From: Alice Taylor
EU Member States Must Step Up Commitment to Roma Integration

The European Commission launched a new 10-year action plan to support Roma in the EU.

The plan that will run until 2030 focusses on seven key areas: equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health and housing. The Commission has come up with targets and recommendations for the Member States on how they can achieve them. These will also serve as ways to monitor progress in the drive towards providing vital support to Roma living within the EU.

Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “Simply put, over the last ten years we have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU. This is inexcusable. Many continue to face discrimination and racism. We cannot accept it. Today we are relaunching our efforts to correct this situation, with clear targets and a renewed commitment to achieving real change over the next decade.”

The Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli said that if the EU is to be a union of equality, Roma need to be treated equally as well as being socially included and able to participate in all aspects of social and political life.

Member States will be expected to meet the following targets by 2030:

  • Cutting the proportion of Roma with experience of discrimination by at least half;
  • Doubling the proportion of Roma filing a report when experiencing discrimination;
  • Reducing the poverty gap between Roma and the general population by at least half;
  • Cutting the gap in participation in early childhood education by at least half;
  • Cutting the proportion of Roma children who attend segregated primary schools by at least half in the Member States with a significant Roma population;
  • Cutting the employment gap and the gender employment gap by at least half;
  • Cutting the gap in life expectancy by at least half;
  • Reducing the gap in housing deprivation by at least one third;
  • Ensuring that at least 95% of Roma have access to tap water.

States have until September 2021 to submit their national strategies in line with the action plan. The progress of each state will be ascertained in detail after five years in a mid-term evaluation.

The EC noted that some improvements have been made in the EU, mainly in terms of education. They said that there is still a long way to go as marginalisation, discrimination, antigypsyism, and socioeconomic exclusion are rife.

It is not known exactly how many Roma are living in Albania. Official sources say in the region of 1300, but various sources estimate between 50,000 and 100,000. Most of them live in extreme poverty. As a community, they are systemically excluded from many aspects of society and there has not been any notable improvement in the last few years.

A 2020 EC report found that these communities in Albania are “the most socially marginalised and excluded”. It noted that while the government had adopted a National Action Plan for the Integration of Roma and Egyptians it had little impact as the number of those enrolled in compulsory education as still “far too low”.

The report also noted forced evictions of Roma communities where the authorities did not give appropriate notice, provide alternative accommodation, or other kinds of support. They noted that in some cases tear gas and disproportionate force was used.

A 2019 World Bank Report found that the income gap between Roma and non-Roma individuals was widest in Albania with a gap of 45.5%. The country also performed badly in terms of education, healthcare access, and employment. The report called progress in integration “lacklustre”.

In April of this year, Prime Minister Edi Rama used derogatory language on social media against Roma. After protests from Roma individuals over the treatment they received during the COVID-19 pandemic, he accused them of faking it. Local human rights organisations decried his comments saying that he used discriminatory stereotyping and that they were “unacceptable.”