European Union

European Union – Roma Strategy

The Foundation is currently selecting target countries for a strategy addressing the poverty, discrimination and social exclusion faced by young children in the European Union’s minority Roma population, based on research commissioned in 2011 and 2012.

The strategy will aim to offer best practice examples for other countries by investing in capacity building, community centres, and advocacy efforts for young Roma children, to ensure they have access to integrated support services and basic amenities. We have already supported some pilot projects.

The Foundation is also a member of the European Foundation Centre Forum for Roma Inclusion.

Roma in the EU

Numbering around 12 million, with over 2 million aged 0-8, the Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. According to a study of 11 EU member states by the Fundamental Rights Agency in 2011, the situation of Roma people in employment, education, housing and health is worse than that of non-Roma living in close proximity. The study found:

  • 90% of Roma live below national poverty lines;
  • 45% live in a house lacking at least one amenity among indoor kitchen, indoor toilet, indoor shower or bath, and electricity;
  • 40% said somebody in their household had gone to bed hungry in the last month because they couldn’t afford enough food;
  • about half reported experiencing discrimination in the past 12 months because of their ethnic background.

Roma children face challenges even before they are born, as they are less likely to receive ante-natal care. The low birth weight rate is twice the European average, and in some countries young Roma children are up to six times more likely than average to be underweight.

One of the central reasons for the health problems faced disproportionately by Roma children is the dismal living conditions in which many of them grow up. As one World Health Organization doctor put it, "I can continue to cure the illnesses of Roma children, but if I send them back into the conditions that made them sick, what's the point?"

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