Parliament calls for stronger measures to improve the inclusion of Roma people in the EU, who still face widespread discrimination and poverty.
Proposals for a better Roma inclusion
In a resolution adopted during September’s plenary session, MEPs demand equal access to education, employment, healthcare and housing with legally binding targets and a monitoring mechanism at EU level, supported by adequate funding. They also call for compensation for the victims of forced sterilisation and the end of school segregation. The report also encourages the strategy to take into account the diversity of the community and to provide Romani people equal participation in public policy.
The report pushes for binding measures in the strategy expected to be proposed by the European Commission later this year. It also calls on the EU countries to develop national strategies.
German Greens/EFA member Romeo Franz, who is the MEP behind the report, said: "The report is a great chance for the EU and its member states to significantly improve the situation of Romani people. It puts at the forefront a legislative proposal for the equality, inclusion and participation of my people, for the first time in the history of this House and makes the fight against anti-gypsyism, the main cause of social exclusion of Romani people, a priority."
Roma exclusion and poverty in Europe
Romani people are Europe’s largest ethnic minority with some six million living in the EU. Many of the Roma people live in marginal and very poor socio-economic conditions and face discrimination, social exclusion and segregation.
Common difficulties they face are limited access to quality education and difficulty integrating into the labour market, leading to further poverty and social exclusion, lack of quality healthcare and poor living conditions.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency 's Roma and Travellers Survey 2019 notes that almost half of Roma and Travellers (45%) in the six EU countries surveyed felt discriminated against in at least one area of life and that nearly half of Roma and Travellers respondents (44%) experienced hate-motivated harassment in the 12 months preceding the survey. More recently, Roma have been blamed for spreading the coronavirus in Eastern European countries.
For many Roma people, exclusion and discrimination starts at a young age. According to the Roma Integration Strategies report 2019, 68% of Roma left school early. In addition, only 18% of Roma children transit to higher levels of education and 63% of young Roma are not in education, employment or training. In addition, only 43% of Roma are in a form of paid employment.
Findings also showed that almost a quarter of Roma people have no national health insurance. A third of Roma households do not have tap water, just over half have an indoor flush toilet or shower and 78% of Roma live in overcrowded households while 43% of Roma experience discrimination when trying to buy or rent housing. In their resolution adopted in September, MEPs point out that Roma people are more at risk of contracting Covid-19 due to their living conditions.
What has the EU done to tackle the issue in recent years?
An EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) was set up in 2011 to promote the equal treatment of Roma and their social and economic integration in European societies. A Council Recommendation in 2013 strengthened these strategies, focusing on anti-discrimination and poverty reduction, and introduced an annual reporting obligation for member states in 2016. In addition, in 2017 Parliament approved a resolution calling for equal rights for Roma people.
However, as the current NRIS strategy comes to an end in 2020, a Commission report on the evaluation of the EU Roma Framework, states that even though the field of education has seen the most progress during the last decade (with early school-leaving being reduced by 19%), overall progress was limited mainly due to the fact that the strategy was non-binding.
In October 2020, the Commission proposed the new strategic framework from 2020-2030 to encourage the integration of marginalised Roma. This was reinforced by the Council adopting a recommendation of Roma equality, inclusion and participation in March 2021. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) funds the social and economic integration of marginalised communities, while the citizens equality rights and values programme combats all forms of discrimination.
During a heated plenary debate in April 2022, MEPs underlined the continued poor living conditions and lack of opportunities for Roma communities in the EU and called for more action. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 80% continue to live below the poverty line and more recently, Roma refugees from Ukraine - estimated at 100,000 - have faced discrimination when fleeing the country.