Slovenia holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 July until the end of 2021. This is the last Presidency of the trio formed by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, which inevitable centre goal has been “dealing with the pandemic and its social and economic consequences”.
Although in this presidency programme there is no explicit reference to Roma (or to disadvantaged/vulnerable groups), the Presidency’s programme includes many areas that are of direct relevance to the inclusion and equality of Roma population. It also pays particular attention to the Cohesion Policy Funds as well as other relevant financial instruments, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Under the slogan “Together. Resilient. Europe”, the Slovenian Presidency main priorities will be:
- The resilience and recovery of the European Union. A strategically autonomous European Union.
- The Conference on the Future of Europe.
- A union of the European way of life, the rule of law and equal criteria for all.
- A credible and secure European Union. A union that is capable of ensuring security and stability in its neighbourhood.
The programme of the Slovenian Presidency covers a wide range of topics, from economic and financial affairs to transport, telecommunications and energy, or external relations, including health, employment, social affairs, education or youth. Many of these areas directly affect the Roma population in Europe.
One of the key priorities of the Presidency will be promoting the recovery of the European Union from the pandemic, building upon a digital, green and fair transition. As part of this goal, as far as economic and financial goals are concerned “the central element of the joint recovery strategy is the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, with the completion of the process of approving national plans in the Council and the beginning of monitoring of implementation under the Slovenian Presidency”.
A special focus should be paid to the inclusive approach of the recovery efforts post-Covid19, making sure that no one is left behind, specially those most vulnerable, among which many European Roma can be found. The Roma population in many of the Member States has been specially hit by the pandemic, suffering a severe setback in their living conditions (more Information on this topic can be found in the Bulletin #5 Coronavirus Pandemic in the EU – Impact on Roma and Travellers, by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights). About the resilience and recovery, this presidency’s programme itself makes reference to the “fair” approach that should permeate this transition to guarantee fundamental rights to everyone. It would be highly appropriate that these funds would be used by the Member States to address equality issues in general and Roma equality and inclusion in particular. It is also important that funds available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility are complementary to the Cohesion Policy Funds with a view to finding synergies as well as avoiding overlaps or missing gaps.
As regards the Cohesion Policy Funds, after the adoption and entry into force of the legislative package on 1 July, the Slovenian Presidency will focus on exchanging views and experience with a view to preparing strategic and programming documents for the 2021-2027 programming period. Based on the experience of individual Member States in implementing cohesion policy in the 2014-2020 programming period, an exchange of views on an effective management and implementation system for the 2021-2027 programming period will be taken into consideration, with special focus on ensuring flexibility and introducing simplifications provided by the regulatory framework.
These funds should be aligned with the 2020-2030 EU Strategic Roma Framework and serve to the promotion of equality, inclusion and participation of Roma population. In this sense, the EURoma Checklist for the Effective Inclusion of Roma Interventions within EU Cohesion Funds programming 2021-2027 is a fine document to provide recommendations on how to set adequate basis in the programming documents, mainly the Partnership Agreement and the EU Cohesion Funds programmes, to ensure that measures implemented in the future have a real impact and contribute to reducing Roma exclusion and discrimination effectively.
The role of Cohesion policy when it comes to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences will also be considered in order to design a resilient Europe, able to respond to future crisis and challenges, guaranteeing more equality among the regions.
“During the Slovenian Presidency, particular emphasis will be placed on bringing cohesion policy closer to citizens”. European funds connect us in various ways, coming from and returning to people with the aim of eliminating development gaps and ensuring a level playing field for all.
In the area of justice, a particular attention will be paid to the effective combat on hate speech and hate crimes (particularly prevalent online), which Roma community often suffers and that affects seriously their fundamental rights. “The Slovenian Presidency will devote attention to the victims of crime and continue activities relating to the rights of victims of crime”.
The Council will prepare a comprehensive response to the recent EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, since the rights of children must play a central role. This response is highly relevant, since too many children still face severe and regular violations of their rights (e.g. different forms of violence, socio-economic exclusion and discrimination), children’s concerns are not sufficiently listened to, and their views are often not considered enough in matters important to them. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and inequalities and created new ones and has disproportionately affected vulnerable children, such as Roma.
This topic is directly linked to the EU Child Guarantee, recently adopted by the Council during the Portuguese presidency, which specifically aims to break the cycle of disadvantage, poverty and social exclusion faced, across generations, by children in need, including those with a minority racial or ethnic background (particularly Roma). The EU Child Guarantee will be funded by the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The developments regarding the artificial intelligence (AI) are also of relevance for Roma people in Europe since it might be a new and powerful source of discrimination if not considered the ethical aspects in its design. In that sense, the particular emphasis the Slovenian Presidency will place on the ethical aspects and the possible impacts of AI tools on fundamental rights should carefully be followed.
Related to the European Pillar of Social Rights and its implementation through its action plan, “The Slovenian Presidency will continue the discussion on strengthening social Europe, focusing on the implementation of the commitments agreed at the social summit in May 2021 in Porto, including implementation of plans for recovery and resilience in the social field”
In the field of education, the digital transformation will be placed at the forefront, promoting a discussion on new ways of learning and teaching, new knowledge, competencies and skills, and will consider the broader context of the development of digitalisation and AI and ethics in educational processes. The Covid-19 pandemic experience probes the importance of the digital literacy and skills, and the access to the technology to be able to stay and succeed in the education system, especially for vulnerable groups, including the Roma population. In this sense, these developments in the area of education are highly relevant.
Also in the field of education, the Slovenian Presidency will stimulate discussions on education for sustainable development, micro-qualifications, individual learning accounts and access to vocational education and training and lifelong learning”.
“The central theme of the Slovenian Presidency regarding youth matters will be the participation of young people, with an emphasis on the inclusion of young people in various social and civic spaces”. The inclusion of the voice of young Roma would be very welcomed in this area of the programme.
The Conference on the future of Europe is one of the four priorities in this Presidency. Considering the importance given to this platform, it should be assured that the discussions and recommendations in the Conference include those that affect most directly to the vulnerable groups, including the Roma population.
The programme of the Slovenian presidency makes also reference to the migration, but not including the “internal” migration of people between Member States. This topic should receive particular attention, especially for the vulnerable people, including EU mobile Roma. The European Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation, approved in March, calls the Member States for the establishment of, and active participation in, appropriate forms of transnational cooperation at national, regional or local level in order to address the vulnerable situation of some EU mobile Roma citizens who establish themselves in Member States other than their Member State of origin, or stay in such a Member State temporarily.
By the end of this year, the Slovenian Presidency will finalize this Trio Presidency handing over to the next one, composed by France, Czech Republic and Sweden, from 2022 to June 2023.