On 5 March 2020, ESO Ludmila Majlathova engaged in a debate with members of the Association of Cities and Municipalities of Slovakia (ZMOS), Working group on social inclusion and marginalised Roma communities in order to present and discuss findings of the recently published 2020 Country Report for Slovakia.
Mrs. Majlathova provided an overview of Slovakia’s main challenges identified by the Report, progress in implementation of the recommendations and state of play on programming new investment cycle post 2020. She put findings into a wider context of discussion on Multiannual financial framework/Cohesion Policy/European Social Fund 2021-2027 and new Commission priorities, in particular on Social Europe.
The main message, which resonated, was that Slovakia underexploited its good economic times, and is low lagging behind in areas essential for future growth of the country. Areas to improve include public administration, education, regional disparities and quality of environment.
Besides, Slovakia has to face other long-term challenges such as climate change, digitalisation and population ageing.
Slovakia is among the fastest ageing EU countries. Population ageing poses long-term sustainability risks to public finances. Given significant regional disparities, Mrs. Majlathova referred to specific examples of regional initiatives, namely “Catching up region” in Prešov and Banska Bystrica regions, which can be inspirational for other regions as well. The issue, which triggered substantial discussion, was the long-term care.
According to the Commission there is a lack of a systematic vision and insufficient financing (only 0,9% of GDP below the 1,6% of EU average). Participants agreed that there is a need for a more coordinated approach among social and healthcare systems and confirmed not only lack of capacities in social facilities, but also unavailability of social carers. Around 40% of the social carers are financed from ESF, which creates dependency on EU funds.
Long-term care also heavily relies on informal cares by family members. In addition, there is a need for more harmonised approach and guidelines on medical assessment also for purposes of social security system. Participants expressed rather critical views on the process of de-institutionalisation. While they understand advantages of smaller, community based facilities; they perceive 12 people as a restriction and questioned overall cost-efficiency of the whole process.
On social inclusion and support of marginalised Roma communities, participants called for a more coordinated approach in particular on “soft” and “hard” measures. Significant part of discussion covered the state of play on programming, work on integrated regional strategies and a role of regional partnership councils.
Mrs. Majlathova stressed that regions need to get organised themselves and start working on defining their investment needs and projects, which could cover all policy objectives.