This time, the third European Roma Summit held on 4th April marked the International Romani Day (8th April), which gathered not only high level speakers from all over Europe from different European Institutions and Member States but also provided a forum for the European Commission to publish its assessment on the 2013 National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) presented by the 28 EU Member States. Is it a moment of celebration of further actions? What has the European Public Health Community done to promote meaningful integration of Roma? What are the next steps?
What has EPHA done since the last International Romani Day in 2013?
This time last year, EPHA called both the EU and national leaders to fix all that is wrong with the social factors that trap the Roma population in a vicious cycle of ill health, highlighting the need to remove series of obstacles which prevent Roma to become healthy and productive members of the societies in which they live.
In the first half of 2013, while following the Roma related policy developments at EU level (including a roundtable discussion with Commissioner Viviane Reding and Laszlo Andor on 15 May 2013 and contributing to the 8th Roma Platform meetingon 27th June), EPHA gave a comprehensive overview of the state of play of the available EU framework on Roma integration.
In the second half of 2013, in collaboration with the Open Society Foundation (OSF) young Roma Health advocates from Central and Eastern Europe were able to participate in the EPHA Annual Conferenceon 4-5 September, where one of the panel discussions was dedicated to vulnerable population, including Roma.
Finally, EPHA put the spotlight on the Roma Health Mediators, and assessed the Council Recommendationsadopted by Member States on 9 December on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States.
Roma Summit in 2014 - lessons learned
Following the 1st (Brussels on 16 September 2008.) and 2nd (Córdoba (Spain), on the 8 (International Roma Day) and 9 April 2010.), the 3rd European Roma summit was held in Brussels on 4 April 2014.
High level speakers included Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Traian Basescu (President of Romania), Commissioners Viviane Reding (Justice and Fundamental Rights), László Andor (Employment and Social Affairs) and Androulla Vassiliou (Education and Culture), holocaust survivor Zoni Weisz, national ministers (Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, Greece, Czech Republic), Morten Kjaerum, Director of FRA, MEPs Edit Bauer (SK, EPP), Kinga Göncz (S&D, HU), Jens Geier (DE, S & D), video message from MEP Lívia Járóka (HU, EPP), George Soros from Open Society Foundation and several Directors of DGs, Secretaries of State, mayors, and the COREPER II representative of Italy.
The political profile of the Roma Summit has been raised: in 2010, no ministers attended the ministerial meeting and the profile of the speakers raised. However, there was neither strong representation of the civil society in the panels, nor meaningful question & answers session and in depth exchange of views with the audience. Comission President Barroso highlighted that now at least 80€ billion will be allocated to investment in human capital through the European Social Fund and at least 20% (compared to 17%) to fight social exclusion and poverty (see the full speech here)
Holocaust survivor Zoni Weisz, on behalf of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, put forward a proposal urging the establishment of a Roma Housing Fund, similar to the fund which has already been set up by the Central European Bank (CEP)
Commissioner Viviane Reding (Justice and Fundamental Rights) put emphasis on the irreversibility of the Roma EU policy: every Member State should appoint a national Roma contact point, national Roma strategies are mandatory tools and the Commission assesses them on a yearly basis. Roma are part of the Country Specific Recommendations. She mentioned the potential of a centralised EU fund that would be reserved for concrete projects benefitting Roma. “I don’t want to talk about Roma problems any more. I want to talk about Roma solutions.”
Roma (Health) Mediators: RHMs were mentioned by Commissioner Viviane Reding (Justice and Fundamental Rights) in Romania, Spain, mediators in the employment field in Finland and Spain, and Mediators in the Housing field in Belgium. RHMs were explicitly mentioned by Jan-Ove Jerrestĺl, Secretary of State for integration (Sweden), Nezdet Mustafa (Minister from Macedonia) and by Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General for Democracy of the Council of Europe.
Geoge Soros (OSF) put forward a proposal to establish a new European Roma Insitute with collaboration of Council of Europe which was strongly supported by Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (Education and Culture)
Will the Rhetoric turn into action? Assessment of the 2013 National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) by the Commission
On 4 April, the European Commission published on the occasion of the 3rd European Roma Summit both its Report and a staff working document on the Report on the implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies in form of a Communication.
Key messages form the Communication:
For the first time NRIS are linked to the European Semester and to Country Specific recommendations
The latest political commitment of Member States is the unanimously adopted Council Recommendation of 9 December 2013 on effective Roma integration measures in the Member states, which contains a reporting mechanism until 2020, establishes National Roma Contact Points and creates the senior level Commission-internal Roma Task Force
The Commission participates in an international coalition of international organisation (Council of Europe, the Council of Europe Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations, UNICEF, the FRA and OSF)
EDUCATION: progress made in access to early childhood education and care but much more effort is needed in fighting early school leaving. Life-long learning for Roma adults is needed to provide Roma with professional qualification
EMPLOYMENT: the low skill of Roma workers should be addressed with vocational training and counselling. For employers, recruitment subsidies, job trials and apprenticeship is needed
HEALTHCARE: healthcare and basic social security coverage is not yet extended to all. Investing in adequate healthcare and preventive measures for all Roma, in particular children, is essential
HOUSING: the legal definition of existing dwellings is necessary. Regular urban planning interventions are crucial to eliminate and prevent ghettoisation, with special focus on rural areas, using the ERDF funds
DISCRIMINATION: it should be mainstreamed into all policies. Attention should be given to public communication
Securing financial support for sustainable policies: EU and global grants are available to promote meaningful Roma inclusion
Specific focus is also on enlargement countries
EPHA Statement & Position on Roma Health in Europe
On the Day of the Roma Summit, EPHA published its Position on Roma Health in Europe and a Joint Press release Enough is enough: Time to break the circle of Roma health exclusion across Europe
In order to promote meaningful Roma integration, EPHA recommends:
To devise evidence-based, targeted political action and to improve the quality and quantity of available data on Roma
To secure sustainability of employment of Roma Health Mediators (RHM)
To ensure the full implementation of the EU legislation on Roma integration at Member State level which should result in real improvements to the Roma in the field.
The active involvement of civil society in the preparation and assessment of national Roma integration strategies (NRIS).
That Roma integration remains part of the European Semester and that there will be meaningful follow up actions when Member States receive Roma-related Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs)
The respect of EU legislation on the equal treatment of Roma; both the EU and Member States have to take all necessary measures to ensure that Member States comply with the Racial or Ethnic Discrimination Directive (2000/43/EC ) and the Equal Treatment Directive in Employment and Occupation 2000/78/EC
The adoption of the new Equal Treatment (‘Article 19) Directive to provide Roma with higher levels of legal protection against discrimination.
To include social rights into the mandate of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)
To involve civil society in the funding process and provide financial support for local Roma NGOs
Please find out in the following Roma-related articles from our website ( 2013)
 The ROMED programme, funded through the Lifelong Learning Programme, launched in 2011 has trained close to 1,300 mediators to date in the field of school, culture and health. For 2013-2014, mediation is focussing on establishing contacts with local authorities (municipalities, schools, etc.).
 The ROMACT project, launched in October 2013 in about 40 municipalities in 5 Member States, aims at building up political will and sustained policy engagement at the local level, at enhancing democratic participation and empowerment of local Roma communities, with a view to assist the design and implementation of projects with the support of EU and national funds.