Over the past 20 years, while the process of accession to and membership of the European Union may have changed the lives of a small number of Roma living in central or Eastern Europe, there is still seems to be a lack of political will to take action to improve the daily lives of most of the Roma community: for example in Romania, 40.79% of Roma children are unable to access kindergarten, around 42% have never been vaccinated and almost 47% of Roma suffer discrimination in access to health and early childhood development services based on their ethnicity, according to a recent EPHA survey.
Political leaders have certainly tried to respond to EU initiatives or strategies to improve the lives of Roma; however, by failing to take the right actions at grassroots level or to tackle pervasive discrimination and prejudice, it is little wonder that some feel they have not yet been able to bring about real change.
Levels of discrimination towards Roma people are still high and based on prejudices claiming that they want to remain poor, that they do not wish to work or be educated – ignoring the fact that it is poverty which prevents over 40% of Roma children from going to school, while a further 10% drop out of formal education because of the discrimination they encounter in the school system. However, the current discussions about the EU budget and a new EU Framework for national Roma Integration Strategies post-2020 are a real opportunity to change direction. Politicians should seize this moment to deliver a new framework with clear responsibilities for the relevant European institutions, national governments and the central, regional and local authorities, a defined budget, measurable progress indicators, and regular monitoring, which aims to ensure that 80% of European Roma can finally escape the circle of poverty in which they currently live.
Roma civil society is ready to play its role too. Not by assuming the responsibilities of national governments, but by providing quality data and evidence on which to build strong and effective policies, participating in their development and implementation, and monitoring the results.
Over the last six months EPHA has been working with the Roma community, Roma civil society and policy-makers at European and national level, bringing them together to ensure their voices are heard at this important moment.
During the European Parliament’s Roma week in April 2018, EPHA will once again highlight the solutions we believe are necessary to improve the lives of ordinary Roma. Ensuring equal access to quality healthcare, and early childhood development services for young Roma children is an opportunity to break the cycle, promoting integration and civic mobilization – but most importantly helping to develop a generation of children with the tools to break free of the old stereotypes and the means to make their own personal and professional choices.
Change is possible if the conditions are created to make it happen. Will this be the moment when European politicians take the opportunity to finally change Roma lives for the better?
12/04/18 • European Parliament A5G1
ROMA CONTRIBUTION TO A HEALTHY EUROPE
MEP Mircea DIACONU, ALDE
MEP Soraya POST, S&D
Organised by the European Public Health Alliance
Roma Health and Early Childhood Development Project Manager