EU Roma Platform 2018: After agreeing on the values, who acts?

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

As attendees of the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion return home from Brussels, they get back to their daily work and concrete action. At the event yesterday, we heard a great expression of values – Roma are equal citizens, health inequalities need to be addressed, early interventions for young children and their families are crucial. But besides the good intentions is the European Union going to take action?

The 12th meeting of the Platform focused on health and housing, the themes identified both as an outcome and a driver of social exclusion. A third of the Roma population in the European Union, the background paper of the Platform says, live without running water. This and other disadvantages in housing are closely connected to poor health in Roma communities.

In the workshop focusing on health, REYN was present, and so were members from the national networks in Hungary, Italy, and Bulgaria. Thanks to their presence, the importance of early years was in the discussion and urgent appeals to act were made.

What do I do?

“What do I do?” was one of the questions asked during the groups discussion. Most of the representatives of civil society answered in line with what they do now. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will continue piloting innovative approaches and push for their adoption into the systems while looking for funding whenever they can.

Just like many other NGOs, REYN has been promoting the holistic approach, covering broad aspects of lives of families, housing and health included. Yet, we often hear about solutions that ignore the state-of-art knowledge. Governments keep repeating mantras about compulsory preschool attendance and we say that quality interventions should come at an earlier age.

The EU is listening but is it going to act?

Civil society has always been the bearer of innovation. Many successful programs currently implemented as part of national or international projects started with small-scale NGO initiatives. These include health mediation in Roma communities, or pedagogical assistants working with Romani children. Social housing pilots are still waiting for their scale up to the national level, and so are the pilots in early childhood education and care before the preschool age.

Now is the time when the EU and the Member States have a chance to stand up for their values and match funding allocations to the declared interests. We need to see early years well covered in policies and we need to see budgets allocated, also in health and housing. While civil society will continue with pilot actions and validation of innovative approaches, we need support from policymakers in terms of sustainability.

The next year, 2019 will be crucial for citizens of the European Union, including Roma and Travellers. We are looking forward to the European Commission and the Parliament elections, along with final discussions about the next EU Roma policy. We want a better future for children in Europe, we all know what to do, now is the time to do it.

A blog by Stano Daniel.

EU Platform for Roma Inclusion 2017, a missed chance for children’s education

- News

EU Roma Platform 2017The EU Platform for Roma Inclusion 2017 mainly focused on Roma people and the job market. Discrimination was recognized as being a main obstacle for Roma, others pointed out that more efforts are needed to equalize opportunities in education. It was hardly mentioned, however, that young people’s success starts with education at birth.

The main topic of the European Platform for Roma Inclusion 2017, held in Brussels on 27 to 28 November, was the “transition from education to employment”. As the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, highlighted, Europe cannot afford to let the young Roma not fulfill their potential.

There was a general understanding at the meeting that the disadvantage at the labor market is rooted in the lack of quality education. Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, Head of Department for Equality and Citizens Rights at the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), asked: “Can anyone claim that segregated education can provide people with the skills for today’s competitive world?”

EU Roma Platform 2017 Unfortunately, the situation of the youngest children was hardly discussed. The event also failed to recognize that the best education starts at birth. As the evidence shows, the brain reaches its development peak at one year of age, and it is in the first years of life that education has the most impact on a person’s life.

If the EU wants Romani and Traveller young people to be freed from the vicious cycle of poverty and to develop their full potential, the answer is affordable quality education and care at birth.

Recently, REYN co-signed a joint statement to the European Commission. Together with other 50 civil society organizations, we called for a stronger recognition of Early Childhood Development and Health in the current policies as well as in the post-2020 EU strategy for Roma inclusion.