My question yesterday is at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110608-0001.htm#11060854000379
Andrew Stunell's statement:
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council: 19 May 2011
Communities and Local Government
Written answers and statements, 8 June 2011
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Andrew Stunell (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government; Hazel Grove, Liberal Democrat)
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 19 May 2011 in Brussels. The United Kingdom was represented by the UK deputy permanent representative to the EU, Andy Lebrecht.
This was a single-issue Council on the subject of Roma integration. On 5 April, the European Commission published a communication on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020. Based
on this, the presidency invited the Council to hold an exchange of views and adopt a set of Council conclusions and an opinion from the Social Protection Committee.
The presidency stressed the importance of member states taking effective action to tackle Roma exclusion, while emphasising the added value of EU-level action. The presidency noted that the situation of the Roma differed considerably between member states and so the conclusions provided latitude to member states to tailor their approaches to national needs by committing them to preparing either national strategies or sets of policy measures. The chair of the Social Protection Committee underlined the Social Protection Committee’s willingness to continue work on this issue.
The European Commission emphasised the need to step up efforts against discrimination. They said that strong commitment was needed by all member states, but acknowledged that member states’ efforts to promote Roma inclusion should be proportionate to the size and situation of the Roma population on their territory. The Commission also emphasised the link with the EU2020 strategy and underlined the importance of member states’ strategies or policy approaches, focusing on the four priority areas identified in the Commission’s communication—health, housing, education and employment. They called on member states to submit their strategies or policy approaches by end of 2011. The Commission would then report annually to the European Parliament and Council on progress made.
The UK outlined the fact that in this country we have a strong and well-established legal framework to combat discrimination and hate crime and that this protects all individuals, including Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, from racial and other forms of discrimination, and racially motivated crime. We also acknowledged that the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers none the less experience inequalities. We summarised the policy approaches being undertaken in the different parts of the UK to deal with this, including, in England, the ministerial working group on reducing Gypsy and Traveller inequalities, chaired by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
We also acknowledged the importance of co-ordination between member states to tackle organised crime, particularly the issue of human trafficking, which can affect Roma, especially Roma children, and we noted the opportunity that EU funds provide to member states to add value to their policies to improve the situation of Roma and other disadvantaged people.
Other member states welcomed the conclusions and highlighted the need for concerted action to improve the situation of the Roma. Some said they already had national or regional Roma strategies or programmes; others said they tackled Roma issues through mainstreaming into wider social inclusion programmes; while others had specific initiatives designed to address particular issues. Though most member states focused exclusively on socio-economic issues, some also made specific reference to the problem of human trafficking. Several member states, including the UK, highlighted the fact that different member states faced different situations both in terms of the size and situation of their Roma populations. Closing the debate, the presidency noted, among other things, that some member states
had developed national Roma strategies while others were dealing with the issue through general inclusion policies.
Following the debate, the Council adopted conclusions on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies. It also endorsed the opinion of the Social Protection Committee on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies. The presidency will now seek endorsement of a Roma presidency progress report at the June European Council.
This statement omits mention of:
1. the Government's scrapping of Regional Strategies, making it certain that more Gypsies & Travellers have nowhere to live;
2. Their legislation making it easier for local authorities to kick Gypsies and Travellers off sites they occupy in breach of the planning laws because there is nowhere else for them to go, and
3. The subsidisation of Basildon to the tune of millions of £ to facilitate the eviction of GRT families from a site they have occupied peacefully for many years.
How best to ensure that the European Council are aware of these omissions?