EU Presidency – Hungary strives to adopt Roma strategy during six-month term

Budapest, February 24 (MTI) – One of Hungary’s goals as holder of the EU rotating presidency is for the Roma integration strategy to be approved at a June 24 summit of European heads of state and government.

The European Commission last October sent a questionnaire to all member states asking for information on how financing from EU and national budgets were being used for Roma inclusion programmes. Hungary replied within the deadline and presented concrete proposals about how the effects of various projects could be assessed in the future.

    In mid-February, the European Parliament’s (EP) justice committee adopted a plan and position paper submitted by Livia Jaroka, a Fidesz MEP who is the only Roma member of the EP.

    Jaroka’s paper argues that equal employment and education opportunities should be the guiding principle of support for cultural and economic inclusion and that the fundamental rights of the Roma should be protected. Further, EU financing should be used more efficiently and Roma women should also be included in projects aiming to reduce social disparities.

    Jaroka’s proposals are scheduled to be discussed during a plenary session of the EP on March 9.

    On April 7 the committee will present a statement on Roma social inclusion in the context of the European framework strategy prior to a Budapest session of the European Roma Platform, Jaroka told MTI. Governments and representatives of EU institutions, as well as international NGOs and civil groups, will take part in the meeting of the Platform.

    Sociologist Angela Kocze told MTI that the EU should set up a comprehensive fund for supporting the Roma. It would be far simpler and more effective to have one European Roma fund rather than to try to coordinate a multitude of funds, she said.

    Kocze, who is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Science’s national and ethnic minority research institute, also argued the European framework strategy should also engage with combatting mainstream prejudice against the Roma community.

    She said both the European Parliament and Commission wanted to direct funding to the most disadvantaged regions, a solution “most acceptable to society”. But she gave warning that a high level of dispersion can be seen in small regions and outlying areas and so the most needy could easily miss out on the support available.

    Kocze argued that it would be effective to lend support to Roma civil organisations, too. Great hardship is associated with such organisations being unable on their own to apply for European funding as part of co-financing arrangements, she said.

    Moreover, support should continue to be made available to the Roma elite and middle class, since forging this class would be the most effective way of integrating the Roma, Koncze said.