Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Opinion

Cities show leadership on Roma inclusion

  • Ghent - one of 20 cities in a network establishing direct links between the regions of origin and destination of Roma migrants (Photo: Fr Antunes)

Roma migrants often gravitate towards cities. Like other migrants, they know that metropolitan areas offer greater opportunities for employment and upward social mobility. Cities also offer access to better, more integrated support services.

So when a number of countries with large Roma populations joined the EU in and after 2004, many Roma chose to exercise their right to borderless travel to escape poverty and discrimination and headed to urban centres elsewhere. This has brought a sharp increase in Roma numbers in various cities across Europe. And it has had a fundamental impact in the way these cities now address social cohesion.

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

In Ghent, over the last seven years, we have seen 10,000 EU citizens arrive from Bulgaria and Slovakia - among whom we estimate a majority are Roma.

This rapid demographic change has placed a strain on traditional services such as housing, education and employment.

Neighbourhood stewards work with these families when neighbourhood complaints are registered or disputes have taken place. These stewards are responsible for developing effective communication channels and building a consensus between the parties involved. They ensure that city services with the right resources can step in. The city also works with school mediators to improve the relationships between schools, families and neighbourhoods, paying particular attention to Roma migrants.

We are currently implementing a pilot project which brings together over twenty cities from eastern and western Europe. It establishes direct links between the regions of origin and destination of Roma migrants. ‘East-West Cooperation on Cities for Roma Inclusion’ aims to improve living conditions for European Roma by increasing the level of understanding and capacity of local authorities to address Roma needs.

Ghent is collaborating with the cities of Kotel, Razgrad, and Vetovo in northeast Bulgaria from where most of our city’s Bulgarian Roma migrants come. We are helping these cities establish social economy schemes that can be implemented and we receive feedback from them on the effectiveness of our policies.

This project is one of the ways European cities are taking leadership on Roma inclusion: cities are developing pragmatic tools to address the situation on the ground. These activities help to inform the EU where funds and actions are most needed.

As the mayor of a European city, I am conscious of my responsibility to protect the rights of the most vulnerable residents. It is crucial that cities and regions across Europe offer a decent life to all citizens by providing non-discriminatory access to services. The EU framework for Roma Inclusion and the framework on anti-discrimination must become effective across Europe and be applied at local level.

This week’s Council recommendation to member states on Roma integration can help match EU funding more closely to the needs on the ground. Funds must reach the local governments that are grappling with large influxes of EU migrants and developing the services and tools that improve social cohesion.

The commission should also help the new member states make best use of their EU funding to create better living conditions for their populations.

This is an opportunity for the European Commission to mobilise member states to step up their investment in social inclusion and anti-discrimination work. There is still a lot to do if we are going to end the structural discrimination and social exclusion that Roma face.

The writer is Mayor of Ghent and Chair of the EUROCITIES Roma Inclusion Task Force. EUROCITIES is the network of major European cities

Economic governance tool to be part of regional aid

MEPs in the regional affairs committee Thursday gave the go-ahead to an overhaul of the EU regional aid policy, including its most controversial element - linking payouts to good economic governance.

EU cities want say on refugee policy

Overwhelmed by refugees and let down by national governments, European cities had to step in. Now they want more funding and a seat at the table on migration policy.

Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?

Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, the bloc is ideologically split between authoritarians seeking to reduce its sway, and those seeking a moderate track. In essence, voters have to decide if they want to move forwards or backwards.

Russia and money laundering in Europe

After Danske Bank, both the US and the EU need to abandon the principle in bank regulation that it is all right to be a crook as long as you are big.

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

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

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us