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Roma and the enforcement of anti-discrimination law

November 16th 2017

This report by the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination aims to examine the current situation of the enforcement of non-discrimination law in Europe with regard specifically to Roma and their rights. The report is based on the professional assessment of 27 national non-discrimination experts of the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, and covers all EU Member States, with the exception of Malta.

It focuses on five specific questions:

  • What is the general situation of the enforcement of anti-discrimination law for Roma?
  • How did the enforcement situation evolve during the period 2011-2015?
  • What are the specific points of progress and the deficiencies in this regard in the field of education?
  • What are the specific points of progress and the deficiencies in this regard in the field of housing?
  • What are the major developments that took place with regard to Roma’s anti-discrimination rights in 2016?

Background

The Racial Equality and Employment Equality Directives were adopted 17 years ago, and have been fully transposed in all EU Member States. National legislation transposing them is being actively and effectively implemented to a large extent throughout the EU, ensuring the right of residents to nondiscrimination.

Yet, it clearly appears that the Roma population of Europe are not benefitting equally from the non-discrimination legal frameworks, and are suffering from a lack of effective enforcement of their rights. The areas of education and housing, which are both covered by the Racial Equality Directive and constitute crucial pillars of every person’s life and wellbeing, seem particularly affected by discrimination and a generalised lack of enforcement of non-discrimination rights when it comes to Roma.

The current situation around the enforcement of Roma’s non-discrimination rights is varied, not only among the Member States but also within most EU countries. While positive and encouraging developments can be noted, whether in legislation, case law or policy, many setbacks are still taking place, and there is still a wide array of persistent gaps. An overview of the developments that took place during the period 2011-2015 shows a slightly more encouraging picture, however. It can indeed be noted that it is by far the most common picture across the Member States that the enforcement of anti-discrimination law for Roma either improved or remained unchanged in that period compared with the period before 2011. In five of the 27 countries, however, the situation deteriorated during that period, leaving Roma in a more difficult situation with regard to the enforcement of their anti-discrimination rights than before. The reasons for this deterioration were diverse and included issues related to the particularly fragile socio-economic situation of Roma, which has a direct effect on their capacity to enforce their rights. Similar effects were caused by severe cuts in the budgets of equality bodies and decreased social benefits following the economic crisis.

In the specific fields of education and housing, patterns of segregation and discrimination are still very much present across most Member States, despite a number of positive steps in the right direction in quite a few countries. For three Member States, there was a particularly strong incentive to amend the legislation and practice causing segregation of Roma children and pupils in schools, as infringement proceedings were initiated by the European Commission against them (the Czech Republic in 2014, Slovakia in 2015 and Hungary in 2016). Despite the positive legal developments that have taken place in all three countries, as well as some others, concerns and doubts still prevail as to the capacity of these developments to cause real positive change for Roma children.

Steps towards positive change took place in a large number of countries in 2016, allowing some hope for further improvements in the future despite the significant number of challenges that still remain.

Written by:
Isabelle Chopin, Catharina Germaine and Judit Tanczos from the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, on behalf of the European Commision.

Taken from the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination website