The Roma people are the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Today, it is estimated that 10-12 million live in the whole Europe, some six million live in the European Union, and most of them are European Union citizens. Many Roma in the European Union are victims of prejudice and social exclusion, even though European Union countries have prohibited racial discrimination. They live in extreme poverty and they are lacking the basics in health, education, accommodation and employment.
The European Commission aims to promote the integration of Roma and fights against discrimination, prejudice, social and economic exclusion suffered by Roma. The European Commission is committed to foster and encourage the integration of Roma communities and through national integration strategies, to eliminate the discrimination the community faces in various parts of European Union.
The areas where the Roma face the highest exclusion are:
The educational level of the Roma people is much lower than the rest of the population and only a limited number of children is completing primary school. Most of them attend the department of special education because the emergence of learning difficulties as well as mental retardation is frequent .It is also observed the phenomenon of schooling in separate schools and this leads to ghettoization and segregation of the children. The priorities in education have a central pursuit in the integration of Roma children in school reality, the suffusion in all levels of education and the avoidance of leaving school. For all these reasons, it is important to invest in education of Roma children, so that they can later enter successfully into the labor market and facilitate their integration in general.
Empirical evidence and research on the socio-economic situation of Roma show that there is a significant gap in employment rates between Roma and the rest of the population, mainly because they share a significant unfavourable discrimination in the field of employment. For this reason the Member States should grant full access to Roma in a nondiscriminatory way in vocational training, the labour market as well as to self-employment tools and initiatives. This axis is oriented to the qualitative and quantitative improvement of employment of Roma. Aimed at reducing the unemployment of Roma by enhancing business activities, wage labour as well as the development of new professional qualifications.
The European Commission urges the Member States to set national strategies for their integration. These strategies include:
- In order an integration program to be successful it should give emphasis in the education of the general population as well as in the education of minorities.
- In order to avoid marginalization and exclusion of Roma children it is necessary the immediate action since early childhood, providing education and care for children under three years.
- It is expected that Member States will adopt effective strategies to combat child labour, forced or compulsory labour, the practice of forced marriages and marriages between minors and fight trafficking in human beings.
- Demand for the end of segregation and practice of placing Roma children in schools for children with learning difficulties and segregation in mainstream schools.
- The need for full involvement of local and regional authorities and Roma communities in the issue of Roma integration and national policies against social exclusion.
- Recognition and understanding that Roma children are more at risk to suffer from severe and extreme poverty than any other minority in Europe.
It is then become apparent that the European Commission and every European Country have a joint responsibility to improve the integration of Roma people and to protect the rights of these vulnerable people. It is imperative to fight against racism through integration as well as to promote inclusion and tackling discrimination.