Written by Marie Lecerf with Stephanie Brenda-Smialowski.
The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Out of an estimated total of 10 to12 million Roma in Europe, some 6 million live in the European Union (EU), most of whom 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 in entering the labour market, result in low income and poor health compared with non-Roma people.
Since the mid-1990s, the European Union has stressed the need for better Roma inclusion. In 2011, a key EU initiative emerged with the adoption of an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020, aimed at tackling the socio-economic exclusion of, and discrimination against, Roma by promoting equal access in four key areas: education, employment, health, and housing. As the framework had come to an end, the Commission adopted ‘A union of equality: EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation’ (2021‑2030) in early October 2020. Through this new strategy, Member States are invited to tackle the disproportionate impact of the pandemic. In March 2021, the Council adopted a recommendation on Roma equality, inclusion and participation, replacing an earlier one from 2013. This recommendation encourages Member States to adopt strategic frameworks for the inclusion of Roma communities and to communicate them to the Commission by September 2021. 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 related to the promotion of democratic values and practices towards Roma, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights, have received particular attention from civil society organisations, while Parliament has advocated for Roma since the 1990s.
Read this briefing on ‘Understanding EU action on Roma inclusion‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.