On 16 September 2008, the European Commission’s first ‘EU Roma Summit’ will take place in Brussels, under the joint patronage of the Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The Summit aims to promote a firm commitment to tackling concrete problems and to creating a better understanding of the situation of Roma across Europe. It will also help identify "policies that work" in promoting inclusion and highlighting the plight of Roma communities. The outcome of the discussions will be an important input for debates at EU level and for further action.
The event will bring together more than 400 representatives of EU institutions, national governments and parliaments and civil society including Roma organisations. President Barroso, Vice-president Jacques Barrot (Justice and Home affairs), Commissioners Danuta Hübner (Regional Policy), Vladimír Špidla (Employment, Social affairs and Equal opportunities), Ján Figel' (Education, Training, Culture and Youth), as well as Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (French Presidency) and several ministers from Member States and candidate countries will be among the speakers.
Roma communities in Europe continue to face persistent discrimination. Following the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and 2007, Roma communities now represent one of the largest ethnic minorities in the EU. However, the richness these communities could bring to European society is often overlooked, tainted by stereotypes and prejudices that manifest themselves in the form of economic, social and political discrimination.
The integration of Roma communities is a joint responsibility of Member States and the European Union. In this respect, following from a request of the European Council of December 2007, the Commission examined existing Community instruments, policies and progress achieved towards Roma inclusion. On 2 July 2008, the Commission published its response in the form of a comprehensive staff working document. This report is essentially a stock-taking exercise, outlining the way in which lessons learned can be used to make existing instruments and policies more effective.