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Parliamentary questions
27 July 2005
E-1974/05E-1975/05E-1976/05E-1977/05
Joint answer given by Mr Rehn on behalf of the Commission
Written questions : E-1974/05 , E-1975/05 , E-1976/05 , E-1977/05

The Commission shares the concerns expressed by the Honourable Member regarding the serious and multifaceted problems of social exclusion and widespread discrimination as well as the lack of personal documents of Roma communities in many countries of south-east Europe. The national authorities seem to be aware of this situation and have started to develop and implement various action programmes on Roma and other ethnic minorities in the framework of the European Union (EU) stability and association process and of the recently launched initiative of the World Bank and Open Society Institute on the ‘Decade of Roma inclusion 2005‑15’. The latter initiative, in which the Commission acts as observer, has been endorsed by eight countries in central and south-east Europe, among which are Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia and Montenegro. The Commission is assisting all countries of the region in their efforts to improve the economic and social integration of the Roma across the region.

As far as Albania is concerned, the Roma community is defined as an official minority group by the Albanian authorities and the Egyptian community is considered to be a subset of this group. As a recognised minority group, the Roma enjoy constitutional protection against discrimination. However, societal discrimination persists, exacerbating the socioeconomic problems affecting the Roma.

In September 2003, the Albanian Government adopted a national strategy on the improvement of the living conditions of the Roma minority, focusing on education, art, employment, housing, social issues, public order, and health. Implementing the strategy is a priority under the June 2004 European partnership for Albania.

In June 2004 a department was set up at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to monitor the implementation of the Roma strategy. The Albanian authorities report that measures implemented focusing on the Roma include the following: an employment promotion programme for Roma women, vocational training, establishment of official cooperation with Roma non-governmental organisations (NGOs), reconstruction of schools attended by Roma children, measures to help decrease the school drop-out rate in certain districts, the opening of special classes and kindergartens in certain areas, the training of teachers who work with the Roma and scholarships for Roma. A round table focusing on the Roma, with potential domestic and international donors and partners, is reportedly planned for 2005.

The Commission continues to monitor the situation of minorities in Albania and to encourage the Albanian authorities to comply with related obligations, including the full implementation of the Roma strategy through political dialogue under the stabilisation and association process, notably at regular Consultative Task Force meetings. The Commission also supports a number of assistance projects focusing on minorities, including the Roma, in Albania.

The difficult situation of the Roma population in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has been assessed by various reports, including the ‘Report on the status of Human Rights in BiH in 2004’ prepared by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance/Council of Europe 2004 Report on BiH. These reports present a critical analysis of the implementation of the Law on Protection of the Rights of National Minorities and particularly underline the concerns raised by the Honourable Member as regards the lack of personal and ownership documents of Roma.

However, some positive developments can also be registered. The ‘Council of Roma’, consisting of representatives of 22 Roma organisations, was established in 2002. Admittedly, it still has a limited capacity and needs further strengthening.

Furthermore, an Advisory Board on Roma to the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Council of Ministers was established within the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees in November 2003. The Board consists of 18 members, nine of which are from the Council of Roma and the other nine from the line ministries at state and entity level. A national strategy for Roma in BiH is currently under preparation with the support of international organisations, including the European Commission. Its adoption is expected in the course of this year.

The Commission is closely following the Roma situation and holds regular consultations with BiH authorities as well as international governmental and non-governmental organisations, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. In the European partnership, the importance of the protection of minority rights, including those of Roma, and the need to implement the Law on the Rights of National Minorities are emphasised. Progress against the European partnership priorities is regularly assessed. The next regular report, to be published in autumn 2005, will follow up on these issues.

The Commission has been assisting and will continue to assist the Roma population with various projects (amounting to a total of approximately EUR 3.5 million) with the aim of supporting policy development on Roma issues, helping the administration in its implementation, promoting access to education and, ultimately, protecting socioeconomic rights.

The Commission is also aware of the precarious situation of the Roma community living in Serbia and Montenegro. This has been recalled recently in the feasibility report on the preparedness of Serbia and Montenegro to negotiate a stabilisation and association agreement with the EU(1). The Commission will continue to monitor how the authorities are addressing this issue — in particular with regard to housing conditions — in the context of the enhanced permanent dialogue.

In the framework of the CARDS programme for 2005, EUR 2.5 million are earmarked for an assistance programme for Roma which will be implemented by the OSCE. The planning for the 2005 programme is under way and it has been decided with all the relevant stakeholders, in particular with the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights as well as Roma civil society organisations, that the money should focus on just a small number of key areas; in particular education and income generation, as well as initiating the process of legalising some settlements.

In Croatia, the Roma minority officially accounts for 0.21 % of the population (9463 persons, according to the 2001 census). However, their estimated number is significantly higher (30000 to 40000) as Roma often declare themselves as members of the majority group or do not register. Most Roma are not integrated into Croatian society and suffer discrimination in all fields of public life.

In view of the acute social exclusion in which most of the Roma population lives in Croatia, the government adopted a national programme for the Roma in October 2003. The programme envisages a series of measures to ensure the social inclusion of the Roma, preserving their tradition and culture. It addresses issues such as status, political representation at local level, employment, children’s rights, education, healthcare, social welfare, housing and environmental protection. The Croatian Government has also adopted an action plan in the context of the decade of Roma inclusion.

The Commission continues to monitor the situation of minorities in Croatia and to encourage the Croatian authorities to ensure implementation of its obligations and commitments in this regard, including full implementation of its national programme for Roma. The Commission also supports a number of assistance projects focusing on minorities, including the Roma, in Croatia.

(1)SEC(2005)478.

OJ C 299, 08/12/2006
Last updated: 30 May 2006Legal notice