Public experts debate the space for Roma inclusion in the new European Funding Framework

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The Helsinki meeting of EuRoma comes at a strategic moment of reconsidering the EU Roma Integration Framework and the conception of the new financial instruments for 2021-27

José-Manuel Fresno will attend the biannual meeting of the EU Roma network in Helsinki, a working group of public bodies that brings together both managing authorities of European Funds and the National Roma Contact Points. Coordinated by the Spanish Fundación Secretariado Gitano, it is financed by the European Commission (EC) and the Government of Spain and its objective is to promote the efficient use of European Funds in pursuing the goals set in the EU framework for Roma Inclusion. Its main working method is to foster mutual learning and exchange good practices on how public funds can be programmed best to foster Roma inclusion in the areas of education, health, employment and housing.

EU Roma Integration Framework has a time horizon from 2011 to 2020. Lately, a lively debate arose in the consultations the mid-term evaluation of the framework. Fresno has been part of the technical team that conducted the evaluation for the EC. Some preliminary findings point to significant progress in education, some progress in health and little to no progress in employment and housing. This mixed picture of the evolution of Roma integration has already been reflected in a recent Commission paper.

Furthermore, Roma organisations claim that the underlying causes of antigypsism are not addressed sufficiently in the Strategies of Roma Integration, and less so in the practice.The same is reflected in recent debate in the European Parliament. Since the Roma Decade 2005-15 has pushed the rights of the largest ethnic minority within Europe on the agenda, currently, there seems to be a backdrop with both right-wing populist governments using hate-speech as well as public administrations pulling back from commitments to more inclusive services for Roma.

The Helsinki meeting aims to take up these political debates and inquire how the integration objectives can be fitted with financial and programming tools in order to get things done. To that end, the participants are going to discuss the proposition for the new Multiannual Funding Framework (MFF), lately published by the Commission. Namely the regulation of the rebooted European Social Fund plus will be scrutinized in order to define the conditions the new Regulations must meet, so that future funds have a real impact on the lives of Roma. In the former programming cycle the introduction of a new targeted investment priority – 9.2 under the ESF – specifically mentioned marginalised Roma communities.

José-Manuel Fresno will bring in his vast experience of linking policy with on-the-ground action of public and non-governmental actors. Before taking off to Helsinki José-Manuel said:

“This meeting is essential to take stock on what we have learnt from using EU funds for Roma inclusion. Instead of a radical change in the framework and its instruments, we should rather aim to consolidate structures that are reliable and have proven successful in making sure the funds get to the ground where they are most needed. Employment and housing are critical, and only limited lessons have been drawn so far. For sure, the Spanish Acceder programme stands out. Tackling five-hundred years of segregation needs a long-term vision and predictable programmes that trigger a dynamic of civil organisations claiming the rights of Roma.”

The Helsinki meeting of EuRoma comes at a strategic moment of reconsidering the EU Roma Integration Framework and the conception of the new financial instruments for 2021-27