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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article29 June 2021

Berlin Process: Second Ministerial Meeting on Roma integration reinforces commitment to strengthen inclusion efforts

Berlin Process

With discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation still rife for Roma communities in the Western Balkans, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to push for greater inclusion during the Roma Integration Ministerial meeting in Sarajevo on 28 June.

Speaking by video message, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, underlined that there is still a lot to do to unlock the potential of the full inclusion of Roma and reiterated the importance of Roma integration on the political agenda. “The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans that the European Commission put forward last autumn, pays special attention to access to the education and labour market participation for Roma people under the human capital investments.” 

According to findings revealed by the recent Balkan Barometer survey 2021, around 40% of the businesses in the Western Balkans are still reluctant to hire Roma even when they meet the criteria. 63% of Western Balkan citizens do not want their children to share the classroom with Roma children.

“While the Poznan Declaration adopted by the region’s leaders two years ago clearly stipulates achievements the region set to reach when it comes to Roma Integration, discrimination remains very high, and we have to take actions to reduce and prevent it,” said Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), at the opening of the meeting.

Michael Roth, German Minister of State for Europe, said that he is “thankful that the topic of Roma Integration in the Western Balkans is kept high on the agenda since Roma unfortunately still face discrimination, marginalisation and even violence”.

Participating ministers responsible for Roma Integration in the region confirmed that their national Roma integration strategies would be developed, updated and aligned with the EU Roma Strategic Framework for equality, inclusion and participation 2020-2030 by October 2021. They agreed to strengthen the ongoing work on Roma integration, and more specifically adopted joint Conclusions on increasing the employment rate of Roma, improving housing conditions, and ensuring that Roma are not excluded from the COVID-19 recovery plans.

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Miloš Lučić, Minister of Human Rights and Refugees, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and host of the meeting, said that their activities in the field of Roma inclusion are strategic and long-term. “Our new action plan for 2021-2025 includes goals from the new Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation of Roma and targets set in the Poznan Declaration. We are doing everything we can to continue to achieve even better results within the available financial resources.”

Zeljko Jovanovic, Director of Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives Office, stressed that Roma integration should not be treated as a public burden, but as public investment and benefit for all. “Investing in recovery and transition from informal to the formal economy and not leaving out this important aspect from the mainstream policies as is very often case now, should be a priority. In particular, we should protect the economic activities of Roma in the important sectors: waste management and recycling, agriculture and similar, where Roma are mostly present.”

The meeting was organised by the RCC’s Roma Integration Project and hosted by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It brought together ministers responsible for Roma Integration from the Western Balkan region, Heads of Delegations, National Roma Contact Points, Civil Society representatives, organisers of the upcoming Berlin Summit, as well as representatives of the European Union and the Regional Cooperation Council.

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Background

The Declaration of Western Balkans Partners on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process (Poznan Declaration) was adopted within the Berlin Process in July 2019. By adopting the Declaration, the partners committed to continue and further enhance efforts to achieve equality and full integration of Roma, as part of regional cooperation and the accession process to the European Union.

The Declaration foresees the achievement of specifically defined objectives in the areas of employment, education, housing, health care, documentation and combating discrimination. Ministerial meetings are organised as a follow-up to analyse where the region stands with the implementation of the commitments.

Details

Publication date
29 June 2021