Difficult situation for Roma

Roma children. Photo: European Union

The Roma are Europe’s largest minority of around 10-12 million people. They still become victims of widespread discrimination and violence, and numbers of unemployment, ill health and inadequate education are higher for Roma than for the average European. Earlier this year, the Council of Europe released a report which paints a bleak picture of the situation.

Today, The EU Fundamental Rights Agency, FRA, publishes another report about the Roma. It is based on interviews in 11 EU countries and is equally bleak, with prevalent racism, violence and discrimination. Far too many children do not attend school, and only 15 percent of Roma young adults go on to complete a secondary education. A full 90 percent of the people covered by the study live in poverty.

From the European Commission’s side, we have been concerned about this situation for quite some time. A year ago, the EU ministerial Council adopted the Commission’s proposed plan for Roma integration. This means that all 27 member states have to present national strategies on how Roma integration is to be pursued. Now all strategies have been presented, and today, my Commission colleagues Viviane Reding and Lazlo Andor held a press conference where they evaluated the plans of Member States.

In the Commission’s view, it is on the one hand very positive that all countries now have strategies in place to improve the situation of the Roma. There will also be national points of contact in each country to make sure that these plans are implemented. However, only a minority of member States have concrete budgets for carrying out their ambitions. From now on, the Commission will evaluate how the work is proceeding every year, and look closely at four main developments: Access to education, employment, healthcare and housing.

In my field, there is a growing problem of Roma women and children becoming victims of trafficking, both for sexual purposes and by being forced to beg in the streets. Europol have stepped up their efforts to combat the criminal gangs behind this horrific trade, and shortly I will present a long-term action plan for the EU’s fight against trafficking.

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