On 4 December 2018 the European Commission released the outcomes of the mid-term evaluation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies for the 2011-2017 period. It aims to offer information to European Commission’s departments and others stakeholders to help steer the work for the remaining implementation period of the EU Framework (2020) and to prepare for the period thereafter.
The evaluation assessed how the EU Framework and its objectives are working in practice, notably in the areas of poverty, discrimination, education, employment, health and housing. It also reviewed five basic criteria (relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, and the EU added value) and three additional ones (equity, coordination, sustainability). In terms of geographic scope, it mainly focuses on EU Member States (with the exception of Malta, which does not have a Roma community) but also covers the enlargement region.
The evaluation is based on a broad consultation process of public authorities, civil society organisations and other relevant parties. Different instruments have been used to gather stakeholders’ views: a public consultation and an external evaluation, interviews and contacts with key actors…It follows the assessment process launched in 2017, the results of which have been included in the European Commission Communication on the Midterm review of the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies (COM (2017) 458).
EURoma has closely monitored and contributed, based on the ongoing internal debates within the Network, to these consultation processes as one of the key European actors regarding ESI Funds and Roma inclusion. In fact, some EURoma proposals are well reflected in the document.
The evaluation concludes that the framework has been key for the development of and EU and national instruments and structures aiming to promote Roma inclusion, but the ambition of “putting an end to the exclusion of Roma” has not been achieved. Both, the evaluation findings and the earlier annual assessments carried by the Commission on the implementation of the NRIS point to a number of key priorities that should be addressed, notably:
- A more effective approach to the needs of Roma people in general policies, combined with targeted measures
The EU Framework and NRIS should be mobilised more effectively to ensure that mainstream policies are responsive to Roma specific needs. National authorities should follow a twin strategy: making mainstream services inclusive, while providing targeted programmes towards the most vulnerable. In this sense, NRIS should detail how to further include Roma in the key priority areas of the Framework and what explicit measures will be developed to overcome specific disadvantages and ensure effective equal access in the different areas.
In addition, consistency between the EU Framework and other policies and between Roma integration goals and key EU and international policy efforts (such as the European Pillar of Social Rights and the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development) should be strengthened.
Particular attention is given to the role of ESI Funds and its connection with the NRIS. Member States are encouraged to make full use of the ESF Investment Priority ‘Integration of marginalised communities such as Roma’ (I.P. 9.2.) and other relevant investment priorities. In addition, the European Commission proposes to strengthen the link between NRIS and EU funding in the upcoming ESI Funds programming period by maintaining a specific objective similar to the one of the current programming period and allowing funds to be used only if they are linked to strengthened thematic enabling conditions which include requirements for NRIS:
- measures to accelerate Roma integration, and prevent and eliminate segregation;
- taking into account the gender dimension and situation of young Roma;
- setting baselines, measurable milestones and targets;
- arrangements for monitoring, evaluation and review;
- arrangements for mainstreaming Roma inclusion at regional and local levels;
- arrangements for ensuring that the design, implementation, monitoring and review of NRIS are conducted in close cooperation with Roma civil society and all other relevant stakeholders, including those at regional and local level.
EURoma welcomes Commission’s proposal to promote that mainstream policies are inclusive to Roma, while maintaining target measures, aimed to compensate the disadvantages.To this end, it is essential that all actors in charge of instruments that could be of relevance for Roma inclusion assume the implementation of the EU Framework and the NRIS as theirs. This should happen both at horizontal and at vertical level (regional, local levels…).
We are glad to see the focus on the role of ESI Funds and on the connection between ESI Funds and NRIS. The opportunities offered by ESI Funds in this programming period should be maximised, through the use of ESF I.P. 9.2. but also beyond this investment priority (within ESF but also ERDF and EARDF). Indeed fostering the alignment, complementarity and coordination between the NRIS and ESI Funds and among other key policies and administrative levels is crucial to achieve success.
2. Greater attention to the fight against discrimination and anti-Gypsyism alongside the current four Roma inclusion goals
The evaluation calls for a clearer focus on the fight against discrimination and the antigypsyism that complements, but not replace, the inclusion approach. These two fields should be considered in a separate priority area of the Framework with a specific non-discrimination goal alongside the current four Roma integration goals (employment, education, health and housing), which have been confirmed as key to Roma inclusion. At the same time, it should remain a cross-cutting priority with specific objectives in each of the policy areas. Enforcing anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation and increasing effectiveness of social inclusion policies is also put forward. Systematic efforts are also needed to prevent EU funds from supporting discriminatory practices.
EURoma welcomes the maintenance and reinforcement of the four current priority areas while adding the additional area of fight against discrimination/antigypsyism.
