ERGO’s response to EC proposal for Joint Employment Report 2021

European Commission releases proposal for Joint Employment Report 2021 – What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 18 November 2020, the European Commission published the draft Joint Employment Report, published this year separately from the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS), which was released in September (see ERGO Network’s reaction to it here).

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. The structure of the Joint Employment Report does not appear to have changed (as it was the case for the ASGS), as it continues to track Member State performance in the areas covered by the Employment Guidelines and by the Social Scoreboard of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The impact on the pandemic on the employment and social situation in Member States is equally included in detail throughout the Report, as well as the national measures aimed at mitigating it.

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the multiple explicit references to the European Roma in the draft Joint Employment Report, but laments that, once again, they are exclusively mentioned in relation to education (pages 61, 88, and 107). The Report highlights that “Roma inclusion in education is a challenge that could become more prominent as a result of the COVID-19 crisis”, that “Effective enforcement of legislative changes for Roma inclusion in mainstream education remains important”, and that The NEET rate of Roma is much higher than that of the general population.” Travellers are also named once in the document, in the same section.

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. ERGO Network shares the concerns related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a large number of Roma children deprived of the possibility to access online education, which only contributes to widening the gap with the general population. The digital divide is equally mentioned, in what concerns lack of access to infrastructure (internet coverage, electricity), equipment (PC, tablets etc) and knowledge (digital skills).

While the importance of affirmative action is recognized as a useful approach for ensuring equal opportunities, the Report takes a strong stance against segregation, calling for active measures to prevent it, as well as additional financial and professional support. Measures include educational mediators, scholarships, after school activities, language courses, free public transport, access to early childhood education and care, setting up antisegregation working groups, combatting the placing of Roma children in special needs classes or schools. These are very positive steps, already recorded in a number of countries, very much in line with ERGO Network’s own position and recommendations on quality, inclusive, and desegregated education.

Despite the very positive content on combatting school segregation and improving Roma educational attainment and completion, all the above measures are one sided and refer exclusively to educational establishments, while no mention is made of wrap-around support for families, access to adequate income, support towards quality jobs, decent housing, other services. This is despite the Report’s own admission that “In all Member States, the poverty risk for children raised by a single parent or in families with more than 3 children or with a migrant or Roma background is two to three times higher than that of other children.”

Tackling structural problems like persistent poverty or rampant discrimination, does not seem to be a concern, nor is proposing an integrated approach to the multiple difficulties faced by Roma citizens in Europe. The EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation is not mentioned anywhere in the text, nor is its predecessor. The Report completely overlooks the fact that the Roma are overrepresented in unemployment and poverty rates and face significant obstacles in accessing adequate social protection and key services, such as affordable housing, or quality health- and long-term care, including childcare. The Report also contains no reference to the situation of ethnic minorities or combatting antigypsyism and racism.

Encouragingly, the Joint Employment Report contains a full paragraph supporting the participation and direct engagement of beneficiaries and their civil society organisations in the design and implementation of policies that concern them (page 122), which is also stipulated in Guideline 7 of the Employment Guidelines.

ERGO Network hopes that the new decade will bring closer alignment between the EU Roma Strategic Framework and the European Semester, in full synergy with delivery on the of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights, to ensure that Europe’s Roma are not left behind, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery.

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).

Meaningful participation is key

Securing meaningful participation: a key element of success for the EU anti-racism action plan

Open letter to EU Commission President von der Leyen, Vice-President Jourova and Commissioner Dalli

As organisations working to achieve racial equality and justice, we welcome the EU Action Plan Against Racism published by the European Commission on 18 September 2020. For the first time, the EU explicitly acknowledges the existence of structural, institutional and historical dimensions of racism in Europe and the need to address them through wide-ranging policies. There are a number of positive proposals in the action plan, in line with what ENAR has been calling for, but also gaps that need to be addressed.

Many plans against racism in the past have remained on paper. In order to avoid this and fulfil the potential of this action plan to improve the lives of people affected by racism, there must be strong processes in place to ensure that it is implemented, with clear and measurable targets, and that progress is monitored.

