Written by Christiaan van Lierop
Marginalised communities largely live on the fringes of European society, often with little access to the services that the rest of the population take for granted. The responsibility for marginalised groups lies primarily with the Member States, yet the objective of social cohesion also calls for an EU-level response. While there is no definition of marginalised communities under the EU Treaties, certain groups such as the Roma suffer from a combination of factors including discrimination and material deprivation, and are therefore a particular area of focus in discussions on marginalised communities.
EU structural funds have not always taken full account of these communities during previous programming periods, while their involvement in the preparation and implementation of programmes has been limited. The current 2014-2020 cohesion framework puts forward new measures with a wider scope for improving the situation of such groups, including an investment priority targeting marginalised communities. Many stakeholders argue, however, that Roma issues need to be mainstreamed across all policy areas in order to achieve lasting structural change.
The European Parliament is preparing an own-initiative report on marginalised communities and cohesion policy, to help feed into the discussions on the future programming period, and has been in the vanguard of EU-level initiatives to improve the living conditions of these groups. Ultimately, however, the inclusion of marginalised communities will depend on strong political will from local and national authorities on the ground.