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After receiving National Roma Integration Strategies from the EU Member States, the European Commission has analysed the proposals and, with the launch of the Communication on the strategies of 21 May 2012, called on EU Member States for their comprehensive efforts on implementation to improve the economic and social integration of Europe’s 10 to 12 million Roma. Regretfully, out of 4 focus areas of Roma inclusion, health and housing lack strategic and systematic vision.

In the run-up towards preparing the report, the European Commission DG Justice and Non-Discrimination invited several other Commission units (notably, DG Education, DG Employment, DG Sanco, DG Regio) to pursue a comprehensive cross-sectoral assessment of the proposals submitted by the Member States, as well as of structural requirements (cooperation with civil society, with regional and local authorities, monitoring, anti-discrimination and establishment of a national contact point) as well as funding are addressed.

Whilst some Member States have chosen to revise their existing strategies in the light of the EU Framework, others have developed their first national strategies ever – a positive step forward as such. The national strategies vary according to the size of the Roma population and the challenges Member States need to address.

The four key areas are as follows:

1. Education and measures to increase educational attainment of children – the majority of national governments focus on completion of at least primary school and access to quality education, incl. early childhood education and care, reducing education gap, reducing secondary school leaving, and support measures like involvement with civil society.

Only some member states decided to address increasing tertiary education and preventing segregation, while others proposed to provide teaching and learning programmes in the Romani language, remedial teaching, parental support or mediation.

The Commission recommends the following actions:

  • eliminate school segregation and misuse of special needs education;
  • enforce full compulsory education and promote vocational training;
  • increase enrollment in early childhood education and care;
  • improve teacher training and school mediation;
  • raise parents’ awareness of the importance of education.

2. Employment and reducing the employment gap between Roma and general population – the Commission concluded that all MS acknowledge the need to reduce the employment gap between Roma and non-Roma. To do so, active inclusion policies should also reach out to the Roma. Notably in those MS with a higher percentage of Roma, this population is largely located in rural areas. The strategy of these MS should take this geographical distribution into consideration, when identifying appropriate activities and needs (both in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors).

The Commission recommends the following actions:

  • provide tailored job search assistance and employment services;
  • support transitional public work schemes combined with education as well as social enterprises
    employing Roma or providing them with specific services;
  • support a first work experience and on-the-job training;
  • eliminate the barriers, including discrimination, to (re)enter the labour market, especially for
  • provide stronger support for self-employment and entrepreneurship.

3. Healthcare and reducing the health gap between Roma and general population – whilst most MS aim to improve healthcare access for Roma through outreach and other methods, only some MS included measures to reduce health inequalities between the Roma and non-Roma population involving a range of preventive actions which go beyond those highlighted in the EU Framework. However, only few Member States defined a comprehensive approach to improve the health of Roma. just only a small group of MS chose to address specific needs of Roma children and women.

The need for a systematic, integrated approach to health has been identified as a key challenge. It requires coordination between the healthcare sector and other sectors comprising wider social determinants of health – particularly education, housing, employment and anti-discrimination.

The Commission recommends the following actions:

  • extend health and basic social security coverage and services (also via addressing registration with local authorities);
  • improve the access of Roma, alongside other vulnerable groups, to basic, emergency and specialised services;
  • launch awareness raising campaigns on regular medical checks, pre- and postnatal care, family planning and immunisation;
  • ensure that preventive health measures reach out to Roma, in particular women and children;
  • improve living conditions with focus on segregated settlements.

EPHA would extend the list of recommendations to inclusion of health promoting measures, incl. in mental health, improved food and nutrition, incl. breastfeeding practices, improved water and sanitation from a public health perspective, health-environment link, sexual and reproductive health, early marriages, young pregnancies and gender-based violence.

4. Housing and essential public services – the Commission conclude that although all MS agree with the need to improve the housing conditions of many Roma, few propose concrete measures as part of an integrated approach to tackle the situation. Only some Several address access to housing, including social housing and needs of the non-sedentary population.

Considering the importance of the local level for housing issues, MS should aim to promote community-led local development and integrated territorial investments.

The Commission recommends the following actions:

  • promote desegregation;
  • facilitate local integrated housing approaches with special attention to public utility and social service infrastructures;
  • improve the availability, affordability and quality of social housing and halting sites with access to affordable services as part of an integrated approach.

In addition, the Commission issued a set of recommendations for MS regarding involvement with regional and local authorities and civil society:

  • closely involve, in accordance with their specific competences, regional
    and local authorities in the review, implementation and monitoring of the strategies;
  • involve civil society, including Roma organisations, in the implementation and monitoring of the strategies;
  • ensure coordination between the different layers of governance involved in the implementation of the strategies;
  • mainstream Roma inclusion into the regional and local agenda;
  • make use of the European Social Fund to strengthen the capacity of Roma organisations.

Download the Commission Communication on National Roma Integration Strategies: a first step in the implementation of the EU Framework here

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