MINELRES: European Roma Information Office - Press Release - 27 September 2006

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Tue Oct 10 18:51:56 2006

Original sender: Roma Virtual Network" <romale@zahav.net.il>

Today September, 26, 2006 the European Commission approved the
Monitoring report on the state of preparedness for EU membership of
Bulgaria and Romania. This report outlines the Commission's assessment
of both countries' progress since May 2006. It confirms that Bulgaria
and Romania have made further progress to complete their preparations
for membership, demonstrating their capacity to apply EU principles and
legislation from 1 January 2007. These countries have reached a high
degree of alignment. However, the Commission also identifies a number of
areas of continuing concern, and also areas where the Commission will
initiate appropriate measures to ensure the proper functioning of the
EU, unless the countries take immediate corrective action. Both
countries are strongly encouraged to make proper use of the months
before accession, in order to address the remaining issues. 

The report briefly highlights progress made with regard to the
political, economic and acquis criteria. Among the criterias pointed out
in the conclusion of the May 2006 Report which needed further action is
also the protection and integration of minorities (1.1 Political
criteria. Pages 21-22.). 

In regard to Bulgaria the Report states "...Some progress has been made
with regard to the integration of Roma. A programme for Roma literacy
and occupational training 'From Social Aid to Employment' was launched
in May 2006. It aims at providing basic occupational training for
jobless Roma. Furthermore, members of the Roma community were employed
under this programme, mainly in infrastructure upgrading. 

In May 2006, a coordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 was
assigned. Bulgaria has taken over the chairmanship over the Decade of
Roma Inclusion for one year. Regular monitoring meetings are organised
in order to review the implementation of this programme. The
administrative capacity of the Commission for Protection against
Discrimination has been strengthened by recruiting additional staff. The
implementation of vocational and other training measures for vulnerable
groups has continued. Further training was provided to officials of the
Directorate Ethnic and Demographic Issues."

Concerning the negative trends the following has been noted "...certain
concerns persist. The job profiles and budget for the assistant teachers
have not been conclusively defined. Measures to integrate Roma children
in schools have to be further enhanced to cover higher education. The
health status of the Roma population is low and outbreaks of diseases
caused by poverty or lacking hygiene are frequent. Many Roma continue to
have limited access to healthcare services. Efforts to include
vulnerable groups, in particular Roma, in the labour market need to be
further enhanced. 

The administrative capacity of the National Council for Cooperation on
Ethnic and Demographic Issues remains weak, particularly on the regional
level. The governmental approach to non-registered settlements of mainly
Roma community has led to tensions. Forced evictions further increased
those tensions. Further efforts are needed to combat all forms of
intolerance, particularly by fully applying existing legislation on
broadcasting and other activities aiming to combat any form of racism,
discrimination or xenophobia."

The Monitoring Report concerning Romania's preparedness for accession
assesses progress with regard to issues of the political, economic
criteria and the acquis areas, which were still outstanding in the May
report (2.1 Political criteria). 

Regard Roma the Reports states that "...In the field of protection of
minorities, only limited progress can be reported. The draft law on the
statute of national minorities and setting up the principles of equality
and nondiscrimination and multi-culturalism, is still being discussed in
parliament. This legislative process needs to be followed closely. The
new National Employment Plan which was approved in August 2006 provides
targeted action for minorities, including Roma. The law on preventing
and sanctioning all forms of discrimination has been amended to meet EU
standards related to the independence of the National Council for
Combating Discrimination. The administrative capacity of the National
Agency for Roma has improved as regional offices are being developed.
The Agency has also begun implementing community development projects
which could make a significant and long lasting contribution to
improving the situation of Roma. However, certain concerns persist. 

Implementation is slow. Social inclusion of the Roma minority remains a
structural problem. Overall living conditions are still inadequate.
Employment measures should be further developed and implemented.
Adequate resources for Roma strategies and policies are not always
ensured, especially at the local level. The Romanian authorities do not
yet demonstrate at all levels that a zero-tolerance policy on racism
against Roma is applied. 
There are still cases of institutional violence against and assaulting
of Roma, such as police raids and evictions in Roma communities, without
providing them with alternative accommodation. Generally, the level of
awareness of the Roma situation and of the government strategy for Roma,
especially in the local communities which are responsible for the
evictions, is low. Local authorities should be supported to develop
community development projects and bring solutions to the problems of
legality of Roma settlements or others. The institutional framework for
the implementation of the national strategy for Roma is not yet
sufficiently effective and it tends to diminish the capacity
decision-making capacity of the National Agency for Roma and
representatives of the Roma population to participate effectively in
decision-making in relevant areas. Romania's preparations in this area
should be stepped up immediately and continued after accession."

The Report recognises that Bulgaria and Romania have made far-reaching
efforts to adapt their legislation and administration to the laws and
rules of the European Union and as a result of the progress made,
Bulgaria and Romania will be in a position to take on the rights and
obligations of EU membership on 1 January 2007. 

More info on

Ivan Ivanov, Executive Director, ERIO.
Valery Novoselsky, Consultant, ERIO information program. 
The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) is an international advocacy
organization, which promotes political and public discussion on Roma
issues by providing factual and in-dept information on a range of policy
issues to the European Union institutions, Roma civil organizations,
governmental authorities and intergovernmental bodies. The ERIO
cooperates with a network of a large number of organizations and acts to
combat racial discrimination and social exclusion through awareness
raising, lobbying and policy development.
Ave. Edouard Lacomble 17 
Brussels 1040 
Tel: 0032(0)27333462
Fax: 0032(0)27333875

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