EU Roma policy struggles to produce results

The EU’s plan to integrate Roma people and help lift Europe’s largest minority out of poverty continues to struggle amid persistent reports of discrimination and racism.

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (30 August) that efforts to improve the lives of Roma “is not a trivial task” due to, in part, the increasing number of young Roma without jobs or an education.

The EU had launched its plans in 2011, but Roma children still remain largely segregated in schools – a practice that led the European Commission to launch infringement procedures over the fast few years against the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Such procedures may end up at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should the two sides fail to reach agreement on what needs to be resolved. All three countries face even greater scrutiny once the Commission finalises a probe over the next few weeks into how many children remain separated based on ethnicity.

“It is not a hesitation on my side or not to continue to the next level [of infringements],” noted Jourova. “The relevant date for making a decision is November, when we see the new figures.”

Hungary’s education minister, Zoltan Balog, had earlier this year stated that Roma children should be segregated in schools, a move that Jourova now appears to accept in areas where only Roma people live.

“I am not in favour of some kind of social engineering, transferring the Roma children somewhere else to school. I just want to have high quality education even in those segregated Roma schools – that is my requirement,” she said.

With Bulgaria set to take over the next six-month Council of the EU presidency, Jourova is also hoping for some more progress from Sofia. But the task won’t be easy, despite some improvements in the number of Roma children enrolled in early childhood education in Bulgaria.

Valeri Simeonov, a minister who…

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