Following years of negotiations, we are approaching the signature and the entry into force of the 2021-2027 European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) Regulation, expected for the beginning of July (probably 1 July).
Following the political agreement reached by the European Parliament and Member States on 28 January (see EURoma news item), the text has gone through the final phases for the formal approval by the Council and the European Parliament. The Council adopted the first reading position at the end of May and the European Parliament declared the Council’s position approved, without amendments, at its plenary session on 8 June 2021. The final signature by the Presidents and the Secretaries-General of the two institutions is now expected for 23-24 June and the entry into force for the beginning of July (probably 1 July).
We are glad to see that the final text includes the Specific Objective (j) promoting the socio-economic integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma people (previously viiia), allowing Member States long-term programming and targeted measures on access to health, housing, education, employment and social services for Roma population, as well as specific measures on fighting against discrimination and anti-gypsyism. There are also a number of common indicators that refer to ‘marginalised communities, such as Roma people’, although as part of the general group of minorities.
The agreed ESF+ document also includes different elements of direct relevance to promote Roma equality and inclusion, including:
- All EU countries must invest at least 25% of their ESF+ resources in social inclusion, intensifying the social dimension of ESF+ and compelling Member States to address vulnerability.
- In addition to the 25%, all Member States should allocate 3% of the total budget to material deprivation (an area previously covered the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, FEAD). A fixed co-financing rate of 90% is also agreed for this area.
- Member States were youth unemployment is particularly relevant (countries having a rate of young people 15 to 29 not in employment, education or training for the period between 2017 and 2019 above the Union average for that period on the basis of Eurostat data) should devote at least 12.5% of their ESF+ resources to support youth employment. According to Eurostat, the current average NEET rate in the EU reaches 12.2% for men and doubles when referred to women up to 20.8%. All other EU countries must programme an appropriate amount to support youth employment. This will contribute to implementing the reinforced Youth Guarantee.
- Member States were child poverty and exclusion is particularly present (countries having an average rate of children of less than 18 years old at risk of poverty or social exclusion for the period between 2017 and 2019 above the Union average for that period on the basis of Eurostat data) should use at least 5% of their ESF+ resources to tackle child poverty and social exclusion. All other EU countries must programme an appropriate amount to this issue. Eleven countries are over the EU average of 22.5 % of their under 18 years population at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with 5 countries over 30%: Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece and Spain. This will also help to implement the Child Guarantee.
- Specific amounts to capacity building for social partners and civil society organisations. All Member States need to allocate an appropriate amount, and Member States with relevant country-specific recommendations need to allocate at least 0.25%.
- New article (art. 8) on the link between the ESF+ and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This new article includes cross-references to the relevant provisions in the Common Provisions Regulation in order to enhance the visibility of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
For the period 2021-2027, the ESF+ is one of the main funding instruments to invest in people and to help Member States achieve the targets set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan
- EURoma news item European Parliament and Member States reach a political agreement on ESF+ Regulation: a specific objective on Roma socioeconomic inclusion is adopted and children poverty and youth employment become priorities
- Amended proposal for a Regulation on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)