Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

EU's Roma policy struggles to produce results

  • Roma children remain largely segregated in schools.

The EU's plan to integrate Roma people and help lift Europe's largest minority out of poverty continues to struggle amid persistent reports of discrimination and racism.

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (30 August) that efforts to improve the lives of Roma "is not a trivial task" due to, in part, the increasing number of young Roma without jobs or an education.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The EU had launched its plans in 2011, but Roma children still remain largely segregated in schools - a practice that led the European Commission to launch infringement procedures over the fast few years against the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Such procedures may end up at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should the two sides fail to reach agreement on what needs to be resolved. All three countries face even greater scrutiny once the Commission finalises a probe over the next few weeks into how many children remain separated based on ethnicity.

"It is not a hesitation on my side or not to continue to the next level [of infringements]," noted Jourova. "The relevant date for making a decision is November, when we see the new figures."

Hungary's education minister, Zoltan Balog, had earlier this year stated that Roma children should be segregated in schools, a move that Jourova now appears to accept in areas where only Roma people live.

"I am not in favour of some kind of social engineering, transferring the Roma children somewhere else to school. I just want to have high quality education even in those segregated Roma schools - that is my requirement," she said.

With Bulgaria set to take over the next six-month Council of the EU presidency, Jourova is also hoping for some more progress from Sofia. But the task won't be easy, despite some improvements in the number of Roma children enrolled in early childhood education in Bulgaria.

Valeri Simeonov, a minister who heads Bulgaria's council on ethnic minority integration, once described the Roma as "brazen, feral, human-like creatures".

Appointed in May of this year to the government post, Simeonov is also one of the founding members of the right-wing National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria. The same party is aligned with Bulgarian National Movement and the Attack party.

Jourova said Simeonov's comments on the Roma were absolutely unacceptable, noting that she won't hesitate to go straight to the prime minister if "I see a minister is a racist".

But she is also facing a backlash from human rights groups elsewhere.

Earlier this year, hundreds of Roma were forcibly evicted from informal settlements around Naples in Italy.

Amnesty International said the families were given no alternative housing, amid reports that attempts to start infringement proceedings against Italy on discrimination grounds had been blocked "at the highest level of the European Commission."

Asked about the Italian evictions, Jourova said she wanted more facts.

"I want to be 100 percent [sure]," she said, noting that she prefers dialogue and "strong and intensive pushing" to resolve the problem.

The data on Roma

Jourova's comments follow the publication of the Commission's mid-term review on its Roma strategy, a policy that will continue until 2020.

It noted that up to around 80 percent of Roma are at risk of poverty.

The Commission says that the rate of Roma youth unemployment and of those not in education has also spiked in Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.

"The rate of Roma youth not in education, employment, or training even grew since 2011, which was 56 percent, [and] 63 in 2016," said Jourova.

The commission also found that around half of the Roma population in Bulgaria and Romania have no access to basic medical care. Up to 8 million Roma live in the EU.

Opinion

Roma statelessness in Europe is not an accident

Roma people deserve a stronger voice in EU politics, often denied the very basics of human rights in Europe. A social media campaign under the hashtag #RomaBelong and a cross-party parliament group is demanding steps to end statelessness.

EU Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Finland shamed on racism in EU study

A survey of 12 EU states ranks Finland as the place where people of African descent experience the most abuse, followed by Luxembourg and Ireland.

News in Brief

  1. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  2. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  3. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  4. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  5. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  6. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  7. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  8. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us