International Roma Day: celebrating Europe's largest ethnic minority 

A Roma boy in Nehru Park in Budapest on 2 August 2013 on the International Day of the Romani Holocaust commemorating the victims of the Second World War. © BELGA/AFP/A.KISBENEDEK 

International Roma Day is held every year on 8 April to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Roma people. Europe’s largest ethnic minority - an estimated 10 million Roma live in Europe and six million within the EU - is often subject to discrimination and social exclusion. On 25 March MEPs debated current Roma discrimination and EU recognition of the Roma genocide in WWII.

This article was first published on 25 March 2015.

Problems facing the Roma

The Roma community in Europe faces several problems, such as discrimination, lack of education, healthcare and proper housing.

“Roma are under threat in many of our member states," said Roma MEP Damian Draghici, a Romanian member of the S&D group. "Physical aggression against them is frequent. Anti-Roma is widespread on the internet and can even be found in mainstream political discourse.”  

Roma genocide in WWII

MEPs also discussed on 25 March whether to recognise 2 August as the official remembrance day for the Roma genocide in WWII. This date was picked in honour of the 2,897 Roma people, who were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on 2 April 1944.  MEPs will vote on a resolution on this during the April plenary session in Strasbourg. Draghici said the Parliament not only wanted to pay tribute to the Roma killed in Auschwitz but also to “the hundreds of thousands of Roma who perished at the hands of Fascist henchmen all over Europe, seven, eight decades ago”.

Integration strategy

In December 2013, the EP adopted a resolution acknowledging the progress made on the implementation of the national Roma integration strategies in the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategy 2020, addressing the issues affecting the Roma community.

Roma MEP Soraya Post , a Swedish member of the S&D group, said the framework on Roma integration had been dominated by social policy and lacked an approach to racism against Roma people: "[This type of racism] exists in all member states and goes through all levels of society. Before dealing with anti-gypsyism, actions in other policy areas will not succeed to change the situation of the Roma in the EU.”