Roma Civil Monitor’s third cycle: NGOs focus on blind spots in Roma inclusion policies in 27 EU countries

January 14, 2020

Issues that hinder Roma inclusion and have not been effectively considered or addressed by national Roma inclusion strategies so far are in the focus of the Roma Civil Monitor’s third reporting cycle. More than 90 civil society organisations and experts from 27 EU Member States are analysing public policies or their absence and will report on the “blind spots”; the reports will be available by mid-2020.

This last monitoring cycle of the Roma Civil Monitor pilot project follows two years that focused first on the predefined horizontal topics of governance, anti-discrimination and fighting antigypsyism and then on the four traditional thematic policy fields of education, employment, healthcare and housing. The third cycle is based on a bottom-up approach using investigations conducted by the NGOs to determine the issues to be analysed depending on the needs in their country, as identified through their professional experience and consultation with wider civil society. It is hoped that the findings will be used as a constructive contribution to the design of the national post-2020 strategies as well as to the EU’s own Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

In this final year of reporting, the civil society organizations’ research choices have demonstrated some interesting similarities. Most of the NGOs see gaps and ineffective Roma inclusion as stemming from governance issues, such as weak executive branch coordination or a lack of monitoring and assessment of the impact of large programmes on Roma, as well as unaddressed problems of the antigypsyism experienced by Roma, including institutional and structural racism more broadly. Unless these problems are solved, it is difficult to anticipate progress on the inclusion of Roma.

Other frequently observed problems include specific weaknesses in social policies, for example when it comes to the situation and rights of Roma children, elder care, gender-related issues or homelessness. The situation of Roma coming from other EU countries and migrants from third countries remains unaddressed in many countries that otherwise perform well in ensuring social inclusion. Employability and empowerment of Roma youth, segregation in education and housing, as well as the situation of Roma civil society are other areas of concern in the view of the NGOs involved in the Roma Civil Monitor pilot project.

Central European University’s Center for Policy Studies (CEU CPS), which coordinates this pilot project, has produced a video (below) in which representatives of the participating NGOs explain what the RCM has yielded for them. The video introduces viewers to the men and women involved in this extensive work from more than 90 civil society organizations EU-wide.

Several NGOs have chosen to explore gender-related issues. Civil society monitors in Bulgaria are researching how policy addresses gender-based discrimination and violence within the Roma community. Segregation of Roma women and how policy addresses this issue will be investigated by civil society in Cyprus, and civic participation of Roma and Sinti women has been chosen by civil society researchers in the Netherlands as necessitating further research. Improving elder care service provision to the Roma in Sweden so girls and young women can access education and employment will be investigated by civil society researchers there.

Continuing the work of the second year of reports, which focused on Roma access to education, employment, health care and housing, several civil society groups in various Member States will further explore housing-related issues. In Belgium, the report will investigate discrimination of Roma in access to residency, family homelessness, and mobile housing. Homelessness among Travellers and Roma will also be a focus of the monitoring in Ireland. Decentralization of housing provision for Roma will be discussed in Lithuania. Legal solutions to informal settlements will be proposed by civil society researchers in Romania. Possible solutions to the lack of halting sites in the United Kingdom will be further described by the civil society researchers there.

Antigypsyism is yet another area in which civil society in several countries will be further investigating the implementation of Roma inclusion policies. Bulgarian civil society will research secondary segregation resulting from this phenomenon, while the civil society researchers in France will explore the impact of antigypsyism on the cultural affirmation of Roma and on their social situation. In Germany, civil society will investigate how antigypsyism affects the approaches taken by those working in the public administration (employment offices, family welfare offices) and how it impacts the performance of social work. Hate speech targeting the Roma online in Lithuania will be further described. The Polish partners will research the role of antigypsyism in driving Roma to move to other EU countries, while in Portugal the report will further describe the need to combat and condemn antigypsyist hate speech in the media and public discourse, to empower the victims of antigypsyism to access justice in such cases, and to end structural antigypsyism. Combating antigypsyism will be investigated by civil society in Slovenia, while researchers in Spain will focus on antigypsyism in social media.

The parameter of Roma youth inclusion will be further reported on by civil society in Croatia and Latvia as an underreported issue. Civil society in Slovenia will describe how the lack of a youth integration policy impacts Roma there. Young adults from the Roma community with low levels of educational achievement and no formal job experience will also be further researched in Sweden to see how policy can be improved.

In the Czech Republic, investigators will build on the work of the first year of the Roma Civil Monitor report to describe recent changes to the Government’s implementation of Roma inclusion policy and to its design of the NRIS post-2020. French NGOs will further describe the impact public policy has on interethnic relations and on intra-group identity across different levels of society.

Participation is another recurrent theme. Barriers to both Roma and pro-Roma civil society empowerment, leadership and participation will be further described in the Czech Republic. Monitors in Estonia will explore Roma empowerment through government bodies and nonprofit umbrella organisations. Researchers in Hungary will further investigate the fact of Roma invisibility in domestic mainstream political representation and the limits on local civic self-organisation arising from developments in political power relations there. Empowerment and participation of Roma and Sinti within civil society itself will also be further researched in the Netherlands. Monitors in Poland will explore Roma community empowerment, leadership and self-organisation. Spanish researchers will further describe the functions and results of the work of Roma advisory councils to the government there.

Researchers reporting on Hungary will further describe how the providers of public services endanger the implementation of Roma integration policy because of a lack of capacity and protocols. Irish civil society will further discuss the need for Ethnic Equality Monitoring. Researchers in Denmark, Italy and Luxembourg will explore the lack of data about Roma, including EU-mobile Roma, and possible solutions. In Portugal, the evaluation and monitoring of large-scale national Roma integration programmes will be further described.

Some monitors will expand on their previous findings with respect to education. The research in Croatia will focus on Roma in special needs education and on the impact of school segregation compared to inclusive schooling. Education systems as a possible environment for Roma empowerment will be described in Estonia. In Finland, civil society will explore the support provided to Roma parents to encourage their children's access to education and meaningful recreational activities. Monitors in Poland will further investigate the transition from education and scholarship schemes to vocational schools as a way to provide Roma with access to employment. Romanian researchers will investigate the effect of low levels of educational achievement on the Roma community’s employability as well as the impact of non-Roma leaving schools attended by Roma and creating segregated schools.

Drug policy, prevention of substance abuse, and the impact of such policy on Roma communities will be further researched in Cyprus and in Finland, where the connection of drug abuse to discrimination and its impact on mental health will be explored. Lithuania will also investigate this aspect of health policy further.

Among other matters, Slovak civil society will focus on Roma access to sport and how current policy promoting this important area of social life could be better leveraged to promote Roma inclusion. Last but not least, the civil society monitors in the United Kingdom will report on the impact of Brexit on Roma.

The information collected by the project to date has been made available online in searchable formats organized by country or by theme that will continue to be expanded. All of the monitoring reports produced by the project are available on the project website, as are synthesis reports summarizing the findings for each phase of the project.

The Roma Civil Monitor pilot project is coordinated by the CEU CPS in cooperation with four large NGOs with experience working internationally on Roma-related issues - the European Roma Grassroots Organisation Network (ERGO), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Fundacion Secretariado Gitano (FSG) and the Roma Education Fund (REF).