The European Commission released their assessment of the National Roma Strategic Frameworks (NRSFs) on January 9th, 2023. Member States, EU candidate countries and potential candidates were invited to develop national plans as foreseen by the Council Recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation with an emphasis on improving equality, inclusion, and participation of Roma people in their countries. Eurodiaconia previously published an initial assessment of several National Roma Strategic Frameworks (CZ, DK, HU, NL, RO, SK) based on desk research and in consultation with our members from the countries with a focus on whether social protection, access to employment, and education are adequately addressed in the national plans.

Eurodiaconia welcomes the commitment of Member States to further develop integrated policy measures and dedicate funding towards the full equality, inclusion, and participation of Roma throughout Europe. Additionally, it is encouraging to note that Roma were more involved in the development of the national plans than they were in the context of the previous framework. We further welcome the Commission’s thorough assessment of the national plans, which were developed in consultation with civil society at the national and EU level. Member States have been asked to make revisions of the plans and report on their progress by June 2023.

Unfortunately, as noted in our initial assessment of several NRSFs, many of the frameworks lack a cohesive monitoring framework. This indicates that it will be difficult to determine whether and how funding and programmes have any real impact. The lack of monitoring and data collection disaggregated by ethnicity ultimately could allow Member States to ignore the extent of the problem and instead promote their small case study style successes and ignore wider structural issues. The Commission points out this issue repeatedly in their assessment of the national plans, but it is unclear whether Member States will revise their monitoring plans considering this assessment.

Investment into social services is a key element that we analysed in our assessment of several national Roma strategic frameworks. Many national plans describe current health-related initiatives instead of putting forward new investment and commitment towards increasing targeted access and uptake of social services for Roma people and communities. In order to increase Roma people’s access to education, employment, and health services, social service providers play an important role in facilitating this access and in building trust in institutions that have historically discriminated against Roma. The role of Roma mediators in this is mentioned in several national plans but should be strengthened with dedicated funding and professional acknowledgement of this important function. Furthermore, many national plans do not adequately acknowledge the role of antigypsyism in the socio-economic exclusion of Roma nor do they propose solutions to address antigypsyism. We therefore welcome the Commission’s assessment that Member States should set more ambitious targets for enabling access to social protection, create more concrete plans for achieving these goals, and better include measures to combat antigypsyism.

The past few years have already proven the continued marginalisation of many Roma, many of whom were deeply affected by the COVID pandemic and the Russian war against Ukraine. It is essential that Member States go beyond patchwork solutions and establish dedicated policy and programmes with robust monitoring frameworks to ensure that Roma equality, inclusion, and participation is prioritised. The revision of national plans in line with the Commission’s assessment would greatly improve their quality, ambition, and ability to enact positive, long-term change.