The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU’s strategy for the European integration of Roma. The Hungarian Presidency welcomed the social advancement of Roma, which lies at the heart of the report. It mainly focuses on reducing segregation.
“We must eliminate stereotypes, generalisations and prejudices if we are to make progress. We need to be aware that the living conditions of Roma varies from place to place”, said Zoltán Balog, Secretary of State for Social Inclusion, at the European Parliament’s (EP) plenary debate on the Járóka Report on 8 March. The report was endorsed by the EP with 576 yes votes, 32 no’s and 60 abstentions on 9 March 2011.
During the debate, Hannes Swoboda, vice-president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, in the EP (S&D), also welcomed the report. “The Hungarian Presidency can view this as one of its successes”, Mr Swoboda said. He added that the S&D will withdraw its alternative proposal and back the Járóka Report.
The adopted resolution outlines a set of proposals on the framework of the EU’s future Roma strategy. Most MEPs agreed during the debate on the draft, that besides a European framework for the various Roma integration strategies of member states, as proposed by the Commission, there is a need for a single, independent and, in some respects, a binding strategy.
It is a major goal for the Hungarian Presidency to make EU institutions to reach an agreement by the end of its six-month term. The EP resolution is a solid basis for a constructive debate, said Mr Balog, adding that the Hungarian Presidency fully supports the Járóka Report. Mr Balog welcomed the report’s special focus on the ending of segregation. “Segregation is a vicious circle that creates rifts in society” he said.
Roma must not be simply objects of the policy
Segregation can cause entire families and communities to live in isolation, while remaining outside the focus of social policy, stressed Mr Balog.
In agreement with the rapporteur, the Hungarian Presidency believes that a part of the solution would be the participation of Roma and their representatives in the making of policies that affect them. “It is important that Roma become actors and not objects of policy making”, said Mr Balog at the plenary session.
This idea was also highlighted by Lívia Járóka, at the press conference after adoption of the report. According to the MEP, “the media should play at least the same role as Roma leaders of the future generation” in eliminating anti-Roma feelings that have taken on “frightful proportions” in Europe.
Fundamentals of a quality change
At the press briefing, Zoltán Balogh expressed hope that the report and the Commission’s subsequent statement would make the Council lay the foundations of a quality change. Ms Járóka and Mr Balog agreed that change, will not happen overnight; according to the rapporteurs, we should contemplate a period of at least 50 years.
“Both the majority and the minority, need to change their attitudes”, highlighted Mr Balog, and added that “the majority must realise that they will benefit economically and that it is their duty as human beings. On the other hand, the minority should realise that their efforts are not in vain; and it is both necessary and rewarding to want changes.”
Further timetable for Roma strategy
The EU’s two other institutions, the European Commission and the Council, also need to express their opinion on the topic. The Commission will present its communication on the session of the European Roma Platform, held on the International Roma Day on 8 April in the Hungarian capital. Taking into consideration all this, The Hungarian Presidency will elaborate draft council conclusions on a European framework for member states’ Roma integration strategies. The proposal will be presented at a meeting of the Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection Council on 19 May 2011. Concurrently, other Council formations will discuss the Commission’s proposal, with the General Affairs Council at the end of May, and the finishing touches added by heads of state and government in June.