Brussels, 22 November 2004. The treatment of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers “has become one of the most pressing political, social and human rights issues facing Europe” according to a new report. “The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged EU” report presented today by the Commission presents a series of recommendations to the EU, Member States and non-governmental organisations on how to strengthen their policies and actions regarding Roma.
Odile Quintin, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, says the publication of the report is timely. “The European Commission is now preparing the EU’s new Social Policy Agenda which will set out our policy priorities for the next five years. The situation of Roma will of course be a strong element within this”.
The report examines the conditions Roma, Gypsies and Travellers face in a range of fields, including education, employment, housing and healthcare. It sets out both good and bad practice in policies and programmes for Roma, as well as recommendations on how to improve existing policies in order to tackle the widespread discrimination and social exclusion which Roma, Gypsies and Travellers face. It will serve as a basis for discussion by the European Commission, Member States and their partners on how EU measures should best target Roma inclusion.
The report’s authors highlight that the EU can play a key role. For example, it can help raise awareness of the situation of Roma in society, and specifically anti-Romani racism and extensive Roma social exclusion in Europe. The report concludes that Roma need to be mentioned specifically in EU anti-discrimination and social inclusion programmes and other measures rather than “simply assuming that Roma will be effectively covered by such policies”.
The Commission has already taken steps to address some of the issues raised in the report, including the establishment of an inter-DG group to look at Roma issues across a range of Commission departments.
Among the recommendations for Member States are recognising Roma, Gypsies and Travellers as distinct ethnic minorities and providing protection for minorities, (which is the political criterion for the EU membership). More ethnic data collection and funding for sustainable measures are also needed.
The Roma people need to help themselves too. They must also become active as they recognise that “they too are responsible for their future, which they can and have to influence,” the report says.
In addition to field work in 11 EU Member States and candidate countries, the views of Commission departments, national authorities and Roma organizations were incorporated into the report, as were recommendations from a major international conference on Roma organised by the Commission and held in Brussels in April 2004.
The Commission will be launching an internship scheme from the beginning of May next year. The scheme, sponsored by the OSI, will be open to 10 young Roma graduates each year and will last three months. Information on the application procedure will be available from 29 November on both the OSI and the Commission websites.