At its 9-10 December meeting, the Council of the European Union adopted unanimously the Council recommendations on effective Roma integration measures in the member states. They focus on the main vulnerability factors of Roma such as poor health, poor housing, poor nutrition, exclusion, discrimination, racism and violence. It’s of EPHA’s view that Roma Health Mediators can play an important role in its implementation. Now, it is up to EU Member States to translate the rhetoric to action and to the Commission to monitor effectively the enforcement.
Background on the National Roma Implementation Strategies (NRIS)
The European Commission released its latest progress report on Roma integration in the Member States on 26 June 2013. The report showed that Member States need to do better in implementing their national plans for Roma under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies.
The Commission’s 2013 Roma progress report found that while many Member States have set up mechanisms to better coordinate their Roma integration efforts and bolster dialogue with local and regional authorities, there is room for improvement in involving civil society organisations and putting in place sound monitoring and evaluation methods to measure results. The report also found that a majority of Member States have not allocated sufficient resources from their national budgets to implement the strategies. Public authorities should do more to fight discrimination and explain the social and economic benefits of Roma integration.
Analysis of the Council Recommendation
The Recommendation proposes to the 28 EU Member states Horizontal substantive policy issues (1.), horizontal policy measures (2.) and structural measures (3.).
- Substantive Policy issues
Member States committed themselves to take effective policy measures
- equal treatment and respect of fundamental rights;
- access to mainstream education by eliminating segregation;
- access to the labour market;
- access to universally available healthcare services;
- ensure equal treatment of Roma in access to housing, and
- allocate adequate funding for the implementation and monitoring of their national and local strategies and action plans from available sources of funding (local, national, Union and international)
- Horizontal Policy measures
Member states should continue their effort to
- implement the equal treatment Directive 2000/43/EC
- protect Roma children and women
- reduce poverty through social investment
- support the active citizenship of Roma by promoting their social, economic, political and cultural participation in society
- Structural Measures
Member states have to
- encourage regional and local authorities to develop local action plans or strategies
- appropriately monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their national strategies
- support the work and institutional capacities of bodies for the promotion of equal treatment by granting them appropriate resource
- designate National Contact Points for Roma integration
- Encourage the development of, and active participation in, transnational forms of cooperation at national, regional, or local level
Under the Council Recommendation, EU Member States have two years to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground. In light of the available legal frameworks, the Commission has the possibility to launch infringement procedures against Member States which do not respect the EU law in respect of Roma inclusion.
How to implement it? The example of Roma Health Mediators
EPHA believes that while acknowledging the challenges Member States face to put the Recommendation into practice, Roma Health Mediators can play a crucial and inclusive role to help member states by the implementation of the Recommendation.
Roma mediators are experts of equal opportunity, who in the course of mediation between Roma communities and various institutions, facilitate the access of public services – mainly those of education, health care and labour market – for the Roma. They encourage interaction between, and providing information for, the Roma communities and the societies where they live, as well as by managing conflicts effectively.
Find more information about the Roma Health Mediators here
Best practices and examples for effective policy responses & transnational cooperation
There is already effective transnational cooperation in place as regards Roma Health mediators.
On 27th September 2013 the VII National Meeting “Initiative for Health and Vaccination” took place in Bulgaria. The project is implemented by the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues at the Council of Ministers together with the Health Commission at the Parliament of Bulgaria and the Ministry of Health of Bulgaria.
Initiative partners are:
- the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Bulgaria,
- the Ministry of Education of Bulgaria,
- the Ministry of Finance of Bulgaria,
- Association “National Network of Health Mediators” (NNHM),
- National Association of General Practitioners in Bulgaria
- Bulgarian Association for Vaccination,
- patient organizations, with the support of GlaxoSmithKline.
The meeting gathered representatives from the state, NGOs and private sector from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Hungary with the aim to discuss the practices for improving the access to healthcare of the vulnerable groups belonging to ethnic minorities in the region and to present the Bulgarian experience in prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases as well as the possibilities for extending the project in other areas of work.
In the framework of the event, Roma NGOs participating in the ‘Together for Better Health for us, by us’ project from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria contributed to this event.
Together for Better Health for us, by us is a consortium of four non-government organizations – National Network of Health Mediators, Partners Hungary, OvidiuRo Association, and Association for Culture, Education and Communication – working to improve access to healthcare for socially excluded Roma communities in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Over five million Roma people living in Europe lack basic services such as clean drinking water, sanitation, and healthcare. More information about the “Together for us, by us” Established in 2011 with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the three-year program seeks to address some of the gaps in these basic services. – More information about the Together4betterhealth project.