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.

Reinforced Youth Guarantee – will Roma youth be included?

The Council of the EU adopts a recommendation for more inclusive measures to boost youth employment by reinforcing the Youth Guarantee – Will Roma youth be included?!

On 30th of October, the Council of the European Union adopted by unanimity a Recommendation on ‘A Bridge to Jobs – Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee’.  The new scheme affirms the upcoming commitment of the EU Members States to set national schemes in order to help young people receive an offer of employment, education, traineeship or apprenticeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. This initiative comes at an urgent time across the EU, during the COVID 19 pandemic, which brought high youth unemployment rates and increased the number of young people not in employment, education, or training (NEETs). Even before the crises Roma youth which as it shown in the last data issued by Fundamental Rights Agency 63% of Roma aged 16-24 were not employed, in education or training (55% of young Roma men and 72% of young Roma women

This is not a new initiative, it follows the EU Council Recommendation of 22 April 2013 on establishing a Youth Guarantee, which numerous studies and ERGO research showed that failed to reach its full potential nor to include the most disadvantaged groups, such as Roma youth.

What is new?

The new Recommendation is considering the concerns of youth organizations and tackles some of the gaps in its implementation, identified as well by ERGO Network. The Recommendation extends the age limit for targeted young people from 25 to up to 29 years old. The new Recommendation also clearly state that the Members States should create supportive measures at national, regional, and local level by providing clear guidelines such as:

  • mapping – identifying target groups, available services, skills needs and young people at risk of becoming a NEET
  • outreach – targeted information campaigns among young people and reaching out to NEETs
  • preparation – better profiling to match needs and responses, counselling, and guidance, and improving digital and other important skills
  • offer – employment incentives, quality and equity, and post-placement support

Now is the moment to make sure that the Member States include the voice of the most deprived in the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, and that they  take into account the situation of Roma youth. One of the main concerns when it comes to the Roma youth is the outreach offer and preparation in a time of pandemic, where many times the ones that need to be a priority are left out due to centuries of discrimination and low standards of education, which is the result of ongoing poverty cycles.

ERGO Network asks Member States to:

  • Invest in continued education (and training): enrolment in formal education or training programs leading to a recognized qualification, keeping in mind an individual approach.
  • Train employment officers and employers to fight antigypsyism: There is a need to train the employment offices as well as potential employers on historical and present antigypsyism, specially to counter the phenomenon during the recruitment process.
  • Improve cooperation between young Roma and labor offices: Governments should encourage a closer communication between labor offices and young Roma people and their civil society representatives, to increase the number of Roma youth engaged with activation programs
  • Hire Roma mediators as social workers/employees of the public employment services and local authorities with the main file and aim to assist Roma youngsters to access the initiatives under the Youth Guarantee, to ensure individual empowerment and ownership.
  • Take a holistic approach: Programs should be created to directly fight youth unemployment with an embraced holistic and multi-sectoral approach, in line with the Active Inclusion Recommendation. Efforts to support young people towards quality education and employment should be complemented by access to adequate income and services such as housing, transport etc
  • A more flexible and accessible registration process of public employment services, to ensure that no young person falls through the gaps and remains out of the social systems of their country – a situation young Roma often find themselves in
  • More partnerships with educational institutions and NGOs who can more easily reach out to Roma and other marginalized groups. This requires dedicated funding that will allow these partners to support the public employment services in the delivery of the Youth Guarantee, or to directly establish contacts with employers and support the skills development of young people.

It will now be up to the Member States to implement the Reinforced Youth Guarantee. We will continue the monitoring and advocating for young Roma people to have quality opportunities through this initiative, on equal footing with majority youth.

For additional information regarding our work on the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment, please contact Policy Officer Carmen Tănasie in the ERGO Network staff (c.tanasie@ergonetwork.org).

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.