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Prospects for improving the situation of Roma EU citizens after Lisbon

The Roma in Europe

The historical marginalisation of the 10-12 million Roma people in Europe has increased in recent decades. The transition from a planned to a market economy, the accession of central and eastern European countries to the European Union, the reduction of social spending due to the economic crisis and the effects of financial uncertainty on the social fabric have deepened the social exclusion faced by people in weak socio-economic positions, especially the Roma (a name for a minority ethnic group with various local identities – gypsies, sinti, ashkali and others).

The study

EuropeThe study was commissioned by the European Parliament in May 2010 as an input into a proposed EU Roma Strategy. It covered six new Member States - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and six old Member States - France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. A large proportion of the EU's Roma citizens live in these countries.

The researchers assessed the plans and tools designed to promote the situation of Roma EU citizens in each country, considering the institutions, legal and policy frameworks and budgets available. They examined the prevalence of, and reasons for, the interrelated difficulties facing the Roma in education, employment, housing and health, and the efficacy of various measures in countering discrimination in the different countries.

The findings

They found that a number of useful measures have already been initiated, such as local pre-school programmes, the introduction of classroom assistants and a national system of labour access support centres, but that these have not always been fully implemented. Several EU-wide policy networks have also been established to support Roma inclusion. There have been some positive examples, such as in Spain, where a successful programme to integrate Roma people into employment and education has been carried out.

integrationElsewhere, especially in the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe, despite some admirable programmes and measures, the reality has been different. The scene is one of poor implementation and widespread discrimination, exclusion from education and employment, extremely unfavourable housing conditions, and frequent exclusion from public health services, leading to a level of life expectancy up to ten years below that of the average EU citizen. Poverty and social exclusion is further concentrated in local micro-regions, where access to education, employment, housing and health services is severely restricted, leading to cumulative and intense social problems. In some areas of Central and Eastern Europe the Roma unemployment rate reaches as high as 80 per cent.


The final part of the study sets out a number of policy recommendations on the role which the EU could play within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon to enhance the situation of Roma EU citizens. It proposes that a single overarching body should be established to implement a new and comprehensive EU Roma Strategy, that the coordination of policy networks and actors is vital, and that more EU funds, including part of the structural funds, should be earmarked for projects in support of Roma inclusion. A potential European Strategy for Roma Inclusion should encompass two strands. Firstly, Roma access to existing policy instruments should be enhanced in order to overcome continuing discrimination. Secondly, new policy instruments, which are targeted but not exclusive, should be developed, addressing the specific structural and ingrained nature of Roma social exclusion. At the same time it should be recognised that the effective design, delivery and implementation of policy, whether at national, regional or local levels, needs to be supported with adequate administrative capacity and financial resources within each of the EU member states themselves.


educationIn education, practical recommendations include: training mediators to liaise between family and schools, removing bureaucratic barriers to school attendance, and providing literacy classes for women with pooled childcare networks to enable mothers to attend. Other measures which could be introduced include improving access of young Roma children to pre-school education; raising the quality of the Roma education experience, especially through desegregation of schooling; developing a technology enhanced education agenda; utilising available EU programmes such as Youth on the Move and Life Long Learning programmes for an improved quality of Roma education and learning, beyond the restrictive confines of the national environment.


In employment, discrimination could be combated by providing employer subsidies for those who take on Roma jobseekers. Entrepreneurship could be promoted via training, social enterprises and micro-credit funding. Governments could provide employment through public works as well as active labour market measures involving vocational training, career guidance, and capacity building in employment offices to counter discrimination.


In housing, local utility provision for marginal Roma communities and funding for housing provision should be accompanied by the negotiation of rules for coexistence between the Roma and local communities and the inclusion of Roma in local policy planning. Addressing the problems of Roma housing is crucial for improving the living conditions of Roma communities and to improvements in health status.


drinking waterMeanwhile better health care and sanitary conditions including clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and sewage treatment in settlements and communities, are needed to improve the quality of life of Roma EU citizens. In addition, improved access to health care especially for children and women, the use of health mediators to liaise between Roma people and health professionals, combined with awareness campaigns would all greatly improve the poor health of many Roma people.






The study was undertaken for, and financed by, the European Parliament. It was carried out by Dr Will Bartlett and Dr Claire Gordon of LSE, and Dr Roberta Benini of Nomisma Institute of Economic Research|. It was managed by LSE Enterprise|.

Read the report|