Concerted action by the European Commission has put Roma integration firmly on the political agenda across Europe.
The first signs of improvement in the lives of Roma are slowly starting to show, says a new report unveiled today on Member States' progress achieved under the EU Framework for national Roma strategies.
The EU Framework which EU leaders signed up to in 2011 put in place – for the first time ever – a solid process for coordinating action on Roma integration. Two years later, the national Ministers unanimously adopted the first ever legal instrument for Roma inclusion at EU-level and committed to implementing a set of recommendations from the Commission aiming to reduce social inequalities between Roma and the rest of the population within four areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing.
Today's Commission reports assess progress made under the EU framework since 2011 and identify both positive examples and areas for further efforts from Member States.
While challenges remain, improvements are visible:
EU funds are available to Member States to finance social integration projects, including for improving Roma integration in fields such as education, employment, housing and health. Around €26.5 billion was made available for social inclusion projects as a whole from 2007-2013. Under the new financial period 2014-2020, at least €80 billion will be allocated to investment in human capital, employment and social inclusion through the European Social Fund.
At least 20% of the ESF allocation (around €16 billion) must now be earmarked for social inclusion. The aim is to secure the appropriate financial resources for Roma integration. Member States are responsible for managing these funds. To help, the Commission provided guidance to Member States on how their Operational Programmes for spending EU funds and projects for Roma inclusion should be designed in order to ensure an inclusive approach and to better address Roma needs.