On 5-6 April, the working group Roma inclusion met in Lisbon. The meeting
brought together representatives from 15 cities and several European Commission
representatives (DG EMPL, DG REGIO and the FRA) to discuss local approaches to
encourage Roma participation. Moreover, for the first time Roma people were
also present at the meeting and took part in the discussions, and shared their
experiences and views.
The meeting kicked-off with presentations on two EU-level approaches to support Roma participation at local level. Dominique Bé from the European Commission (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) presented experiences from the ROMACT programme. He said: ”local authorities need the means to develop and implement policies and services that are inclusive for all citizens’’.
Sheena Keller from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights presented findings from the research project for Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI). Based on case studies of 21 local areas in 11 countries, she identified three success factors: 1) the political will of the city administration; 2) having a network of partners (city authority, NGOs, businesses, social enterprises) in place to support the project implementation; and 3) engaging Roma in all phases of the project, from identifying their needs and priorities to evaluating the results (participatory methodology). She concluded by saying “meaningful participation is not easy to achieve, but it can be done. The key is building trust, which takes time, and empowering Roma to feel safe to share their opinions’’.
Two cities, Leeds and Grenoble, shared their city strategies for Roma participation and inclusion. In Leeds, the Migrant Access Project
trains Roma people as mediators to build bridges between Roma and non-Roma communities. Grenoble is implementing an inclusion project with ESF funding where it integrates job insertion services with language learning, childcare, housing and other services accessible to Roma people.
Through a mix of presentations, exchanges and workshops, the participants shared ideas for Roma engagement and proposed actions needed to foster Roma inclusion in cities. The key messages from the meeting were:
Cities face different challenges in integrating persons belonging to the Roma national minority compared to Roma recently arrived as EU mobile citizens. Therefore, ‘origin’ cities and ‘destination’ cities need different policy responses and support measures from EU level.
Cities need to work with Roma, not only for Roma. This means engaging Roma in all policies and projects affecting them. This should start with listening to Roma people’s needs and priorities, and empowering them to participate in developing and implementing policies and projects to address their own needs.
Including a Roma perspective in mainstream policies is more effective than targeted Roma policies. This means city authorities should consider Roma integration as a transversal issue across departments. Services need to be joined up and actions coordinated (e.g. education, employment, housing) to achieve real improvement in the lives of Roma people.
Local authorities are being recognised at EU level as key actors for Roma integration. However, the EU Roma Framework is still based on national strategies. In the current context until 2020, city authorities need to step up their efforts to collaborate with national authorities on Roma integration.
City authorities need direct access to EU funding with more flexible rules and over a longer time span to enable them to develop and implement inclusive policies for all citizens. It is thus necessary to change the rules for EU funding after 2020.
EUROCITIES will use the outcomes of the working group meeting to feed into the Commission’s mid-term review of the EU Roma Framework and to advocate for a new EU approach to Roma inclusion after 2020.