The Roma people constitutes the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Member states are now home to approximately 10-12 million Romas, the majority inflicted by social exclusion, discrimination, segregation and deep poverty. The agenda of the Spanish-Belgian-Hungarian Presidency, sets forth the need to manage the existing problems with measures and instruments that are more efficient and unified than the current ones. The objective of the Hungarian Presidency is to encourage member states to adopt a European framework system of their Roma integration strategies (i.e. a European Roma Strategy, at the European Council’s meeting in June). The framework would be the corner stone of the unified European Roma Policy, on the basis of member states to develop their own Roma integration reform programs in the future.
The Hungarian Presidency will aim to pursue a horizontal approach, meaning that the integration of the Roma minority into the majority society, should be an objective for all relevant sectoral policies. The social pillar of the Europe 2020 strategy can play an especially important role in this, since it incorporates the fight against poverty. Hungary’s ambition is to integrate the improvement of Roma living conditions, and the fight against poverty in European policy, which should also pay special attention to reducing children poverty.
The size of the Roma population in Europe, is estimated to be 10-12 million. Therefore, the Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in the continent. Although there is a Roma community living in all the 27 Member States, the largest live in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Spain. The situation of the Roma is still characterised as prevailing discrimination, social and often economic exclusion. According to data of the European Commission, poverty and unemployment is high amongst the Roma population, with prejudices and stereotypes still inflicting them. In Europe, 16% of the entire population, and one in five children live in poverty; while this rate is significantly higher in the Roma population. According to research, life expectancy is 10-15 years less for Roma than for non-Roma babies.
Despite successive measures by European institutions, member states, candidate countries and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) to tackle the problem, no real change has happened since the 1990s. At the same time, it is increasingly urgent, to stop the inheritance of poverty from generation to generation, this is more than a mere humanitarian obligation, given its considerable economic benefits.
The overall integration of the European Roma is an investment that is both inevitable and rewarding. According to a recent World Bank survey, if the Roma employment rate reached the regional average, it would result in a 4-6 percent GDP growth.
Numerous Commission documents and Council conclusions, deal with the European management of the situation of the Roma and the poor. Among others, the closing document adopted by the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs, at their meeting on 8-9 June 2009 on the “Social inclusion of the Roma”, which sets forth the ten common basic principles on Roma inclusion, and the Spanish-Belgian-Hungarian Trio Presidency that began on 1January 2010; also set forth it’s plans for action in a joint statement (8-9 April 2010, Córdoba).
SIX MONTHS OF THE HUNGARIAN PRESIDENCY
One of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 program, is the establishment of the “European Platform against Poverty”, whereas the Employment and Social Affairs Council held on the December 2010, issued a declaration on the tasks for the future.
The crisis situation that developed following the deportations in France in the summer of 2010, demonstrated that Roma integration is not only a task for Eastern Europe, but is a joint responsibility of the European institutions and Member States. The rotating Presidency of the first half of 2011, shares the opinion of the European Commission that social and economic inclusion has to be supported with every available tool and policy instrument. To this end, the European Commission established a Commission Task Force on 7 September 2010, to review the efficient spending of Member State and EU funds available for the social inclusion of Roma.
Hungary aims to renew and strengthen the EU’s commitment and cooperation with member states, in the social integration of the Roma during its term of Presidency (the roadmap was adopted at the January General Affairs Council). The competent Council formations will discuss the European framework system of member states’ Roma integration policies developed by the European Commission, by the end of the Hungarian Presidency’s term. The results will be summarised by the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs, in the form of Council conclusions, and will be confirmed by heads of state and government at the European Council’s meeting in June 2011.