The processes related to this plan are as important as its content as they will allow for its legitimacy, ownership and most importantly, its efficiency in countering structural racism. There should be a strong focus on ensuring that racialised groups with key expertise from civil society organisations are consulted and engaged in a meaningful and timely manner on the implementation of the plan.

We welcome the fact that the plan foresees some mechanisms to secure resources particularly by strengthening participation of civil society organisations working with racialised groups, including:

1. The appointment of an EU anti-racism coordinator.
2. At least two meetings per year with civil society organisations active in the fight against racism at European, national and local levels.
3. Existing high-level groups on racism and non-discrimination playing an important role in implementation and cooperation.
4. The new internal Task Force on Equality ensuring racial equality mainstreaming and consultation.
5. Funding for civil society available under the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme and Horizon Europe.

We call on the European Commission to ensure that the action plan is a meaningful EU tool to address structural racism with adequate resources and expertise, by strengthening the following processes:

1. A structured and permanent participatory mechanism for civil society

There should be strong mechanisms in place to regularly involve EU and NGOs including racialised groups in policy discussions, design and implementation, to ensure policies meaningfully address issues of racialised groups according to their lived experiences and unique expertise. This is even more crucial considering the lack of racial diversity in institutions currently in Europe. We need a clear structure allowing civil society to be in a regular dialogue with the European Commission.

The European Commission should therefore set up a permanent European Commission advisory committee on anti-racism involving NGOs, Member States and social partners to support the implementation of policies, in particular the framework of National Action Plans against Racism.

In addition, the mandate of the two high-level groups on combating racism and on non-discrimination should be strengthened, by widening their scope to include structural and institutional racial discrimination. They should also be both opened to participation of civil society and supported by a regular steering group of European umbrella NGOs working on anti-racism and non-discrimination.

2. An operational and anti-racism expert profile for the EU coordinator against racism

The coordinator should play a key role in overseeing the implementation of the plan, and coordinating actions across different policy areas in the European Commission, closely liaising with civil society organisations.

To that end, this person should be appointed based on relevant skills and competences, have strong expertise on anti-racism issues and intersectionality, and be from a racialised group. This person should have a good knowledge of anti-racism movements in Europe to secure engagement and participation of a wide diversity of civil society experts. We also request that the recruitment process is fair, clear and transparent.

Moreover, the coordinator should be strongly supported by a dedicated team, in close collaboration with existing services of the European Commission.

3. Clear coordination of anti-racism work within the European Commission

We welcome the comprehensive anti-racism framework laid out in the Action Plan. However, it is important to clarify how the coordinator and different services will work together to coordinate and monitor its progress. To improve efficiency of the work and coordination among the different strands of work highlighted in the Action Plan, we call for:
The Commission Directorate General for Justice’s services to be organised by re-grouping all teams working on different forms of racism and racial discrimination in one unit, with more resources allocated and a strengthened mandate of the Commissioner for Equality to oversee this work, under the direct supervision of President Ursula von der Leyen.
The task force for equality to closely work with this unit, to include a specific working group on racial equality mainstreaming, to ensure transparency about its work and to involve civil society.

4. Dedicated funding

The EU anti-racism action plan should be implemented with dedicated and adequate human and financial resources, including via specific budget lines for the European Commission’s services. Funding should be secured for the implementation of EU and national action plans against racism, in addition to specific priorities under the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme and the European Structural Funds.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to present these demands in more details and discuss together how to move forward.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism

Co-signed by:

