The European Union has finally developed and approved a strategy that will begin the process of solving the issue of Roma inclusion and attempt to control the growing problem.
By Caroline McCarley
The European Union (EU) has been facing a steadily growing problem within its own borders. The issue of discrimination and segregation against the Roma population has been made a top priority, and with the new framework strategy proposal underway, the EU hopes it will soon be an issue of the past.
Today, as many as 12 million Roma people still face poverty and discrimination. The Roma remain the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Roma can be found in all 27-member states of the EU, but they are most prevalent in the countries of Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Spain. Creating Roma inclusion is an issue that has been debated and proposed in the past, but little success has occurred.
In a recent interview with the European Parliament, Livia Járóka, Hungarian Member of Parliament, member of the European People’s Party and Roma herself, stated her position on the discrimination that Roma people face in Europe, “We have to change from the very ethnic understanding of this minority into something more open, giving Roma more possibilities especially from an employment point of view. We have European laws to fight discrimination, but they are not implemented in all European countries.”
New Strategy in Effect
Járóka is responsible for the new policy that the European Parliament just approved in the recent plenary session. Her report is different than any other approach Parliament has done before. “Last year parliament had soft law approaches to the Roma. After working for six years and striving hard to work on a legal framework rather than strategy we have reached a plan we think will work,” Járóka stated in a press conference.
There have been several reports on Roma inclusion previous to this report. However, this is the first time there has been major reactions from the commission. The report has created long-term goals for Parliament. These goals will be enforced as to make this report one that will generate progress.
Kinga Göncz, Hungarian Member of Parliament, and member of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, played an important role in helping Járóka develop this report. Göncz has lots of faith in this strategy. “The framework strategy is what makes this plan different and special,” she says. “This is the first time that it is reaching the parliament level, which means action is finally being taken.”
Járóka even comments, “We have reached the stage of creating a uniformed set of binding agreements.”
Why this plan will work.
The framework approach is the reason this strategy is considered different. Parliament thinks this method will generate more success. The essential concept is strategies will be developed based on the information found at local, regional, and national levels. Countries will decide how best to handle the Roma situation. Strategies in the past have not worked because the measurement of success is different for every country. Roma inclusion will be more difficult to handle in a country such as Hungary, than in Italy, for example. “Framework will be based on the results found at the local/regional system, and monitoring will be done by the EU,” Járóka says. “Countries will have funds at their disposal with the basis of the program they can do more and achieve more depending on the situation of Roma.”
Járóka believes it will be best to adopt the Laeken indicators and their complemented components to evaluate progress. “Through this strategy, we can bring about qualitative change,” she says.
Roma population must participate.
However, during the recent debate, not all parties were in favor of the framework strategy approach. In the recent debate on Roma inclusion Ioan Enciu of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats party stated, “Only with the involvement of the Roma people can we succeed. Who is better aware of the problems of the community than the community itself? They need to move away from being spectators, Romas need to be in the strategy.”
Járóka believes that the Roma will participate in this new strategy, “Reports and information will also need to come from inside of the Roma Party. This is something that will not work from the top-down; it will only work as a complete community party. This is a two-way project,” she says.
Education will be the primary tactic for integrating the Roma population. “The Roma are often categorized into groups. They make excellent musicians, artists, ect., but it is hard to imagine them as lawyers, doctors, or other serious professions. It is important to teach and educate them the culture of mainstream society,” Göncz says. By introducing them to mainstream education, and educating them about European society, the EU hopes to integrate them into society. In the new framework strategy, education is one of the key factors to creating Roma inclusion.
In order to make sure a line of communication stays open, member states will be required to work with Non Governmental Organizations, so that it is clear as to what is happening and why there are delays in progress. These lines of communication will be a tool used to monitor what is occurring between the government and the Roma. Consultation and feedback will be crucial if we are expected to generate real results.
The final definitive form of the strategy will come in June. It will then be possible to take a decision and put forward conclusions to solidify the success of Roma inclusion. It is up to everyone within the European community to make sure Roman inclusion becomes a reality. “Non-Romas need to realize there is shared history and we are facing a shared future. Our hands are tied together and we need to face this,” Járóka says. “This will be a long journey. It will take 50 years to fully integrate the Roma into European society. I’m sure there will be mistakes; we’re only human after all.”