- An improvement of the partnerships and the participation of Roma people
Evaluation found that in general NRIS do not connect effectively to mainstream policies as they do not involve key sectors and stakeholders in a consistent way. To address this deficiency, it highlights the need to promote the empowerment and participation of Roma people, civil society organisations and public authorities at all levels, including local authorities.
Particular attention is paid to the role of the National Roma Contact Points (NRCP) and the need to strengthen them in terms of mandate, institutional capacity, human resources and budget. They have to become efficient advocates of mainstreaming Roma inclusion into all relevant policy areas and engage key departments at national level. To this end they should:
- ensure a permanent dialogue with all departments relevant for Roma inclusion;
- work in close alignment with managing authorities;
- work with regional and local actors;
- involve all relevant actors in overseeing NRIS and relevant policies for Roma inclusion and anti-discrimination;
- strengthen the system of consultation and dialogue with Roma civil society and their involvement in monitoring, evaluating and reporting on implementation.
EURoma welcomes the Commission’s proposal to strengthen the National Roma Contact Points and to promote the empowerment and participation of Roma people.
Achieving quality participation, involvement and performance of relevant stakeholders for Roma inclusion (including organisations working to promote Roma inclusion as well as Roma communities themselves) is also crucial. To this end, it is important to advance towards structured mechanisms to involve stakeholders and establish processes and methods that allow for an active and quality partnership (going beyond mere informative sessions and moving towards real consultation and partnership), to develop mechanisms for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of stakeholder involvement and to foster the capacity of stakeholders to get involved. Quality performance of actors involved as regards core aspects for the effective implementation of Roma inclusion programmes should also be promoted. The possibilities to use ESI Funds Technical Assistance as financial resources to this end should be considered.
4. Greater consideration of the diversity of the Roma population
NRIS should better reflect the needs of specific groups (notably women, youth and children) and the diversity of conditions across the Roma population (e.g. by including explicit targets and indicators in each of the key areas). Further efforts are also necessary to address the needs of EU-mobile Roma, non-EU nationals or stateless Roma by including explicit measures and human rights-based practices.
5. Best target setting, data collection, monitoring and reporting to enable policy learning
The NRIS monitoring and reporting system should provide information at policy and programme level, information on explicit targeted actions and actions to promote more inclusive mainstream policies. Data availability and disaggregation should be improved to ensure appropriate data exists to monitor implementation, achievements and efficiency.
According to the evaluation, complementing the four priority areas with the fight against discrimination/antigypsyism, as both a cross-cutting requirement and a separate area, and specifying a portfolio of individually adaptable Roma integration objectives with accompanying targets and indicators would improve the framework’s effectiveness and relevance. Country-specific targets could be selected from a detailed list of optional targets and indicators per area (differentiated targets in a common framework).
EURoma agrees on the need to strengthen and further develop these areas and considers that the European Commission has a key role to play in driving progress by strengthening monitoring of compliance, providing guidance and support and encouraging alignment between policies at European level.
- Increased ambition for progress during the pre-accession phase of the candidate countries
The evaluation included also pre-accession countries and the findings shows the importance of ambitious objectives on Roma integration in the pre-accession phase. Therefore, promoting equal access to education, employment, health and housing has been included as part of the enlargement process. All enlargement countries adopted an NRIS, nominated NRCPs and implemented an annual reporting system similar to Member States. Even if progress has been achieved, much remains to be done on the challenges identified above.
Overall, EURoma agrees on the value of the EU Framework which highlighting Roma inclusion as a European concern has certainly helped to increase the efforts to overcome the unequal situation that Roma suffer across the EU. In addition, the wide recognition of ESI Funds (mainly ESF and ERDF, but also EAFRD) as key financial and political instrument to promote Roma inclusion and to develop the NRIS has implied an unprecedented opportunity to foster the alignment between these financial resources and national strategies, encouraging the connection between the bodies in charge of Roma policies (National Roma Contact Points) and of the financial resources (ESI Funds Managing Authorities). Initiatives such as EURoma have largely contributed to the creation and consolidation of these links and therefore to the improved alignment between political and financial tools.
However, much remains to be done to achieve what should be the main goal: to ensure that the EU Framework for NRIS, together with financial instruments, translate into widespread tangible changes in the lives of the of many European Roma that still suffer from poverty, exclusion, inequalities and discrimination and on the reduction of the gaps between Roma and the majority population. The wide range of possibilities offered by ESI Funds, through the use of ESF Investment priority 9.2. and beyond, to achieve Roma inclusion in compliance with the objectives of the NRIS should be fully used to this end.