From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
CoE Strategic Plan to Counter Roma Discrimination and Poverty

The Council of Europe has announced its Strategic Action Plan for Roma and Traveller Inclusion 2020-2025, noting that many of the 10-12 million members of these communities in Europe, suffer extreme poverty and exclusion.

The prevalence of anti-Gypsyism across the continent “reinforces and aggravates their economic and social deprivation”. This said the CoE means that inequalities persist despite ongoing efforts at national, European and international levels to tackle prejudice and discrimination.

It was noted that despite some action taken in states, Roma and Travellers continue to suffer from harassment, hate-motivated violence, and discrimination in education, healthcare, housing and employment. These perpetuate marginalisation and prevent policy initiatives from having any impact.

The ECRI has called on member states to adopt a comprehensive set of measures to combat anti-Gypsyism. These include combating hate speech and violence with adequate legal responses, training legal professionals, public authorities and law enforcement on CoE standards and ECHR case law and empowering particular groups like women and youth. Awareness-raising with the general public as well as capacity building regional and local level authorities will also be key.

Other challenges identified for Roma and Traveller citizens include school attendance and the transition from education to employment. As many as 50% of Roma children fail to complete primary education and the number of young Roma not in education, employment or training is extraordinarily high. Roma youth are by far, the most disadvantaged youth in the EU and the CoE member states.

The Action Plan will be overseen by an intergovernmental structure that will ensure the coordination and cooperation between Member States. The Committee of Ministers will be regularly informed on progress made and a midterm evaluation of the implementation of the Action Plan will be carried out in 2022.

In Albania, getting accurate data on how many Roma people live in the country is hard but many sources place the number between 50,000 and 100,000. Some 80% of these have no job and live in extreme poverty.

Albania faces significant problems in protecting the human rights of its Roma community. A recent World Bank Report noted that the community is significantly marginalised and that integration and progress has actually gotten worse, rather than better.

A gap in income between Roma and non-Roma individuals is also the widest in the Balkans at 45.5%.

The Council of Europe has previously called on the country to strengthen the protection of minorities’ rights, noting that there were “regrettable issues” in a number of areas.

Problems with lack of education, healthcare, benefits, and ignorance of the teaching of the Romani language were all highlighted. The report also stated that record-keeping relating to national minorities were not kept and that individuals were prevented by law from self-identifying (without providing supporting documents) as Roma or another national minority

Describing the problem as “unresolved and urgent” it was noted that whilst money was designated to help the issue, the authorities demonstrated an unwillingness to resolve matters.