1. Adé Olaiya, UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab Expert
2. Altera (Italy)
3. Anti-Racist Forum (Finland)
4. Apna Haq (UK)
5. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos – AMDEH (Spain)
6. Bepax (Belgium)
7. Center for Intersectional Justice – CIJ
8. Center for Peace Studies (Croatia)
9. Central Council for German Sinti and Roma (Germany)
10. Collective against Islamophobia in Belgium – CCIB (Belgium)
11. Competence network against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred (CLAIM, ZEOK e.V., aej e.V.) (Germany)
12. Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France – CRAN (France)
13. Czech Helsinki Committee (Czech Republic)
14. Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle Islamfeindlichkeit & antimuslimischer Rassismus -Dokustelle (Austria)
15. Each One Teach One (Germany)
16. ENAR Denmark (Denmark)
17. Ethnic Debate Forum (Denmark)
18. Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie & Ontwikkeling – EMCEMO (The Netherlands)
19. European Forum of Muslim Women – EFOMW
20. European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations – FEMYSO
21. European Network of Religion and Belief – ENORB
22. European Network of Women of African Descent – ENWAD
23. Farid Hafez from Salzburg University (Austria)
24. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network – ERGO
25. Fair Play (Denmark)
26. Friends of the Earth Europe
27. FTI Consulting (Belgium)
28. ICA Spain (Spain)
29. Inequalities Research Network, University of Leeds (UK)
30. Integratiepact vzw (Belgium)
31. Irish Network against Racism – INAR (Ireland)
32. Karamah EU
33. Minderhedenforum (Belgium)
34. Mouvement contre le racisme, l’antisémitisme et la xénophobie – MRAX (Belgium)
35. New Horizons Project
36. New Women Connectors (Belgium)
37. Open Society European Policy Institute – OSEPI
38. ORBIT vzw (Belgium)
39. Quartiers du monde (Belgium)
40. Roma Active Albania (Albania)
41. Stichting Ocan (The Netherlands)
42. Siempre (Belgium)
43. SOS Malta (Malta)
44. Waterford Integration services (Ireland)
45. Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus Arbeit – ZARA (Austria)

- Download the open letter

Civil Society calls upon Member States to step up implementation of new EU Framework

European Coalition of Roma and pro-Roma Civil Society calls upon Member States to step up the implementation of new EU Roma Strategic Framework

 

Brussels, 12 October 2020 – CSOs call  on the European Commission to ensure that commitments made under the new EU Strategic Framework on Roma are held at the highest standards, and demand Member States to adopt an EU Council Recommendation supporting national Roma strategies to bring real justice and equality and ensure meaningful Roma participation at all levels and walks of life.

The EU Roma and pro-Roma Coalition welcomes the Communication for a new EU Strategic Framework for Roma equality, inclusion and participation at a time when real human rights commitments are crucial for the 12+ million Roma in Europe. We believe that the strategic framework announced last week is a step in the right direction. It can, however, only mean something if Member States, Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries put the fight against antigypsyism at the core when implementing national Roma strategies for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.

“As ERGO Network, we welcome the commitment of the European Commission to embed the EU strategic framework in a human rights and equality framework and include Roma participation, the fight against antigypsyism and poverty among the horizontal priorities. Now national governments need to step up. They have to ensure the highest commitments under EU Council recommendations to fight antigypsyism, make school segregation illegal, sanction hate speech, hate crimes and police ill-treatment, prevent forced evictions, invest in infrastructure, clean and safe housing, employment, healthcare and empowerment at the grassroots level”, says director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova.

“It is crucial that the new EU action plan against racism reinforces the EU Roma framework so that we can effectively address antigypsyism and structural racism experienced by Roma communities in Europe”, said Michael Privot, Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). “National governments should prioritise adopting concrete commitments and measures against racism, for example by prohibiting racial profiling, collecting equality data disaggregated by race and ethnic origin, and increasing racial diversity in institutions.”

The fight against antigypsyism is the decisive prerequisite for this new Framework in order to achieve an equal participation of Sinti and Roma. We expect that going forward more of our political representatives in Europe act as true human rights promoters and stand up against antigypsyism and any other form of racism”, says Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.

“We welcome that the framework emphasizes the crucial role of civil society in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating public policies aimed at increasing equality, inclusion and participation, as well as the need for increasing transparency and accountability of these policies. Many important recommendations of the Roma Civil Monitor pilot project have been incorporated into the new framework, for example the supervisory role of national parliaments over governmental actions, engagement of Roma civil society in ESIF monitoring committees, the Roma Civil Monitor continuation and stronger target-setting, data collection and reporting. The actual effect of these recommendations will, however, depend on the Member States’ political will to take steps towards a more inclusive and equal society.” – Roma Civil Monitor pilot project.

