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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article18 December 2018Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

EU and Open Society Foundations join forces to improve education opportunities for Roma youth in the Western Balkans and Turkey

The European Commission and the Open Society Foundations are launching a new project to increase education opportunities for Roma students and Roma youth in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The project, implemented by the Roma Education Fund (REF)...

EU and Open Society Foundations

The European Commission and the Open Society Foundations are launching a new project to increase education opportunities for Roma students and Roma youth in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The project, implemented by the Roma Education Fund (REF), will in particular contribute to improving Roma youth employability, by ensuring a smooth transition of Roma students from education to employment.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Brussels, Christian Danielsson, European Commission's Director-General for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: 'We need to bridge the dramatic gaps in the participation of Roma youth in education at all levels. The project we are launching today will address this challenge, thus opening better employment prospects for young Roma when they leave school and start their adult life.'

Alexander Soros, Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations, said: ‘For more than 30 years, Open Society has been committed to the education of Roma and to tackling the discrimination and lack of opportunity that they too often face. We have seen Roma succeed in education when proper conditions are met. In the Western Balkans, our cooperation with the European Commission, the Roma Education Fund and local groups has been key. The public commitment from several leaders from the region is critical and has provided additional momentum to this process. We warmly welcome the enhanced dedication of European institutions signaled today as an important step towards making the promise of Roma inclusion a reality ’

Ensuring equal opportunities for Roma through education and employment is not just a moral and social imperative, but also an economic necessity. According to ‘Roma survey 2017’, in countries like Serbia, in the next 15-20 years citizens of Roma descent may represent between 14 to 29 percent of total new labour market entrants. Yet, across the region, upper secondary education completion rates among vulnerable Roma are on average 20%, compared to 84% for non-Roma students; between 62 and 82 percent of Roma youth are not in employment, education or training, compared to between 24 and 30 percent of non-Roma population.

The project will run for three years and will be implemented by the Roma Education Fund (REF) in partnership with national and sub-national education and employment authorities, Roma NGOs and local civil society organisations. It will promote equal participation in quality education for Roma children and youth from pre-school to university and vocational training. The total contribution to the project by the European Commission amounts to €2.8 million.

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