First ever EU legal instrument for Roma inclusion adopted

December 12, 2013

On 9 December 2013 all 28 European Union Member States committed to implementing a set of recommendations, proposed by the European Commission, to step up the economic and social integration of Roma communities.

The Council Recommendation was adopted unanimously by ministers meeting in the Council less than six months after the Commission's proposal (IP/13/607, MEMO/13/610). It is the first ever EU-level legal instrument for Roma inclusion. With the adoption of the Recommendation Member States commit to taking targeted action to bridge the gaps between the Roma and the rest of the population.

The Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States adopted at the same day gives specific guidance to help Member States strengthen and accelerate their efforts. It recommends that Member States take targeted action to bridge the gaps between the Roma and the rest of the population. It reinforces the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies agreed by all Member States in 2011 (IP/11/789) by setting the conditions for an effective inclusion of Roma people in the Member States.

Based on Commission reports on the situation of the Roma over recent years, the Recommendation focuses on the four areas where EU leaders signed up to common goals for Roma integration under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. To put in place the targeted actions, it asks Member States to allocate not only EU but also national and third sector funds to Roma inclusion – a key factor identified by the Commission in its evaluation of Member States' national strategies last year (IP/12/499).

In addition, it gives guidance to Member States on cross-cutting policies for Roma integration, such as ensuring that the strategies go local, enforcing anti-discrimination rules, following a social investment approach, protecting Roma children and women and addressing poverty.

Next Steps

Although the Recommendation is not legally binding, Member States are now expected to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground. A progress report by the Commission in June showed that Member States need to do better in implementing their national Roma integration strategies under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (see country by country factsheets). The Commission will again report back on progress made by Member States in spring 2014.

Although formally the European Parliament is not required to vote on the matter, it has also supported the Council Recommendation, following a vote on 5 December by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE). The Committee endorsed a draft resolution on progress on implementing National Roma Integration Strategies which underlined the role of local and regional authorities in developing and implementing the Roma policies, as well as the importance of allocating adequate financial resources to Roma inclusion policies. The resolution is expected to be endorsed by the European Parliament in plenary session early in 2014.

The Commission for its part will continue to assess progress in its own annual Roma progress reports each spring. The findings will also feed into the European Semester process for economic policy coordination. In the May 2013 exercise, based on the Commission's proposal, the Council issued country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for five Member States under the European Semester on issues related to Roma (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia). These country specific recommendations called upon the five Member States to ensure the implementation of their national roma integration strategies and to mainstream Roma specific measures into relevant horizontal policies. The European Semester annual cycle makes sure that Roma integration remains firmly and continuously on the EU agenda.

To have tangible and sustainable results on the ground, budgetary allocations should be ensured from national and EU resources as of 2014. The EU Structural Funds, in particular the European Social Fund, will remain an important financial lever to support Roma inclusion. For the forthcoming financial period, the Commission has proposed that the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma, should be a specific investment priority. Related to that a dedicated ex-ante conditionality was proposed to ensure that EU support is part and parcel of a comprehensive Roma inclusion strategy. In order to secure the appropriate financial resources, Member States must earmark at least 20% of their European Social Fund allocation to social inclusion.

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