“Any efforts aimed at social and economic integration of Roma will remain fruitless unless we address the deeply-rooted discrimination against the Roma. We appreciate that the Commission acknowledges the fight against antigypsyism as one of the new priority areas, however, reacting against discrimination when it happens is not enough. Preventive measures that foster a sense of belonging, contribution and value of Roma as members of our societies need to be central to the new EU Roma Framework. Culture needs to have a more pivotal role as a positive and preventive strategy that effectively alters negative perceptions and builds greater acceptance of the Roma among the majority. At the same time it reinforces a sense of dignity and pride among the Roma”.- European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture.

“We are happy that the Western Balkan countries have taken a step forward and already committed to play an important part in fighting discrimination against Roma throughout Enlargement and Neighborhood countries and dedicate national and EU resources to improve the situation of Roma throughout the accession process.” stated by Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania.

“Phiren Amenca welcomes the European Commission’s efforts to include Roma youth and achieve equality for them in the areas of employment, education, training and participation. We remind Member States that it is not enough to involve young Roma: Roma youth’s place is at the forefront of these processes. At the end of the day, all these policies concern young Roma the most.” Marietta Herfort, Director of Phiren Amenca International Network.

“The European Public Health Alliance welcomes the European Commission commitment to improve Roma health by reducing the life expectancy gap between Roma and the general population. However, this ambitious objective requires strong efforts in many policy areas going beyond access to healthcare. Therefore, EPHA calls on Member States and Candidate countries to adopt and implement holistic and comprehensive policy measures addressing the social determinants of health within national strategies for Roma equality and inclusion and to set up national indicators and targets enabling progress monitoring of child, women and elderly’s health”. – European Public Health Alliance

“We applaud the Commission’s attempt to mainstream equality across policies, including on socio-economic inclusion, artificial intelligence, the European Green Deal, digital inclusion and the fight against hate speech. Such alignment must now be built into the budgetary instruments of the EU. A first step would be to link recovery funds with the European Semester country-specific recommendations on Roma. However, we and our Roma partners had hoped for more ambitious targets in the Framework. This is partly due to outdated datasets and evidence with low numbers of incidents. We are calling on the Commission to ensure updated data is being made available to improve the policy work of the EU institutions and civil society. We will keep on pushing for a legally binding EU Framework and call on the Council to follow the same positive path of the European Parliament by endorsing the concept of positive incentives. This is vital to foster a European Union that cares about and protects all its citizens,” says Heather Grabbe, Director of Open Society European Policy Institute.

“The new Framework recognizes the importance to invest into the empowerment and participation especially of Roma youth and Roma women. Voluntary and civic activism is an important contribution to combat stereotypes and antigypsyism in our societies. Therefore, the European Commission and Member States need to strengthen and fund the work of civil society, especially of Roma youth organizations.” Vivian Isberg, TernYpe International Roma Youth Network.

“We very much welcome the EC proposal to include novelties compared to the previous EU Framework, widening the number of sectorial and horizontal key objectives, on which Member States should focus their investments in the next 10 years. Considering that, from our experience, education and employment are essential to ensure equality and close the gap between Roma and the general population, we applaud the effort of including specific minimum objectives and targets in these areas. The allocation of specific EU funds for Roma is also a priority at Fundación Secretariado Gitano, so we hope that the proposed financial instruments will support the endeavours to guarantee the exercise of civil and social rights as a way to achieve full equality under the same conditions as the general population”. Isidro Rodríguez, General Director of FSG.

In times of social and public health uncertainty, it is important that Roma are not left behind and that this coming decade is being used by governments to amend some of the past injustices and daily racial discrimination against Roma. National politics must shift their narratives and measures on Roma in a positive and empowering way, reflective of democratic societies, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Failing to act now will have long term and profound consequences upon generations to come and on society as a whole.

Signatories

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO Network)

European Network against Racism (ENAR)

European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)

European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI)

TernYpe International Roma Youth Network

Phiren Amenca International Network

Roma Civil Monitor project (RCM)

Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG)

Roma Active Albania (RAA)