Roma Decade and the EU

Building on the momentum of the 2003 conference "Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future," we pledge that our governments will work toward eliminating discrimination and closing the unacceptable gaps between Roma and the rest of society, as identified in our Decade Action Plans.

We declare the years 2005–2015 to be the Decade of Roma Inclusion and we commit to support the full participation and involvement of national Roma communities in achieving the Decade’s objectives and to demonstrate progress by measuring outcomes and reviewing experiences in the implementation of the Decade’s Action Plans.

We invite other states to join our effort.

Declaration of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015
Sofia, Bulgaria, February 2, 2005

Signing the Declaration above, the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia kicked off the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Spain joined later in 2008, while Slovenia, Moldova, Norway and the United States participated in the initiative as observers. The Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 was an unprecedented political commitment by European governments to eliminate discrimination against Roma and close the unacceptable gaps between Roma and the rest of society. The Roma Decade focused on the priority areas of education, employment, health, and housing, and committed governments to take into account the other core issues of poverty, discrimination, and gender mainstreaming.

Initiated and strongly supported by the Open Society Foundations and the World Bank, the Roma Decade, as an international initiative, brought together governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as Roma civil society to set official policies through strategies and accompanying action plans, ensure participation of Roma throughout the whole process, monitor and report on implementation and exchange experiences that brought about change in the lives of Roma.

Participating governments were obliged to allocate resources to achieve results, aligning their plans with funding instruments of multinational, international, and bilateral donors, since the Roma Decade was not another new institution, bureaucracy or fund. The Roma Decade yielded modest, yet unprecedented changes in the lives of Roma.  

At the end of the Roma Decade term in 2015 it was acknowledged that the Decade served an important role in sparking the process of positive change for the Roma and contributed to the understanding of the problems faced by the Roma, but left significant unfinished business in the actual achievement of its ambitious aim. The European Union was seen as the best platform to take over the legacy of the Roma Decade, using its existing tools to throw new light on the challenges of Roma integration.

Conveying lessons learnt during the Roma Decade to the EU started already in 2009, when the Czech Republic took over the EU presidency and linked it with the Roma Decade. The Roma Decade experience was used to formulate The 10 Common Basic Principles on Roma Inclusion first presented at the meeting of the European Platform for Roma inclusion in Prague on 24 April 2009. On 8 June 2009 the Council of Ministers in charge of Social Affairs annexed the Principles to their conclusions and invited Member States and the Commission to take them into account. Discussions on Roma issues within the EU thus started.

Through the many debates to follow, the EU recognized that the Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority largely vulnerable and marginalized.  Of an estimated 10-12 million in the whole of Europe, some six million live in the EU, most of them EU citizens. Many Roma in the EU are victims of prejudice and social exclusion, despite the fact that EU countries have banned discrimination. As a response, EU Institutions have put in place a wide range of legal, policy and financial instruments to support Roma Integration in EU Member States and enlargement countries, thus repeatedly stressing the need for full integration.

Inspired by the Decade of Roma Inclusion, on 5 April 2011, the European Commission adopted the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020. The Framework calls on Member States to prepare or revise National Roma Integration Strategies that would effectively address the challenges of Roma inclusion in four priority areas of education, employment, housing and health. The Framework is open to enlargement countries as well, where civil registration is an additional priority area. 

Each Member State established a National Contact Point that should have the authority and capacity to coordinate the development, implementation, and monitoring of the National Roma Integration Strategy. The National Contact Points form a network and regularly meet in Brussels. National Contact Points have been supported through EU funding to establish so called National Platforms as consultative mechanism in the policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, ensuring participation of Roma in the policy process. 

The European Platform for Roma Inclusion brings together national governments, the EU, international organizations, and Roma civil society representatives. It aims at stimulating cooperation and exchanges of experience along all stakeholders on successful Roma inclusion and integration policies and practices. 

All EU relevant documents are available at the EU and Roma page.

The Roma Integration 2020 mirrors the efforts and support of the European Union for Roma integration within the EU Member States in the enlargement region. The project assists participating governments in setting similar institutional structure and mechanisms with the National Roma Contact Points and National Platforms, context specific capacity building and advice; provides for regional cooperation, policy setting and exchange through regional workshops, task force and high level meetings; and links the whole process in the enlargement countries with the EU accession and EU Framework through annual reporting and participation in the EU and international level processes on Roma integration.