This content was published in the period between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Åsa Regnér: Give to organisations on the ground in the home countries

Published

DN Debatt 11 September
“Values-based organisations, representatives of the business sector and municipalities, and politicians from Sweden, Romania and Bulgaria are meeting today to discuss the situation of vulnerable EU citizens. Our message is that the greatest difference is made when people give money to professional NGOs on the ground in the home countries. Giving to them is one way to break the cycle of vulnerability,” says Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality Åsa Regnér and Martin Valfridsson, the Government’s National Coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens.

Close to 200 people from civil society, public authorities and municipalities, as well as representatives from Romania and Bulgaria, are gathering today for a major conference in Stockholm. The aim of the conference is to promote cooperation between Swedish values-based organisations working with vulnerable EU citizens in Bulgaria and Romania.

Our message during the day deals with how we can best work together to fight the poverty that drives people to beg and forces them into vulnerable situations. It is up to each individual to decide how they want to help. Giving to professional NGOs and supporting their work on the ground in Romania and Bulgaria are good ways to contribute to sustainable change for these people. 

Extensive poverty
Over the past several years, Sweden and our neighbours have been confronted with poverty, the scope of which extends beyond that which we are accustomed to seeing. Europeans from primarily Romania and Bulgaria are coming to our country. A large number of these are Roma who, due to their social exclusion in Europe, find it particularly difficult to receive education and find work in their home countries.

We have met with vulnerable EU citizens in camps in Stockholm and discussed their situation with them. Many of them have their children back in their home country. We visited a school in a rural area of Romania where half of the pupils had parents who were absent, trying to make a living in other countries. We also met with politicians from both Romania and Bulgaria to discuss solutions.

This group is residing in the country temporarily, but it is a question of some 4000–5000 people here in Sweden. Everyone who lives in the EU has the right to move freely within the Union and temporarily reside in other Member States for three months. Free movement is an important pillar of the EU. At the same time, each EU citizen must have real opportunities to live a decent life in their own home country.

The Government’s work
The Government has been working on the issue of the situation of vulnerable EU citizens since day one. Martin Valfridsson was appointed National Coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens in January. Part of his mandate is to facilitate cooperation among municipalities, public authorities, county councils and values-based organisations as regards this group. 

There are three areas in need of reform to ensure that fewer people are forced to beg and to combat the problems that arise in Sweden:

  1. Clearer rules and measures in Sweden to combat illegal settlements, exploitation of vulnerable people and violence against vulnerable EU citizens in Sweden.
  2. Increased cooperation within the EU, with Romania and with Bulgaria for better living conditions and access to jobs, education, housing, and health and medical care. Increased efforts to combat prejudice and social exclusion.
  3. Closer cooperation with civil society organisations that make a major contribution in organising and channelling funds and commitment.

On Wednesday, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality Åsa Regnér met Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Ivailo Kalfin to discuss signing a cooperation agreement that focuses on welfare issues. It is similar to an agreement Sweden signed with Romania in June this year. The agreement with Romania, which concerns children’s, gender equality and welfare issues, aims to improve the situation of vulnerable people in both countries. On Monday, Ms Regnér will also raise the issue of vulnerable EU citizens and EU responsibilities with relevant European Commissioners in Brussels.

Choose long-term change
Swedes in general are open and generous. This is something we want to protect and nurture. This generosity also means that we give to fellow human beings when they ask for money.

We want to emphasise that there are alternatives to giving to needy people in Sweden and instead helping to build a better situation for vulnerable people locally in Romania and Bulgaria. A number of Swedish organisations, churches and faith communities conduct activities in countries of origin. Many of them started their activities as a result of the reports we received in the 1990s on such matters as children with impairments in Romanian orphanages. Many of these organisations currently work with vulnerable minorities in the relevant countries and have long experience of practical work on the ground. Giving to them is one way to break the cycle of vulnerability.

Today’s conference is therefore being arranged to spread knowledge of these organisations’ work on behalf of vulnerable groups in Romania and Bulgaria. We will discuss what is important to focus on to lift these women and men out of extreme poverty. During the day, many of the country’s foremost experts will gather to discuss how to support vulnerable people so that a change is actually achieved. How can organisations cooperate with one another and make their operations effective – and also cooperate with the business sector and municipalities?

It is a question of combating poverty.

By supporting long-term, sustainable efforts for better education, ways to earn a living, health and structural reforms, more people will see a meaningful future for themselves and coming generations in their home countries. The agreement between our countries provides a framework for this and illustrates our countries’ will to change, as well as the continued efforts in the EU.

Let us continue to give money and tell our children that it is important to help people in their time of need. Let us do so in a way that leads to change that is real and lasting. Combating poverty will not be accomplished in the blink of an eye. That is why we must use our will, our knowledge and our resources in a way that brings about real change.

Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, with coordination responsibilities in the Government for issues dealing with vulnerable EU citizens

Martin Valfridsson, National Coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.