Honors Thesis Spotlight: Comparison of Roma Discrimination in EU and Non-EU Countries

International organizations, both governmental and nongovernmental, are making headway in improving the human rights and living conditions of minority groups across the globe. In Europe, for instance, countries in the European Union (EU) are expected to maintain certain humanitarian standards in line with the Copenhagen criteria. These criteria include humanitarian and economic requirements that define whether a country is eligible to join the EU. Focusing resources and time to assisting minority groups help those who disproportionally face discrimination, unemployment, poor healthcare, and poor education. Properly integrating minority groups into the society in which they live can alleviate many of their daily struggles.

Historically, the Roma population in Europe suffers from discrimination. As one of the largest minority groups in Europe, there are approximately 10 million to 12 million Roma living across the continent. They originally migrated from India with a nomadic culture, which spurred disdain from many Europeans. Over the decades, the Roma people suffered from cultural suppression and threats of expulsion;  they were enslaved in the 15th century, and, in countries like Italy and Spain, the Roma were expelled for not converting to Christianity. Tragedy continued during World War II; discriminatory legislation was adopted, and almost half a million Roma were murdered alongside the Jewish in concentration camps. Although discriminatory practices decreased, efforts to eliminate Roma culture, relocate and break up communities, and disadvantage the Roma people continued.

In 2005 and 2014, initiatives were passed to help improve the living conditions of the Roma in Europe. To gauge whether or not this legislation is effective, this thesis considers poverty, labor, and education rates of the Roma population in Europe. The researcher collected data from surveys distributed in 2011, 2016, and 2017 by sources such as the EU, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Program. After comparing data from EU and non-EU member countries, the researcher argues that the humanitarian requirements to be an EU member country result in more significant efforts to integrate the Roma population. Conversely, non-EU countries lack similar enforcement mechanisms and have less incentive to comply fully. Due to stricter standards, the researcher argues that EU member countries are more successful in reducing the level of discrimination faced by the Roma population and, in turn, provide a better standard of living than non-EU member countries.

Survey data indicates that, overall, countries in the EU have successfully protected and integrated the Roma population. While education rates among the Roma have improved in most countries, Roma living in the EU had significantly higher school enrollment rates in 2011 and 2016 than Roma living in non-EU countries. Roma living in EU countries also stayed enrolled in school for longer. The data also suggests that there are more opportunities for employment in EU member countries compared to non-EU countries. While disparities in poverty rates between the Roma population and non-Roma population in EU countries were greater, non-EU countries had larger poverty percentages. The EU and non-EU Roma poverty rates were not significantly different on average.

Increased education and employment rates in EU countries suggest that their integration policies helped improve the living conditions of the Roma population. The improvements in the EU demonstrate that the introduction and implementation of legislation can improve the socio-economic status of a minority group. Allowing minority groups greater access to education also leads to more opportunities for employment in the future. Consequently, improving employment rates in the Roma population can subsequently decrease poverty rates. The Integration of the Roma into society reduces prejudice, opens opportunities, and promotes coexistence with majority groups.

Linnea Blackmore (pictured below) is a graduate from the Florida State University with a degree in International Affairs and Political Science. This post is a summary of Lineea’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP Blog Intern Dara Begley. To learn more about Linnea, click here. For more information about this project, click here.

Source for featured image: https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/four-european-union-flags-waving-in-the-wind-gm139491451-19326034?utm_campaign=srp_photos_limitedresults&utm_content=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pexels.com%2Fsearch%2Feu%2F&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=pexels&utm_term=eu

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