Frequently asked questions

  • Who are the Roma?
  • What is Antigypsyism/anti-Tsiganism/ Romaphobia?
  • What is the existing EU legislation on Roma inclusion?
    ...

Who are the Roma?

The ‘Roma’ are not a homogenous community; it’s impossible to find one word which would successfully include all communities commonly associated with that name or so-called Gypsies. Important to note is that not all these communities in the world today recognise themselves as Roma. But they do have linked histories and experiences of racism, discrimination and exclusion from mainstream society.

The term ‘Roma’, deriving from the Romani word for a man/person, is the traditional appellation for some, mainly Romani speaking groups. The EU institutions use the term ‘Roma’ as an umbrella term including groups of people who share more or less similar cultural characteristics, such as the Roma, Sinti, Travellers, Ashkali, Manush, Jenische, Kaldaresh and Kalé.

While no official data on ethnicity is available across the EU, it is estimated that 10 to 12 million Roma are in Europe, and approximately 6 million in the EU, making them the largest minority group in Europe. The main sub-groups are ‘oriental’ Roma (85%), Sinti (referred to as ‘Manouches’ in France - 4%), Kalés (10%), and Gypsies/Travellers in the UK and Ireland (0.5%), as well as many smaller groups. Romania and Bulgaria have the largest Roma populations. 80% of Roma in Europe are now settled.

What is Antigypsyism/anti-Tsiganism/ Romaphobia?

Antigypsyism/anti-Tsiganism/Romaphobia essentially means the same thing and is a specific and long established form of racism. Throughout history, the words "Gypsy", "Tsigane/Zigeuner", and similar terms, have been used. These words have taken a derogatory connotation in very many languages.

Historically, Roma across Europe have been the minority – together with the Jews – that have suffered most from discrimination on grounds of their supposed ‘inferiority’ and the subsequent negative stereotyping. Today, stereotypes and prejudices against the Roma are so deeply rooted in European culture that they are often not conceived as such and accepted as fact.

The working definition adopted by the Alliance against Antigypsyism, of which ENAR is a member, is the following:
Antigypsyism is a historically constructed, persistent complex of customary racism against social groups identified under the stigma ‘gypsy’ or other related terms, and incorporates:
1. a homogenising and essentialising perception and description of these groups;
2. the attribution of specific characteristics to them;
3. discriminating social structures and violent practices that emerge against that background, which have a degrading and ostracising effect and which reproduce structural disadvantages.

The definition highlights the historical character of Antigypsyism along with the fact that it has no fixed content: It adapts and readapts to changing social, economic and political realities, but always resurfaces. This definition avoids placing certain manifestations of Antigypsyism, specific to certain contexts, at the center of attention, so as not to obscure other – perhaps less visible, but equally harmful – practices. To acknowledge Antigypsyism is to recognise the multifaceted character of the phenomenon and the common roots of discriminatory practices with widely varying forms and intensities. For more details, see http://antigypsyism.eu

What is the existing EU legislation on Roma inclusion?

Discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin in education, employment, health and housing as well as other areas is already prohibited by EU law, but the European Commission specifically addressed Roma inclusion by adopting a European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) in 2011. The Framework urges Member States to develop and implement an integrated and sustainable approach to Roma inclusion and specifically focusses on four key areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing. Every Member State, except Malta, has drawn up either a National Strategy for Roma Integration or a set of measures concerning the integration of their Roma populations.

The European Commission publishes annual reports assessing the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies.

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