Opening remarks by Marta Garcia Fidalgo, Advisor on coordination of Roma policy in the enlargement countries, DG NEAR, at the Seminar on Roma Inclusion in Bosnia and Herzgovina

“Dear Minister, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues from the Bosnian institutions, international organisations and civil society, I am glad to be here today with you to open this third seminar on Roma policies in Bosnia. Let me first of all thank Bosnian authorities and the EU delegation for the co-organisation of this follow up to the November 2013 seminar. This seminar today is part of our joint efforts, together with the international organisations as well as the Civil Society representatives, which I thank for their participation, to address the outstanding issue of the Roma situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Two years have passed since the previous Roma seminar held in Sarajevo in November 2013 and the last plenary session that took place in July 2011. A lot has happened since then, general elections have taken place and new governments were formed and the SAA has now entered into force marking a new dynamic in the relations between the EU and BiH. Full and constructive engagement by BiH in addressing issues under fundamental rights and in ensuring full protection of minority rights in the country will be crucial in its approximation path towards the EU.
There is a broad consensus in Europe that what are needed are concrete and forward-looking measures to improve the social integration of Roma. Let me recall the implementation of the 2011 EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 and of the Council recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the EU Member States from December 2013. Some progress has been reached in BiH since the previous seminars, leading to encouraging steps in areas such as housing and civil registration in particular but still further efforts are required to implement the July 2011 and November 2013 operational conclusions. Today we will review the measures undertaken since then. But at the same time we will also consider additional measures, build on the lessons learned from all on-going initiatives, to address outstanding shortcomings and jointly agree on further concrete measures.

BiH has a Strategy and Action Plans in place to address Roma policy. In particular, I would like to welcome the work undertaken to revise the Roma Action Plan in the area of employment, housing and health care for the period 2013 – 2016. This plan now reflects the recommendations from the Roma seminar of 2011 and it includes a clearer definition of responsibilities among stakeholders. It is now essential to ensure full political consensus and commitment in their implementation on the ground and achieve tangible and measurable results. Building effective institutional capacity and monitoring tools is key to ensuring qualitative policy design and intervention.

The recent evaluation on support to Roma in the Western Balkans has highlighted a number of lessons learned and areas where improvement is still very much needed. I want to draw your attention particularly to three elements:

– Strengthening and ensuring the involvement of civil society, from the designing phase, through the implementation, to the monitoring and evaluation of the interventions.

­- Ensuring that gender specificities between men, women, boys and girls are properly taken into account and reflected in all phases of the interventions from designing to evaluation.

­- The role of local authorities and stakeholders in the designing, implementation and monitoring of the intervention should be systematically ensured. Proper capacities should be built at local level, and they should be matched with more coordinated and complementary actions on the ground.

Let me reiterate EU’s readiness to continue to provide support to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s and other Western Balkans countries’ efforts to improve the situation of Roma, through in particular:
­- Continued support and co-organisation with each country of Roma seminars, with rigorous monitoring of the implementation of the operational conclusions jointly agreed upon.

– Continued close follow up of developments in enlargement countries in the Commission’s annual progress reports and supporting enlargement countries to translate their political commitments for Roma inclusion into concrete and enduring engagements on the ground.

– Significant financial assistance: In the period 2007-2013, the EU has provided over €100 million under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to support social inclusion and integration of Roma in the enlargement countries, including housing. Out of this amount, over € 6,2 million were provided to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Let me also recall the EU response to support flood recovery and the ongoing €42 million “EU Flood Recovery Programme” which includes a component for the rehabilitation of 4000 dwellings for the most vulnerable people, including Roma.

– Overall, the assistance deployed by the EU to Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed to achieving positive results in strengthening the support for vulnerable Roma children in education, health and child protection system; providing support in establishing the institutional components necessary for the implementation and monitoring of the Roma strategy and its action plans and improving Roma housing needs.
­- However, additional efforts should be made by BiH on socio-economic measures including access to employment, education and health protection. An integrated approach should be used combining the provision of housing together with other measures to improve livelihoods and access to local services.

Let me stress, to conclude, that Roma issues will continue to feature high on our agenda. I look forward to a fruitful seminar and invite you all to an active participation throughout the entire morning.”