On the occasion of the International Roma Day (8 April), the European Commission said there was still a long way to go to integrate the Roma community into the European society. The Commission’s Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioners Marianne Thyssen, V?ra Jourová and Corina Cre?u published a joint statement in which they emphasized that the Roma still face discrimination, inequality, and exclusion. The Roma are Europe’s biggest ethnic minority with an estimated population of about 6 million. The Commissioners stressed that “change will not happen overnight, but the European institutions and Member States are committed to fighting discrimination and improving integration”. They underlined Roma’s unequal access to jobs, education, housing and healthcare and pointed out that “Roma children often cannot benefit from the same quality of education as other children”.
The integration of the Roma community has officially been on Brussel’s political agenda since 2011 but results have so far been ambiguous. In the 2014-2020 financial framework, the EU Commission for example simplified the process of using EU funds for the socio-economic integration of the Roma community while it also supports Member States in their individual policies for Roma integration. According to the Fundamental Rights Agency, one in three Roma is jobless, one in five has no health insurance, and nine in ten live below the poverty line. Moreover, primary school completion rate among Roma children is not very high.
European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, said on the sidelines of a debate on anti-Gypsyism on March 25 that he was “deeply worried” about the rising negative sentiments against the Roma community. Mr Schulz said that Roma are increasingly being used by populists as scapegoats and physical attacks on Roma are on rise as well. “We see European citizens insulted, threatened and attacked simply because they are Roma. This is outrageous and we cannot accept it,” he said. Mr Schulz also added that Roma have been victims of anti-Gypsyism, intolerance and hatred for centuries but this fact has still not been fully recognized. Only during WWII, about half a million Roma were murdered by Nazis.