Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here and to finally meet you all.
This is my first meeting of the European Roma Platform. Today I want to start a strong partnership to achieve lasting results, together, in the next five years.
Our common goal is that Roma people are treated equally, just like everyone else. I want to see Roma enjoy equality in schools, at their workplace, in housing. To see them get healthcare when they need it. To see children play together, Roma and non-Roma, without fear or prejudice on either side.
Unfortunately, this is not the situation we live in today. Many Roma are discriminated against. And many Roma experience intolerance and hatred, some on a daily basis.
This phenomenon exists everywhere in Europe. In most cases, it's an individual problem. But sometimes, local authorities create barriers for Roma integration. Sometimes even government ministers have prejudices against Roma.
As Commissioner for Justice, the Commissioner in charge of Roma integration, I am determined to fight courageously and effectively against all discrimination of the Roma. It is time to say no to stereotypes. It is time to say no to intolerance. And it is time to do something about the problem.
I know that yesterday you discussed concrete solutions and best practices.
We need to ensure this also happens at the national level, in all EU Member States, and at the local level too. This is where discrimination and exclusion takes place; and this is where solutions for Roma integration need to be found.
I know the local level well since I started my career there.
And I know that in municipalities, many people are trying, on a daily basis, to bring practical solutions to practical problems.
But I also worked at regional development Minister. I know the constraints of the European Commission, the thinking of national governments and the logic followed by regions, when it comes to getting and redistributing EU funds.
Therefore, when I hear about budget constraints of municipalities that have no funding left to implement their Roma action plans, when I hear about civil society activists unable to reach decision-makers in government, I know what you mean. When I hear about National Roma Contact Points with no resources to coordinate Roma integration across ministries, I know what you mean. We need to address this.
Together, we are mobilising all our available tools: policy, legal and financial.
Never before has the framework for the European Structural and Investment Funds been so favourable to Roma integration – the money is there so Member States should use it. Roma integration was also recognised as leverage for EU economic development within the EU2020 process – we shall use this argument when negotiating with all stakeholders on integration measures.
During last year, we started several infringement procedures in EU countries. The law is there to be applied.
We engaged in bilateral dialogue and continue to conduct reporting on countries' situation; it is strengthened by the development of quality indicators. We have to ensure that the National Roma integration strategies can and must produce better results on the ground.
People at all levels have good ideas and pragmatic solutions. They have success stories and failures to share so that others can learn from them. It is when we get all these people to meet and work together that we can produce results. This Platform is the place to push for better results.
To conclude, let me say it again: we know where the problems are. Together, we need to find solutions and make them work. This is the way forward. I am confident we will work well together, today and in the next five years.