ERRC Action for the Social Inclusion of Roma in Europe
04 June 2004
The 2000 Lisbon European Council of the European Union governments concluded with resolutions to redouble efforts at combating social exclusion in Europe. In particular, the European Council invited the European Council and the European Commission to:
- promote a better understanding of social exclusion through continued dialogue and exchanges of information and best practice;
- mainstream the promotion of inclusion in Member States' employment, education and training, health and housing policies;
- develop priority actions addressed to specific target groups (for example minority groups, children, the elderly and the disabled), with European Union Member States choosing amongst those actions according to their particular situations and reporting subsequently on their implementation.
Since then, European Union Member States have developed and implemented, on a two-yearly basis, National Action Plans to combat social exclusion.
The ten countries joining the European Union next month are currently in the process of joining these policy frameworks. A first step was the development by each government and the European Commission of "Joint Inclusion Memoranda" describing existing policies for combating social exclusion in the country at issue. These were signed in Brussels by the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs and the relevant government officials on December 18, 2003 and are available on the Internet Website of the European Union at:
During the early months of 2004, the ERRC has offered written comments on the Joint Inclusion Memoranda of seven countries to the European Commission and relevant government officials:
- The Czech Republic:
The documents focus on areas in which the governments of the countries listed should improve social inclusion policies where Roma are concerned in the fields of education, employment, healthcare, housing and social security. In addition, they point out areas in which statistical data on Roma is unavailable in a number of sectoral fields, significantly hindering the development and implementation of social inclusion policies. The documents also point out existing deficiencies in anti-discrimination law, where these exist.
There is a pressing need now to ensure that efforts at the social inclusion of Roma be rigorously undertaken throughout Europe. The documents above focus on issues Roma face in some of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the fact that human rights issues facing Roma have received greater attention than elsewhere in recent years, major problems such as endemic discrimination and racial segregation remain as yet effectively untackled in these countries. To date, Western European governments have also not yet ensured that their social inclusion policies extend to the weakest in society, and many Roma remain excluded in Western Europe. The renewed outbreak in March 2004 of ethnic violence targeting persons regarded as "Gypsies" in Kosovo serves as a powerful indicator of how precarious the lives of many Roma and others remain throughout southeastern Europe and the threat of raw violence under which many today live. In the countries of the former Soviet Union, nascent Roma rights efforts need the full support of all stakeholders, if Roma in those countries are to realise their fundamental human rights.
Further information on European Union social inclusion policies are available on the website of the European Union at:
- Employment and Social Affairs
Further information on European Roma Rights Center efforts to ensure the social inclusion of Roma in Europe is available by contacting the offices of the ERRC: