In Brussels, support for Roma integration gets a boost

Mar 29, 2017

A group of children in Cukarica, Serbia. Photo: Jodi Hilton / UNDP

Brussels, March 29, 2017— The European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank (WB) and the Council of Europe (CoE) launched today three new projects to support Roma integration in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The UNDP and the World Bank will carry out a survey covering important aspects of Roma people’s daily life, including living conditions, employment, income, access to health and education, and personal documentation. The projects will also focus on the situation of the Roma returnees and help the governments to integrate them back in their societies.

Statistics are key to efforts aimed at involving the Roma into development efforts across Europe. The new data will help measure progress made in achieving Roma inclusion since 2004 within and between countries and will inform policies focusing on addressing the gaps and the needs of the Roma.

In parallel, the Council of Europe will provide support to Roma communities on the ground by enhancing the capacities of 50 local authorities across the Western Balkans to engage with and empower the local Roma communities.

Commenting on these new EU-funded activities, Katarina Mathernova, Deputy Director General, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission, said: ''The gap in living standards between Roma communities and the rest of local populations in the Western Balkans and Turkey is simply too large. We need to identify and measure gaps and issues Roma communities are specifically facing. This information will help us to better target our support to address issues Roma communities are facing on a daily basis. Our objective is to bridge the gap with local communities and ensure equal opportunities to all.”

The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority.  Of an estimated 10-12 million in the whole of Europe, around one million live in the Western Balkans and half a million to 2.5 million in Turkey.

Around 80 percent of the Roma living in the EU countries earn less than it is necessary to meet their most basic needs. Two thirds of young people – a majority of them women - are unemployed or out of school, while 46 percent do not have access to toilets.

According to the 2011 Survey, half of Roma in the Western Balkans countries did not have a job. Roma communities are typically among the region’s poorest, with inadequate housing and living conditions and limited access to quality education and healthcare services. Roma girls are twice as likely to get married and have children before their 20th birthday than non-Roma girls, and Roma women are less likely to complete their education.

 “Roma people have been excluded from many spheres of life in the Western Balkans, Turkey and countries in the European Union. Regular surveys are key to understand and improve their situation on the ground. We are pleased to build on the work that began as part of the Decade of Roma Inclusion and to take it a step further with the EU, the World Bank, and the Council of Europe”, said Rastislav Vrbensky, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS.

The cooperation projects were launched today by Katarina Mathernová, Deputy Director General, Deputy Director General, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission, Rastislav Vrbenski, Deputy Director, UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS, Timothy Johnston, Program Leader for Inclusive Growth in the Western Balkans, World Bank, and Zoltan Taubner, Special Representative of the Secretary General / Director of External Relations, Council of Europe.

UNDP works with national partners to promote inclusion of Roma into economic, social, political and community life. A EU-UNDP initiative in Albania helped 10,000 Roma and Egyptian people benefit from improved access to services such as health and education. In Moldova, a voter education campaign ahead of 2015 local elections reached out to 7,000 Roma women and men on the right to vote. In Ukraine, the 2016 report by the Coalition of human rights organizations to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) included a significant chapter on Roma issues which made into the final recommendations of CERD.


Contact information

European Commission:

Alceo Smerilli, Press Officer, European Commission,


Ludmila Tiganu, Communications Specialist, UNDP Brussels,

Nicolas Douillet, Regional Communications Specialist, Europe and CIS,


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