Recommendations for national strategic Roma frameworks

Recommendations for the national strategic frameworks under the new EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation

On 7 October 2020, the European Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the new Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation for 2020-2030. The new framework is replacing the previous EU framework for national Roma integration strategies 2011-2020. The new framework is a positive step in the right direction; it shifts the perspective of the previous EU framework to a more balanced approach between social inclusion, human rights and empowerment objectives. It asks Member States and Enlargement countries to develop national strategic frameworks (NSFs), not just strategies, proposing an intersectional approach to tackle discrimination and defining intersectional discrimination as such for the first time. The new framework includes a good reference to antigypsyism using the spelling proposed by the Alliance against Antigypsyism. The framework addresses Enlargement countries on an equal footing and acknowledges the importance of the Western Balkan region for the EU, while the Neighbourhood countries are mentioned for the first time in relation to Roma inclusion under the current framework.

ERGO Network has developed a set of recommendations for national governments that should be prioritised when developing national strategic frameworks in the first months of 2021.

These recommendations have been developed based on ERGO Network’s previous policy and monitoring work in the area of equality, inclusion and participation of Roma and on valuable on-the-ground input from ERGO Network’s member organisations across Europe and from Roma and pro-Roma organisations members of the EU Roma Policy Coalition.

You can access the recommendations here.

The following organisations contributed to the recommendations:

  • European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)
  • Open Society Public Policy Institute (OSEPI)
  • European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)
  • Phiren Amenca
  • European Network against Racism (ENAR)
  • Roma Active Albania
  • Roma Association Utrecht ,Netherlands
  • National federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups, UK
  • La voix des Rroms, France
  • Slovo 21, Czech Republic
  • Integro Association, Bulgaria

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.

Child Guarantee and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child

ERGO Network response to the European Commission public consultations on the Child Guarantee and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2021-2027

The European Commission will be proposing, in 2021, a Child Guarantee and a Strategy on the Rights of the Child, two instruments specifically designed to improve the lives and wellbeing of children in the European Union.  ERGO Network has been engaging closely with these processes to ensure that the unique situation of Roma children is taken on board. We are also pleased to have become a member of the EU Alliance for Investing in Children, which brings together over 20 European networks sharing a commitment to end child poverty and promote child wellbeing across Europe.

The Child Guarantee is meant to ensure that all children in Europe who are at risk of poverty, social exclusion, or are otherwise disadvantaged, have access to essential services of good quality. ERGO Network strongly welcomes the initiative and gave input to the European Commission consultation on the Roadmap for a Council Recommendation for a Child Guarantee (Download the full input). The Covid-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need to invest in proper care services and income support for Roma children and their families.

While the proposed Roadmap for the Child Guarantee identifies several groups of “children in need”, Roma children are not one of them. This is unacceptable, where the Fundamental Rights Agency found that every third Roma child (30%) lives in households where someone went to bed hungry at least once in the previous month, and only about half (53%) of young Roma children are enrolled in early childhood education and care programs. Unless they are explicitly mentioned as target group and specific measures put in place to deal with very specific needs, experience shows that Roma children will once again be left behind.

We equally contributed to the EU Alliance for Investing in Children’s Response to the public consultation on the Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, which calls on EU Member States to develop actions that will protect children (including Roma children) from poverty, as well as support their access to quality early childhood education and care and to equal opportunities.

Additionally, we also prepared an input to the European Commission public consultation on the upcoming EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child (2021-2024), whose objective is to provide a framework for EU actions to better promote and protect children’s rights, with specific measures and funding.

ERGO Network will continue to work closely on the file to ensure that Roma children’s voices are heard, and that appropriate links will be made, at EU and national level, between initiatives on children’s rights and wellbeing such as those above and the objectives of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation.

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

Photo album

 

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