European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn arrived in Bratislava with a small delegation this morning for national and regional conferences focusing on Roma issues.
Hahn met this morning with Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, officially opening the national conference in Bratislava, but he will also be meeting with various NGO and officials in an attempt to find ways to improve the use of EU structural funds earmarked for Roma integration.
In April the European Commission adopted a new EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2010, and then on 19 May the ministers adopted conclusions on the framework, while calling on member states to pursue goals in the fields of education, employment, healthcare and housing, so as to close the gaps between marginalised Roma communities and the general population.
The two main focal areas are how to advance Roma inclusion by means of a comprehensive national approach and how to ensure more effective use of funds. This means member states should improve the level of access to quality services, employment, education, healthcare and housing for the Roma.
Now EU member states will have to compile their national strategies or integrated sets of policy measures by the end of 2011, with particular attention to be given to how they want to advance the social and economic inclusion of Roma when designing, implementing and monitoring their National Reform Programmes in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy.