Marking International Roma Day, the European Commission on Monday (8 April) urged member countries to ensure that NGOs representing Roma are involved in the planning and use of EU funds for integration into society.
Five commissioners issued a joint statement to mark International Roma Day, established in 1990 at the fourth World Romani Congress in Warsaw.
Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding (in charge of justice), László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), Johannes Hahn (Regional Policy) and Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth) accused member countries for failing to deliver on agreed policies for the Roma.
They said that the Commission will adopt before summer a report on how states implemented their national strategies on Roma inclusion.
"In addition, the negotiations on EU Funds for the period 2014-2020 will be decisive. It is crucial to ensure that national Roma contact points, Roma NGOs and experts are involved in the planning as early as possible,” the Commissioners said.
EU funds for inclusion
EU Structural Funds – the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) – have been mobilised to boost national efforts for Roma integration, alongside national budgets.
Although the three funds total €50 billion per year, the commissioners said not enough benefits disadvantaged Roma communities. They urged the national Roma contact points to be closely involved in the planning of the use of EU money.
Roma comprise one of the largest ethnic minority communities in Europe, with a population estimated by the Council of Europe at 10 million to 12 million.
World Bank research shows that full Roma integration could bring around €500 million a year to the economies of some European countries by improving productivity, cutting welfare bills and boosting tax receipts, the commissioners argued.
“Roma integration thus must not be seen as a cost, but as a social investment, and will be key in achieving the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth,” the commissioners said in a statement.
France and several other EU countries have been criticised for their treatment and expulsions of Roma. Several German cities have requested EU funds to cope with the influx of Roma from Bulgaria and Romania who are seeking better opportunities in richer EU countries.