Evaluation report finds shortcomings in EU support to Roma communities
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Evaluation report finds shortcomings in EU support to Roma communities

A recent evaluation report of EU financial assistance to Roma communities found that only about 1.5 % of total EU assistance was given in support of integration of Roma communities in Western Balkans and Turkey. Shortcomings in programming and implementation of projects were found in most projects.

The report states that Roma people are widely considered as one of the largest and most vulnerable ethnic minorities in Europe. The vulnerability of large numbers of Roma people stems from their social exclusion, discrimination and extreme poverty.

Roma inclusion is therefore a high priority on the EU’s political agenda and that of member states. The challenge is faced both within the EU and in the countries of Western Balkans and Turkey. In those countries, EU’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) has been one of the most important sources of financial assistance to help tackle the problems of Roma exclusion.

The over 100 pages long evaluation was ordered by the European Commission and covers Croatia (now an EU member state), Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The evaluators identified 80 projects, with a total EU contribution of EUR 216 million. Of this some EUR 150 million was estimated to be for Roma inclusion.

In addition, the report includes country assessments and case studies. The evaluation team was tasked to explore a large number of evaluation questions under five broad headings: quality of intervention logic, performance of assistance, quality of monitoring, and EU cooperation with external stakeholders.

 “The report gives an excellent insight in how IPA programmes fails to reach out to Roma if they are not ’explicit but not exclusively’ targeted,” says Ruus Dijksterhuis, director of Brussels based European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO Network).

The “explicit but not exclusive targeting principle” means that EU funding should promote Roma integration without excluding non-Roma participants in projects. The principle is one of 10 basic principles which were adopted by EU in 2009. Other principles concern the involvement of civil society and the active participation of the Roma in the projects.

The report often reads as a repetition of shortcomings found in previous evaluations. Project designs suffer of common weaknesses such as absence ofrobust needs analyses, inadequate intervention logic and loosely defined indicators ofachievement.

Statistics on Roma in IPA countries are unreliable and present major challenges for programming, particularly in assessing the scale of the need to be addressed. Monitoring at country, programme and project level is still very poor.

The allocation of funding was uneven by country with Serbia accounting for about half of the total funding. This was mainly due to the funding for displacement and return of Roma refugees from Kosovo. In Turkey, by contrast, IPA funding for Roma inclusion is negligible.

While most projects were efficient – completed to budget, either on time or with small no-cost extensions – credible assessment of project effectiveness proved difficult to carry out because of poor design of indicators and means of verification.

Results, impact and sustainability differed by policy area and country. Housing projects generally achieved their objectives in terms of providing new or improved housing, but there have been difficulties in providing sustainable livelihoods from associated activities. Employment projects did not achieve any notable successes.

Education projects in Serbia are likely to have substantial impact over time. Education interventions in other countries have not been so successful at becoming institutionalised, and therefore their impact is likely to be limited.

Sustainable return to Kosovo has been questionable but hard to assess. The biggest challenge is because projects are not able to secure the necessary social and economic conditions for a sustainable return. The report states that support for displaced people in their place of displacement is perhaps more successful than assisting returns.

A major finding is that Roma civil society organisations are not sufficiently involved in programming, implementation and monitoring of IPA assistance.

“Overall, based on an analysis of programme and project documents, it is clear that the project design process does not sufficiently involve either Roma civil society or project final beneficiaries, with time and resources perceived as the main constraints,” the report summarizes.

But this is a false economy according to the report. Evidence from elsewhere shows that more investment in design will contribute to better projects/actions, greater ownership of results and stronger sustainability.

“This confirms the standpoint of the ERGO Network that dedicated funding for capacity building and organisational support of Roma NGOs, networks and local groups is needed to ensure they can take ownership for the policies, programmes and projects targeting them,” Ruus Dijksterhuis says.

She also recommends to carry out the same kind of evaluation on the spending of EU money in the EU, at least in those Members States with a large share of Roma.

The report ends with a number of useful recommendations, some of which have been proposed before. One question left unanswered is whether EU will increase its funding to the integration of Roma in the current programming period (2014 – 2020).

The Brussels Times