Based on the fundamental principle of simultaneously reinforcing the fight against discrimination and poverty, the European Parliament’s report on the Roma Framework Strategy was discussed in Strasbourg, on 8 March 2011. Zoltán Balog, Minister of State for Social Inclusion, contributed on behalf of the Hungarian Presidency.
The European Parliament (EP), held a plenary debate on 8 March about the European Union Strategy for Roma Integration, based on a report by Lívia Járóka, Hungarian member of the European People’s Party. On behalf of the Hungarian Presidency, Zoltán Balog, Minister of State for Social Inclusion of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, welcomed the motion for resolution, which is subject to the EP’s vote, on 9 March.
A purely ethnic approach is not enough
The basic idea of the Járóka report is the Roma population’s problem. It should not only be addressed, purely on ethnic terms, it should be linked to the fight against poverty. „This is an ethnic as well as a social question”, Mr Balog said.
Therefore, the report would primarily define social priority areas (education, culture, employment, etc.), for the EU’s framework strategy; and it would enable Roma to better represent their social and political interests. On the improvement of Roma women’s situation, Mr Balog mentioned the keynote speaker, as a role model.
Territorial approach: identifying crisis regions
The EP document points out that social exclusion of Roma people is intimately linked, to the territorial dimension of poverty. Specifically, “it is concentrated in under-developed micro regions, where it is extremely difficult to provide the financial and administrative resources required for drawing down EU funds.”
The report, in an unprecedented way, urges the creation of a “crisis map.” This is one of the key initiatives of the report, Ms Járóka told eu2011.hu in an interview. According to the Presidency, the crisis map would be a great means to ensure the social advancement of Roma, together with other disadvantaged social groups.
The “benefits” of inclusion
Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in Europe, a major reason why Europe cannot afford to ignore their concerns. According to the report, it will be even “cheaper” for society, to invest in Roma inclusion than “saving” the required funds within the next 20 to 30 years.
Referring to a World Bank report, Ms Járóka told eu2011.hu, “Roma are one of the most important and growing sources of an increasing workforce. If their employment level could be brought to average levels, it would result in a 4-5 percent GDP increase, according to conservative estimates; which is more than the defence budget of a European country, as an example.”
The coordinating role of the Commission
The Roma Framework Strategy which is in preparation, is a priority for the Hungarian Presidency. It is an EU framework of national strategies, aimed at Roma integration. It only determines the directions of action, leaving the responsibility for implementation, to member states. By contrast, the EP report urges the Commission to take on a definite role in inspection, and to issue regular status reports on the performance of individual member states. The Presidency underlines that the specific tasks assigned to the Commission, should be compatible with the principle of the division of powers; and the EU’s effective legislation.
The ministers for employment and social affairs will adopt a position on the matter, at their meeting in May; and the framework strategy is expected to be approved at the June meeting of heads of state and government.
Péter Györkös is Hungary’s Permanent Representative to the European Union. Diplomats carry their duties wherever they are ordered by his superior officers, but Péter Györkös has a “personal attachment” to his present assignment: for more than twenty years, he has been monitoring closely the process of European unification and has actively worked for it in his successive positions.