Inclusion of Roma: key role for SMEs and improving housing conditions

MEP Lívia Járóka, Chair of the EPP Group's Working Group on Roma Inclusion held talks yesterday with Dimitar Ivanov, executive director of the SME Union Bulgaria about the role of small and medium enterprises in fostering Roma employment. Later the day Járóka met thirty mayors from Romania, where she drew attention to recent amendments to the European Regional Development Fund's regulation which allows for supporting housing subventions in favour of marginalized communities within the EU.

Lívia Járóka, rapporteur of the EU strategy on Roma inclusion met Dimitar Ivanov, executive director of the SME Union Bulgaria and MEP Nadezhda Neynsky, former Bulgarian foreign minister Wednesday morning. They agreed that small and medium enterprises could play a significant role in enhancing the employment of Roma and other marginalized groups and in fostering self-employment and entrepreneurship among Roma. Járóka added that further emphasis needs to be placed on the role of women in launching businesses, since the employment rate of Roma women is even lower than that of Roma men, furthermore, given their role in the family, women can be the cornerstones of the economic empowerment of marginalized communities.

In the afternoon, Lívia Járóka met thirty mayors from Romania visiting the European Parliament on the invitation of Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, Vice-President of the EPP Group. Járóka presented to the mayors the recent amendments regarding the regulation of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which had very serious and positive effects on combating poverty and reducing social exclusion within the EU. The amendment has been made explicitly in favour of marginalized communities and is therefore extremely significant in fostering the social inclusion of Roma living in settlements and geographically segregated communities – Járóka said. She emphasized that complementing the original proposal of the Commission, the European Parliament had achieved three major improvements regarding housing subsidies financed from the ERDF. First, they are not only available for new Member States, but for the entire EU; secondly, they are no longer restricted to urban areas, but will apply for rural and semi-urban territories as well; and finally, not only renovations, but full replacements can be supported in the future. Járóka also highlighted that implementing this provision will require both the revision of National Operational Programmes and the reprioritization of investments in housing subventions.