European Commission: Funding to Roma integration still subject to negotiation

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
European Commission: Funding to Roma integration still subject to negotiation

Following the op-ed by Mose Apelblat on 18.12.2014 on EU funding to Roma integration, we have received the following response from DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion to the questions raised in the article.

Q: Are there figures on how much EU-funding is going to Roma projects or projects with Roma participants? Is there any monitoring or evaluation on this? Is the collection of figures on participants by ethnicity allowed?

A: At the moment the Commission and the Member States are still negotiating many of the Operational Programmes. It is therefore not possible to say anything about the level of the funding, nor the share. In any case, Roma integration measures are supported through "explicit but not exclusive" targeting, therefore there are no EU funds specifically earmarked for Roma, only e.g. for marginalized communities, such as Roma. The planned financial allocation will be known when all Operational Programmes have been adopted. Concerning data on ethnicity, in some Member States it is not possible or prohibited to collect data on ethnicity.

Q: Will EU-funding be more earmarked or targeted to Roma projects during the new programming period? Is there a difference between earmarking and targeting funds?

A: The European Social Fund (ESF) regulation is ensuring that the fund is used to support the targets and objectives set out in the Europe 2020 strategy and its underlying challenges. This means that there is a closer link between country specific recommendations (CSR) and the programming of the ESF.

The ESF is divided into four different Thematic Objectives. One of them is social inclusion under which there are six different Investment Priorities. The regulation states that the Member States must earmark 20% of the total ESF to this Thematic Objective. The targeting under this Thematic Objective can be devoted to different groups as defined under the different Investment Priorities.

One of the Investment Priorities under the social inclusion is Socio-Economic integration of marginalized communities, such as Roma. Thus there is an explicit though not exclusive targeting. The countries having a CSR on Roma integration would a priori need to support measures from EU funds aiming to overcome these challenges in their programming for the period 2014-2020.

The concept "explicit but not exclusive targeting” is found in the first Commission Communication on "The economic and social integration of the Roma in Europe" (2010). It recalls earlier sectorial Council conclusions which have embedded Roma inclusion into EU policy making. It states that "any progress which can be achieved in the area of Roma inclusion represents progress too in the inclusion of all ethnic minorities in the EU and vice-versa".

The aim is to strike a balance between targeting the Roma without creating (more) segregation. It also follows from these principles that targeting and ensuring a good outreach of the intervention should not result in any form of segregation, even temporarily.

Q: Will there be economic incentives to allocate more funding to Roma projects?

A: Programme support for the Roma inclusion under the ESF is determined by the challenges defined in the CSRs. The negotiation procedure between the Member State and the Commission is expected to ensure an adequate financing to the challenges defined in the CSRs.

Q: Some projects in the previous programme period were cancelled because of lack of national co-financing. Is it possible to increase the EU financing rate to 100 % for Roma projects?

A: The regulation covering ESF does not foresee this possibility.

Q: Is there/or will be a policy by the Commission to intervene against Member States who don't allocate sufficient funding to Roma integration or don't act against discrimination, segregation, and incitement against Roma?

A: The negotiations are expected to result in adequate allocation. In addition they are supposed to ensure that there is thematic concentration.

As for the actions of member states regarding fighting discrimination and segregation, the Commission closely monitors progress and reports annually to the European Parliament and the Council in the context of the progress report on the implementation of National Roma Integration Strategies.

In addition, a number of legal tools are available to protect the rights of the Roma, such as the 2000/43 Racial Equality Directive, the Framework Decision against hate speech and hate crime, or the 2004/38 Directive on Freedom of movement of EU citizens (in the case of intra-EU mobility of some Roma). Where it seems that the EU legal tools protecting the rights of Roma may have been violated, the Commission examines the matter closely, and, where relevant, this follow-up leads to the launch of infringement procedures against the concerned member state.

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