or housing.

We are very pleased to see Europe’s Roma mentioned multiple times in the Joint Employment Report, concerning their heightened risk of experiencing poverty and social exclusion (including that of children), gaps in accessing education and training, school segregation, and the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (including on employment and income levels). Additionally, strong links are made to the EU Strategic Framework on Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation. However, disappointingly, while the document is quite extensive in covering Roma poverty and education, other thematic objective of the EU Roma Framework – employment, housing, health – are not covered at all in the Report. Equally, there is no mention of antigypsyism or racism.

Regarding civil dialogue, the Annual Sustainable Growth Survey only mentions civil society once, while the systematic involvement of social partners is much more consistently stressed. In the draft Joint Employment Report, civil society involvement is much better covered, with multiple references to its instrumental role as an important asset in implementing social and employment policies.

The ASGS also provides some clarity about the future of the European Semester, as well as what are the key steps and milestones to be expected for 2022. This year’s Semester will include the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, that of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, and – as a new element – that of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ERGO Network will continue to engage closely with the European Semester 2022, and strive to bring Roma rights and inclusion much more in focus in the delivery of these initiatives, and for better alignment of the priorities of the Semester and those of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation, and Inclusion.

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.

ERGO Network report on National Recovery and Resilience Plans – Bulgaria update

ERGO Network report on National Recovery and Resilience Plans – Bulgaria update

In September 2021, we published our comprehensive analysis report of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs), prepared by EU Member States in the framework of the European Semester. We are now releasing an update of this report, which now covers 12 countries and also includes Bulgaria, where the NRRP was only submitted by the Government on 15 October 2021.

Access the report here

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of Bulgaria

Draft Recovery and Resilience Plan of the Republic of Bulgaria

Integro Association held a special seminar to discuss the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) with a wide range of representatives of Roma communities, Community Action Groups, municipal officials and local authorities who participate in the ROMACT Program of the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

The seminar made the following recommendations for the draft RRP of Bulgaria:

  1. The Plan needs to be developed in a more detailed way, setting specific goals and activities to achieve concrete results. It is also necessary to develop a more detailed justification of the defined objectives and measures and a system of clear and measurable indicators that would allow accurate reporting of the results achieved and the impacts of the measures taken. The Plan must, in particular, identify potential beneficiaries and users of resources under the various programmes and projects.
  2. The scope of individuals and families in disadvantaged situations must include vulnerable ethnic groups, which are very much affected by the Covid-19 crisis, while at the same time being excluded from measures taken to mitigate the effects of the crisis. It is necessary to plan specific measures to address the problems of these groups especially in small settlements, as so far they are neither included in the developed Operational Programs nor in the current Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP).
  3. When planning energy efficiency measures, it is necessary to focus primarily on the state of buildings of energy-poor families; only for them public funding should be 100% of the grant. At the same time, activities and resources should be provided for these families to switch to more environmentally friendly heating sources.
  4. Expand the scope and the allocated resources for social economy by planning a separate financial line aimed at starting and developing social enterprises to create sustainable employment for long-term unemployed Roma community members, for Roma women and youth. They should be involved especially in environmental and nature protection spheres, as this type of activities will contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal. This will not only create sustainable employment for these groups, but will also improve their social inclusion and participation in the economic life of the country. The plan should envisage eligibility of municipalities and non-governmental organizations representing the most vulnerable Roma communities for the establishment of social economy enterprises.
  5. The Plan should provide a special line for financing the construction of a water supply system in neighborhoods where families with children and elderly people have been living for decades without access to clean drinking water. This should not be subject to the requirement for the number of population units, because access to drinking water is a basic human rights and constitutes one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The full text of the position can be found here.

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.

European Commission releases Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy

European Commission releases Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS) 2021 – What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 17 September 2020, the European Commission published the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2021, accompanied by two annexes, namely the Guidance to Member States on Recovery and Resilience Plans and the Commission Staff Working document, template, Recovery and Resilience Plans. This package launches the European Semester 2021. ERGO Network and its national members have reviewed the Package from a Roma rights, equality, inclusion and participation perspective.

Read the full ERGO Network assessment here. 

Released two months earlier than usual, the ASGS confirms the commitment to the European Green Deal and reaffirms the four key dimensions of Europe’s growth strategy – environmental sustainability, productivity, fairness, and macroeconomic stability – as guiding principles for the new European Semester cycle. However, it marks a distinct temporary change from previous processes, as it introduces new delivery mechanisms for the next 2-3 years. The main focus of this year’s ASGS is 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.”

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 (page 9). We further salute commitments to “address long-standing challenges that affect the fairness in society … and rising inequalities” (page 3), and to “support those who have been hit hardest by the crisis, such as … vulnerable groups” (page 4).

This year’s Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy is driven by an overriding impetus to fight the immediate consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and build a green and digital Europe. To our great disappointment, all 7 flagship initiatives proposed only deal with green and digital priorities, with virtually no social or equality objective. While references to disadvantaged groups are included and very welcome, the document clearly shows a prioritisation of green and digital transitions and macroeconomic sustainability, with fairness and social aspects being comparably less stressed in the recovery effort. The Roma are not specifically taken into account, and 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 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.

Encouragingly, the Guidance to Member States contains two references inviting them to consult civil society organisations in the drafting and implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plans, as well as to describe their consultation and contribution, and to include a summary of the stakeholders’ involvement (in the Template). Conversely, the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy only vaguely mentions “social partners and other relevant stakeholders”. More efforts are needed to ensure real ownership of these processes at both EU and national level.

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.

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.

 

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