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EU policy initiatives and financial support for Roma integration: Special Report of the European Court of Auditors

EU policy initiatives and financial support for Roma integration

 

The European Court of Auditors releases a comprehensive report on the effectiveness of its investments

 

 

It’s a great report which is worth a close read. Despite the fact that it seems cumbersome, which to a large extent is due to the overuse of complex acronyms (EU, OP, ERDF, ESF, CF, NRIS, ESIF, NRCP, CBP, CSR, TFEU, etc.) and the legal-political language that the authors of the document haven’t been able to avoid, and in the knowledge that it will unfortunately be difficult for the message it contains to reach the majority of the Roma population across Europe, the Unión Romaní recognises that this is the most serious, rigorous and even self-critical report of the many that we’ve seen to date.

 

 

Some snippets of information contained within the 100-page document

 

In its audit, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) assessed whether the EU policy initiatives and financial support through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) had contributed effectively to Roma integration.

The audit work was carried out at the Commission and in the four Member States which have the largest Roma population (Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary and Romania), and covered the period from 2007 to 2015. The ECA chose these four Member States (Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary and Romania) due to the high number of Roma people who live there and because they had allocated a large amount of funding to regions that might have backed initiatives for Roma integration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roma population

 

According to our own estimations, around four fifths of the EU’s estimated Roma population live in the following eight Member States:

 

Romania                                 2,500,000

Bulgaria                                           800,000

Hungary                                           800,000

Spain                                               750,000

Slovakia                                           600,000

France                                              400,000

Czech Republic             250,000

Greece                                             250,000

 

 

 

 

Money received from the EU

 

 

In the 2007‐2013 programme period, these four Member States (Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary and Romania) together received 14.1 billion euros of aid for social inclusion measures from the ERDF and ESF. This is 20% of the total amount allocated from the Structural Funds for social inclusion measures in all Member States across the same period. (Pg. 20).

 

 

1.5 billion euros were made available to Member States under the investment priority ‘Integration of marginalised communities such as the Roma’ for the 2014-2020 programme period.

 

This was distributed amongst the twelve Member States which together account for 90% of the EU’s estimated Roma population. (Pg. 44).

 

Hungary                                                    470 million euros

Romania                                          372 million euros

Czech Republic                      200 million euros

Bulgaria                                                    143 million euros

Slovakia                                                     99 million euros

Greece                                                       73 million euros

Italy                                                           71 million euros

Spain                                                        48 million euros

Poland                                                       19 million euros

Belgium                                                     10 million euros

France                                                       8 million euros

Austria                                                      4 million euros

 

 

414 million euros allocated under the IP ‘Combating all forms of discrimination and promoting equal opportunities’

 

Spain                                                                  145 million euros

Greece                                                                99 million euros

Portugal                                                              51 million euros

Slovakia                                                              40 million euros

Czech Republic                                22 million euros

Poland                                                                19 million euros

Cyprus                                                                14 million euros

Ireland                                                                11 million euros

France                                                                8 million euros

Belgium                                                              4 million euros

 

 

 

 

The ECA’s analysis showed that the National Roma Integration Strategies of Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain contained no information on the financial allocations available for Roma‑related measures, be it either under the national budget or from the ERDF or ESF OPs co‑financed from the EU budget. (…) The absence of information on the financial means available to tackle the issues related to Roma inclusion makes it difficult to assess whether the Member States’ strategies were realistic from the start. (Pg. 31).

 

 

 

The ECA identified shortcomings in Romania and Spain in terms of assigning responsibility for implementing the NRIS. And more specifically in Spain, the ECA observed that the existing coordinating bodies (such as the Group on Technical Cooperation) were not effective in providing reliable data and coordinating policies, showing a need for better coordination in order to ensure that the NRIS is implemented properly. Both of these examples of poor coordination hampered the collection of reliable data, making it harder to monitor the implementation of the NRIS. (Pg. 32).

 

Data on ethnicity of participants collected at project level, but not passed on to the Operating Plan (OP) monitoring system

The ECA found that a number of the promoters in all four Member States visited during the audit collected data on the ethnicity of participants, but this data was not passed on to managing authorities or intermediate bodies. This meant that Roma‑related data which was available at project level did not reach the OP monitoring system. For example, this was the case in Spain. The intermediate body of the regional OP for Andalusia was not even aware of which projects had addressed Roma people, although this information was available at project level. This was similar in Hungary. (Pg. 48).

Need for an intercultural approach involving the use of mediators and awareness-raising campaigns

 

The Common Basic Principles (CBP) describe the need for an intercultural approach involving the use of mediators and awareness‑raising campaigns. Applying this principle is crucial for ensuring the success of projects, especially those concerning housing. A lack of awareness can fatally undermine projects that could otherwise have been successful.

 

SHORTCOMINGS

The audit identified a number of shortcomings as regards the NRIS:

 

  • First, the national strategies do not indicate what level of funding is needed to carry out the proposed measures for Roma inclusion. They also do not state the amount of money available for such measures, from the national budget and, through the ERDF and ESF, from the EU budget.

 

  • Second, anti‑discrimination and anti‑gypsyism have not been provided enough attention. None of the NRISs which we assessed made any reference to anti‑gypsyism as a particular form of discrimination. In none of the OPs we examined it was explicitly referred to, and we saw almost no projects dealing specifically with this aspect. Up to now, the Commission has not required Member States to set measurable targets connected with anti‑discrimination. The lack of any such targets leaves scope for institutional discrimination to develop or continue unchecked; this can significantly undermine the effectiveness of Roma integration projects, including those co‑financed from the EU budget.
  • Third, the need for active participation by civil society organisations, in particular representatives of the Roma community itself, was not always taken into account in the selected Member States when NRISs were being drafted. Failing to include civil society organisations and the Roma community at every stage of the process risks undermining the effectiveness of policies and projects (Pg. 65).

 

Monitoring of the implementation of the racial equality directive 2000/43/EC

 

This is a directive that is fundamental to achieving the eradication of racism and the integration of minorities in the society in which they live. Most EU Member States have already applied the directive in their respective territories, but we must point out that some very influential European countries still haven’t done so: France, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg. This is a disgrace which we denounce and which makes us understand why some of the most shameful attacks are carried out against the Roma population that resides within the walls of those countries.

So what must we do now?

 

First: Congratulate the ECA on conducting this report.

 

Second: Persuade the European Commission to adequately evaluate the content of the report and take on board the recommendations made within it.

 

Third: Ask the European Parliament to become a protagonist and ambassador for the concerns of the Old Continent’s Roma population. To achieve this, we propose that the Deputies:

 

  1. Urge the Commission, alongside the governments of Spain, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, to hold days of discussion in their respective countries, whereby the Roma population in each of these countries could participate to demand clarification of the Report’s content and suggest their own initiatives according to the situation in their countries.

 

  1. Commit the Commission to introduce legislation regarding the minimum representation that each country’s Roma population must have in the administration of programmes financed by European funds.

 

  1. Encourage the Commission to facilitate the creation of a Group of Roma Speakers, democratically elected in the countries that benefit from the distribution of European funds, so that they can express their well-founded views on the programmes carried out throughout Europe.

 

 

Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia

Lawyer and journalist

President of the Spanish Romani Union

 

If you want to find out more, you can read the entire REPORT in English by clicking on the following link:

http://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR16_14/SR_ROMA_EN.pdf

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