Will the Western Balkan Summit be an important breakthrough for Roma integration?

At the Sixth Western Balkan Summit national head of state and European representatives pledged to speed up Roma integration on subjects like education, health and housing.

Potentially, an important breakthrough for Roma integration. The Western Balkan Summit in Poznan brought together policy makers, civil society organizations, experts and entrepreneurs on July 4th – 5th 2019.

The meeting ended on July 5th with a national and European Union (EU) leaders summit that reiterated the importance of Roma inclusion for the EU enlargement process.

The declaration

The summit produced a key document called “Declaration of Western Balkans Partners on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process”.

The document pledged commitment to achieve the following objectives:

  • Education: Increase the enrolment and completion rate of Roma in primary education to 90 per cent and the enrolment and completion rate of Roma in secondary education to 50 per cent;
  • Health: Ensure universal health insurance coverage among Roma of at least 95 per cent or to the rate equal to the rest of the population;
  • Housing: Wherever possible, legalize all informal settlements where Roma live; or provide permanent, decent, affordable and desegregated housing for Roma currently living in informal settlements that cannot be legalized for justified reasons;
  • Employment: Increase the employment rate of Roma in the public sector to the rate proportional of the participation of Roma in the overall population; Increase the employment rate among Roma to at least 25 per cent;
  • Civil registration: ensure all Roma are registered in the civil registries;
  • Non-discrimination: Strengthen the government structures to protect against discrimination and establish a specific sub-division for non-discrimination of Roma within the formal non-discrimination bodies to process complaints by Roma, provide legal support to alleged victims and identify discrimination schemes, including institutional and hidden discrimination.

Our stand

Our stand is that policy makers should focus more on early childhood development to achieve real change; read our position here.

At the same time we see this declaration as a strong signal in the right direction, especially because it’s quoting the 2017 Western Balkans Regional Roma Survey that reports comparable data on pre-primary education.

Also, the presence of important figures as Angela Merkel and Theresa May, together with the High Representative of the EU Commission Federica Mogherini encourages the hope of a real European commitment.

Participants thanked the government of North Macedonia for initiating the process and welcomed the proposal of Albania to host a follow-up ministerial meeting in 2020 to assess the progress made.

Download the declaration here.