European Commission Reports on EU Candidate Countries

07 May 2002

On November 13, 2001, the European Commission issued its annual “Regular Reports” on the progress made by the candidate countries toward European Union (EU) accession. The individual country reports, along with the “2001 Strategy Paper” and the “Accession Partnerships”, raised concerns with respect to the precarious situation of the Roma.

In the 2001 Strategy Paper, it is noted that “in all countries with sizeable Roma communities, national action plans are now in place to tackle discrimination, which remains widespread, and improve living conditions that continue to be extremely difficult. […] Further efforts are required to ensure that the various programmes are implemented in a sustained manner, in close co-operation with Roma representatives, and that appropriate budgetary support is made available in all countries.”

The Regular Reports made extensive reference to the situation of Roma. In its report on Bulgaria, the European Commission stated that “[…] Roma continue to suffer from social discrimination due to accumulation over time of factors that have worsened their living conditions. Many Roma live in very poor conditions in illegally built housing. […] Unemployment is very high, with estimates reaching 60-75% of working age Roma. The political commitment from the government to remedy their problems needs to be matched by more effort into translating this into concrete action. […] As concerns the Framework Programme for Roma Integration adopted in 1999, very little progress has been made on implementation. […] There are reports of discriminatory practices in access to public health care.” The Commission seemed particularly concerned with education of Romani children in Bulgaria. It stated that: “Many Roma children do not attend school and for those who do, drop out rates are very high. […] Despite their formal status as regular schools, schools in Roma areas remain in practice segregated schools, which offer low quality education. This puts the large majority of Roma at a disadvantage compared to their peers in mixed schools. These schools are usually overcrowded, lack basic facilities and in many cases have poorly qualified teachers. Whilst Roma tutors and teachers have been appointed in bilingual schools, further steps are needed to ensure the access of Roma children to the education system. It is a positive step that the process of desegregation of Roma schools has started, with some NGO projects testing different methodologies. But still it has to become Government policy, and the methodology and the approach have to be broadly discussed and accepted by the Roma community.”

The Regular Report of the European Commission on the Czech Republic stated that “part of the Roma population, estimated to be up to 300,000 or 3% of inhabitants, continues to suffer from widespread discrimination and from far below average living conditions and opportunities. They also continue to be victims of racially motivated crimes. Education levels for Roma children remain low. These children still account for some 70% of the children sent to special schools, with little chance of later entering mainstream schools. There are a number of cases still pending at the European Court of Human Rights alleging de facto segregation. The Roma continue to suffer from a very high rate of unemployment and there has been little progress in reducing this. Housing conditions are still much worse in the Roma communities than amongst the general population. Many Roma reside in low-quality municipal apartments often with inadequate hygienic conditions, which leads frequently towards social marginalisation.”

With regard to Hungary, the Commission noted that “[…] the situation of the Roma minority in Hungary remains difficult. […] In general they face poor living conditions and social disadvantages, as a large proportion of them are unemployed. Their mortality rate is over double the national average and there is a life expectancy gap vis-a-vis non-Roma of 10-15 years due to low health standards. […] [T]he frequent transfer of Roma children out of the mainstream system to special education facilities is a way of discriminating against them […] these special facilities generally do not close the gap with the mainstream, but instead widen the education gap. According to estimates, there are more than 150 schools in Hungary where special Roma classes are maintained. […] The cumulation of the above factors results in a situation where the Roma are isolated and experience widespread discrimination in education, employment, access to justice and to public services.” The Commission noted that, in particular, the Hungarian government has made efforts to implement programmes aimed at improving the situation of Roma, but that “[…] these means remain limited in relation to the extent of the social disadvantage affecting the Roma population. The situation in the education sector remains of particular concern […].”

On Lithuania, the European Commission reported that “[…] the Roma community counts around 3000 people, who live in difficult conditions. […] Ongoing efforts to increase the integration of Roma in Lithuanian society need to be sustained. Much more attention should be paid to the issue of housing.”

Regarding the situation of Roma in Poland, the Commission stated that “[…] as noted in the 2000 Regular Report there are frequent reports of wide-spread discrimination, and the economic and social circumstances of the Roma are poor, falling below those of the population in general.”

According to the Commission’s Regular Report on Romania, “[…] discrimination against the Roma minority remains widespread […]. Human rights organisations have documented instances of police harassment of individual Roma as well as of whole Roma communities. Roma face difficulties in gaining access to schools, medical care and social assistance. Social discrimination is often manifested in Roma being banned from public places and, despite the fact that it is illegal, a number of job advertisements explicitly exclude Roma applicants.”

The European Commission also noted that in Slovakia, “[…] the situation of the Roma minority remained difficult. […] The under-representation of Roma students in the education system, hand in hand with over-representation in schools for retarded children continued to exist. […] Housing conditions, notably in the so-called “settlements” mostly in the eastern part of Slovakia, remain a matter of concern. There has also reportedly been obstruction of access to public utilities and social services, including health care. Violence, notably at the hands of “skinheads”, continued to be a serious threat to this minority. In 2000, the police recorded 35 cases of racially motivated crimes, with Roma being the biggest group of victims. In some cases, Roma were exposed to serious ill-treatment by the police.”

On Slovenia, the European Commission asserted in its report that “[…] some of the laws only apply to those termed ‘autochthonous’ Roma – excluding the ‘non-autochthonous’ Roma even if they are citizens. Many members of the Roma population are among the poorest households in Slovenia […] The government adopted a Programme on Equal Opportunities of Employment for the Roma last year to improve employment opportunities. While this is a positive development, there is still a need for policies promoting Roma socio-economic integration, especially in the areas of employment and health. Sustained efforts are also required in the area of education. There have been some cases of discrimination against the Roma.”

The European Commission’s Accession Partnerships with the candidate countries placed adoption of anti-discrimination legislation among the “priorities” and “intermediate objectives” of candidate countries. The commission also stressed the necessity of continuing efforts on the part of governmental authorities within candidate countries to improve the situation of Roma. The full text of the 2001 Regular Reports, as well as the Strategy Paper and the Accession Partnerships, is available on the Internet at:


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