Six million Roma live in the EU. Find out what discrimination they face and how Parliament proposes to boost their social inclusion.
What discrimination do Roma people face?
Romani people are one of Europe’s largest ethnic minorities with some six million living in the EU. They face difficulties such as 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.
Roma inclusion: what MEPs propose
In a resolution adopted on 5 October, MEPs demanded equal access to education, employment, healthcare and housing for Roma people living in settlements in the EU. They called on EU countries to include Roma children in their national plans to fight social exclusion for children living at the risk of poverty. EU countries should also work to eradicate practices of segregation and carry out anti-discrimination campaigns in schools.
The report encourages a strategy to take into account the diversity of the community and to provide Romani people equal participation in public policy.
Parliament said that Roma people should have access to decent housing and urged the European Commission to establish an early warning mechanism to identify the misuse of EU funds earmarked for addressing the current problems. It also called on the Council to conclude negotiations on the anti-discrimination directive, blocked since 2008.
MEPs also warned that 10-20% of the estimated 400,000 Roma people living in Ukraine are stateless or at risk of statelessness and demanded the protection of Roma refugees against unlawful expulsions and discrimination when applying for temporary protection.
Education and employment
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, compared to an EU average of 12%. In addition, only 43% of Roma are in a form of paid employment.
Many of the Roma people live in marginal and very poor socio-economic conditions and face discrimination, social exclusion and segregation According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 80% continue to live below the poverty line.
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.
Lack of quality healthcare and poor living conditions
Findings also show 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.
What has the EU done to tackle Roma exclusion 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 NRIS strategy came 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 for 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.