Efforts for Roma

Amnesty poster

Amnesty poster

Between 10 and 12 million Roma live in Europe. They are often subject to discrimination and social rejection, they live in deep poverty and lack access to health care and decent living conditions. Reports on violence and abuse are unfortunately all too common. Studies have shown that one out of three Roma is unemployed, 20% are not included in any kind of health insurance, and as many as 90% live below the poverty line. Too many children do not attend school, and only 15% of Roma children finish compulsory school.

They have a higher level of unemployment, higher levels of ill-health, and lower levels of education than the average European. In too many countries, Roma are living in camps on garbage dumps in very simple houses, or perhaps shacks would be a better word. I have visited several camps like this myself, and it is not worthy of Europe. The situation is generally bad, and appalling at places.

In 2011, the EU Council of Ministers adapted a proposal put forward by the Commission on a plan of integration of Roma. This means that all 27 EU Member States are bound to establish national strategies for the integration of Roma. This is to be reviewed once a year, which we did today.

Each country has a national strategy that focuses on four priority areas: health care, homes, education and employment. We are now also putting forward areas that aim more at the societal structure: cooperation with civil society, with regional and local authorities, review and follow-up of goals and measures. The countries need to be active in ensuring that legislation on anti-discrimination is being followed, they must establish a national point of contact, and ensure that all of this is adequately financed.

The integration of Roma is first and foremost a national responsibility, but the European Commission cannot silently stand by when EU citizens are being treated badly. We need concrete measures; a strategy should not just be a document with fancy words, it need to also lead to actual results. The EU Member States need to do much more to ensure effective integration, such as making sure that Roma children go to pre-school and to school, as well as ensuring that these strategies are implemented on local and regional level. A country which has a large Roma population needs to make a greater effort.

The EU can also make sure that examples of good practice are showcased. In April this year, I visited the Roma preschool in Gothenburg that is being run by the Rescue Mission. It is an amazing project. Their work is aimed at giving the children a place to be during the day, as well as a functioning as a centre that can assist the adults. It is a lovely initiative that also has inspired ordinary people in Gothenburg to help out.

In times of economic crisis, it is important to not only talk about growth and competitiveness in Europe. We also have a responsibility of upholding the fundamental values of the EU. In this context, it is completely unacceptable that the largest minority of this continent is still being discriminated and marginalised.

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