Understanding EU action on Roma inclusion

Briefing 25-03-2024

The Roma are Europe's largest ethnic minority. Out of an estimated total of 10 to 12 million Roma in Europe as a whole, some 6 million live in the European Union (EU) and most of them are citizens of an EU Member State. A significant number of Roma people live in very poor socio-economic conditions. The social exclusion, discrimination and segregation they face are mutually reinforcing. Their restricted access to education and difficulties entering the labour market result in low income and poor health compared with non-Roma people. Since the mid-1990s, the EU has been stressing the need for better Roma inclusion. In 2011, a key EU initiative was launched with the adoption of an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020. The aim was to tackle the socio-economic exclusion of and discrimination against Roma, by promoting equal access in four key areas: education, employment, health and housing. When the framework came to an end, in early October 2020 the European Commission adopted a new strategy for 2021 to 2030. Through this new strategy, Member States were invited to tackle the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Roma people. In March 2021, the Council adopted a recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation, replacing an earlier one from 2013. This recommendation encouraged Member States to adopt strategic frameworks for the inclusion of Roma communities. The EU also supports Member States in their duty to improve the lives of all vulnerable people, including Roma people, through the European structural and investment funds and other funding instruments. Issues relating to the promotion of democratic values and practices, and economic, social and cultural rights for Roma people have received particular attention from civil society organisations, while Parliament has been advocating for Roma inclusion since the 1990s. This is an update of a briefing published in April 2023.