LUNIK IX, the complex of buildings in Košice where thousands of Roma live in poor conditions, received a prominent visitor from the EU when László Andor, the European commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, stopped there on May 25 as part of his visit to Slovakia. He promised that EU assistance will be directed to the community and when leaving said he would return in three years’ time to see whether the help was effective.
“We had a discussion with leaders of the community and also representatives of the city and I strongly believe that if there is a continued dialogue there will be common understanding and common action,” Andor said, as quoted by the Sme daily.
Andor said the measures should be directed at a whole range of issues, including, in the first place, better education and ensuring that children from the neighbourhood complete the compulsory grades of education.
Andor admitted that cooperation between the European Commission and municipal authorities needs to improve and said he believed EU funds would be helpful in efforts to improve living conditions for those who live in Lunik IX.
“But one cannot expect changes to happen overnight,” he said, as quoted by Sme.
Prior to his visit to Lunik IX, Andor attended a conference in Košice focusing on Roma integration, accompanied by one of the EC's vice presidents, Maroš Šefčovič.
Šefčovič said at the conference that Slovakia has earmarked approximately €200 million from EU Structural Funds for programmes and projects to advance the integration of its Roma citizens but admitted that the drawing down of these resources has been rather slow, ascribing this primarily to complicated administrative processes, the SITA newswire reported.
Andor confirmed that Roma face problems across Europe and said the EU was quite late in starting to deal with them. He added that experience in implementing various projects so far is mixed but that there have been some negative experiences.
“We are currently re-assessing the use of allocated sources. The conference should help us find a better understanding of the situation on the local level,” Andor said, as quoted by SITA.
Andor also spoke about the Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies to 2020 that was adopted by the European Commission on April 5.
That framework calls on EU member states to present national strategies by the end of 2011 in the crucial areas of education, employment, health care and housing, including specific targeted measures with additional financing from national and EU sources. Andor underscored that the actual strategy should not be prepared at a clerical desk but that responsible partners – Roma citizens, municipalities and NGOs – must also participate, SITA wrote.
In addition to the €200 million earmarked in Slovakia for projects for Roma employment and social integration during the 2007-2013 programming period, the European Parliament has allocated another €5 million for pilot projects focused on social integration of Roma.
At the conference, successful projects implemented by the Directorate General for Regional Policies were presented, including the Good Start project, supporting early-age education, that is targeted at 5,000 Roma children up to age six in Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia and Romania.
Another project using EU funds involves the village of Spišský Hrhov in Prešov Region, which prepared a strategy focused on multiple areas, including reconstruction of a primary school, training of municipal employees, improvement in health-care and social services and promotion of tourism. The village also participated in a project aimed at supporting community social work, SITA reported.
30. May 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff