The Presidency’s goals on Roma integration have been reached, said Minister of State Zoltán Balog, on 16 June 2011 in Brussels. Mr Balog took stock of the Hungarian Presidency in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
Mr Balog stressed that the situation of Roma in the European Union is alarming, and the issue of Roma inclusion must be handled on a European level.
The EU is home to some 8 million Roma, who are exposed to deep poverty, unemployment, discrimination and segregation everywhere. In the past two decades, there have not been a breakthrough in their living and working conditions, even though their integration is not only inevitable in the long run, but also financially beneficial. The integration of Roma would contribute hugely to competitiveness, economic growth and social cohesion, said Mr Balog.
The framework strategy for Roma integration will be submitted to the European Council’s meeting, on 24 June. We hope that this framework strategy will receive the highest political level support, said the Minister of State.
The Council Conclusions calls on Member States to finalise, update and improve, by the end of 2011, their respective national Roma integration strategies or their integrated political actions, aimed to improve the situation of Roma within the broader framework of social inclusion policies. The national approach must focus on four priority areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing; and it must set out attainable goals. By adopting the conclusions, the Member States confirmed their commitment to the European framework strategy, said Mr Balog.
In the follow-up debate, MEPs stressed that Roma integration is only possible if Roma communities are included, and if it is done in a non-discriminatory fashion. There is no point helping Roma to get a home if the neighbouring population is discriminatory. Some MEPs stressed that the annual assessment of Member State Roma strategies (to be carried out by the Commission), must be critical and blunt.
Mr Balog agreed with these comments. He stressed that the Council conclusions on Roma integration also found the ban on discrimination important. Therefore, it called on the Commission to check the compliance with Anti-Discrimination Directive 2000/43/EC, in terms of Roma integration issues. Mr Balog also agreed that it will be very important to check Roma policies in individual Member States on an annual basis. Roma strategies can only be efficient if we not only use verbal criticism, but using a mechanism which forces Member States to perform efficiently, said Mr Balog.