Ahead of International Roma Day on 8 April, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Olivér Várhelyi issued the following statement:
“This year, as we have seen war return to Europe, we are marking International Roma Day in a spirit of enhanced solidarity. Solidarity with people fleeing the brutal war waged by Putin; solidarity with Ukrainians, including Ukrainian Roma; and solidarity with those at greatest risk and in urgent need of help.
We know that in times of crisis, vulnerable groups are hit particularly hard. Among the millions of people seeking refuge in the EU and neighbouring countries from Putin’s war, 100,000 are estimated to be Roma. The number of internally displaced persons is also increasing dramatically.
We commend the solidarity of EU governments and citizens in providing emergency civil protection assistance and support, both to internally displaced persons and at the borders.. People fleeing war must always be able to find a safe place and shelter, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. This is particularly important for Roma people, some of whom are stateless and might not always have the relevant documents such as ID or passport.
Today, we call on the Member States to implement all measures under the newly adopted National Roma Strategic Frameworks, including those for people in crisis situations. National services must provide inclusive and targeted support to Roma, including in associated third countries, such as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. The European Commission will continue to do its outmost to help EU governments throughout this challenging period, by ensuring funds are easily and rapidly available.”
The First World Romani Congress, organised in 1971, has laid down the foundation for a process of collective affirmation of the Roma community. Under a common ethnic identity markers and aspirations, such as history, culture and language, it established the Roma flag, and 8 April as the International Roma Day.
Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority community, with a strong 10-12 million population, out of which more than 6 million are living in the EU. There are also sizeable Roma communities in the enlargement and Eastern Partnership region. The World Romani Union and the Council of Europe estimate that there are around 400,000 Roma living in Ukraine.
Although the Roma situation has improved, both in the EU and in the enlargement region – predominantly in the area of education – Europe still has a long way to go to achieve real equality for Roma. Marginalisation persists, and many Roma continue to face a combination of discrimination, antigypsyism and socioeconomic exclusion in their daily lives.
As a significant number of Roma in Ukraine are stateless or do not possess adequate ID documents, concerns have been raised by civil society organizations that this could result in additional difficulties for Roma fleeing the war. A report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights stated that it found no incidents of discrimination or racism, but urged for vigilance on this matter. At EU border crossing points, people seeking refuge are not required to show personal identification documents.
The new EU Roma Strategic Framework is a direct contribution to the implementation of the EU Action Plan against racism 2020-2025, and part of President von der Leyen’s commitment to a Union of Equality.
Through the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme (CERV), the European Commission is funding various actions in support of the Roma. Since the programme launched last year, it has already made available:
- €22 million for projects combatting all forms of discrimination, including antigypsyism;
- €12 million for remembrance of victims of the Holocaust, including the Roma;
- an annual €26 million for partnerships with civil society organisations, including the Roma civil society;
- and close to €1 million annually to support national Roma contact points in EU Member States for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.
In the enlargement region, €162 million were spent under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) II to fund Roma inclusion mainly in the fields of education, employment and housing. Within IPA III (2021-2027) the European Commission has planned to commit €7 million for regional Roma projects:
- €4 million for Roma education and bridging education and employment;
- €2.7 million for supporting the efforts of the governments of Western Balkans and Turkey to implement the existing commitments related to the integration of Roma;
- €0.3 million for the next EU award for Roma integration that will be focusing on digital and green
Regional IPA projects play a central role supporting CSOs, local authorities, entrepreneurship and building capacity of central governments to implement their Roma inclusion commitments.
The European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Award will also have a specific Award for local authorities fostering Roma inclusion. On 28 April, Commissioner Dalli will be presenting the winners in the category of Roma inclusion. Additionally, on 18 May, during the European Parliament Romani week, the third edition of the “Most Roma Friendly Mayor Award in the Western Balkans and Turkey” will also take place.