Antigypsyism: a persisting stigma in Europe

Giammarco Frattoli

Every day, the 10 to 12 million estimated Roma people in Europe are denied basic human rights and are victims of widespread discrimination, racist attacks, hate speech and public stigmatisation under the derogatory term of “gypsies”. Therefore, this article, the fifth of the series, proposes to focus on Antigypsyism in Europe, which is the persisting structural and institutional racism against Roma: Europe’s largest ethnic minority.[1]

via Unsplash / Gwengoat

The reference to ‘Roma’, as an umbrella term, includes a wide range of different people of Romani origin such as Roma, Sinti, Kale, Romanichels, Boyash/Rudari, Ashkali, Egyptians, Yenish, Dom, Lom, Rom and Abdal, as well as traveller populations, including ethnic Travellers or the so-called gens du voyage and people who identify as Gypsies, Tsiganes or Tziganes. However, this article follows the all-encompassed terminology of “Roma” as commonly employed in EU policy documents and discussions.[2] The estimated share of Roma people in EU countries is not homogeneous and it ranges from 10.3 % in Bulgaria, 9.1% in Slovakia, 8.3% in Romania, 7% in Hungary, 2.5% in Greece, 2% in the Czech Republic and 1.6% in Spain, to less than 1% in most of the other Member States.[3]

As denounced by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), there is a widespread negative perception towards this community which is the root cause of their exclusion across Europe. For instance, in many cities throughout Eastern Europe walls are being built to separate Roma from the rest of society and 1 in 5 Roma respondents have been victims of racially motivated crimes.[4] What is more, anti-Roma marches are often used by populist and fair rights parties to mobilise votes, especially in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In these three countries and, among others, in Greece, Roma children are often segregated in substandard schools and classrooms. Consequently, in the Czech Republic almost 30% of the children attending special needs education and following a programme for mild mental disability are Roma. In addition, 78% of Roma in Slovakia and 73% in the Czech Republic experience constant discrimination when looking for a job. Furthermore, in several European countries, including Italy and France, many Roma are forced to live in isolated and segregated camps, making it extremely difficult for them to access basic rights to education, employment, and healthcare. This why the countries where people hold the most unfavourable views on Roma are Italy, 85%, and France, 66%.[5]

via Unsplash / Andy Roland

Since Antigypsyism is not only widespread, but also deep-rooted in European social and cultural attitudes and institutional practice[6], the challenge of tackling it requires a comprehensive and intersectional approach that includes the dimension of Roma public representation, the gender dimension, and the educational dimension. This need is even more pressing considering that at least 400,000 Roma people lived in Ukraine before the Russian invasion. When feeling, most of them have faced discrimination, institutional hostility, and negative stereotypes, as they were chased away from reception points and denied right support and information.[7]

Strategic Frameworks are the EU «toothless tiger»

On 7th of October 2020 the European Commission adopted the new 2020-2030 EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation[8] as a way of overcoming the largely failed national Roma integration strategies resulting from the previous “European Framework” of 2011. Those strategies failed mainly because they did not address prejudices and negative attitudes towards Roma as root causes of their exclusion in society.[9] As a result, the overall progress in Roma integration has been limited over the past 10 years and in some cases it worsened.[10] Hence, the new 10-year plan focuses on seven key areas of intervention: equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health, and housing. For each area, the Commission elaborated new targets and recommendations for Member States to monitor the progress and to achieve them within 2030.[11]

via Unsplash / Filippo Bacci

The new Framework adopts, indeed, a more comprehensive strategy as it combines socioeconomic aspects with a rights-based approach, it places the fight against Antigypsyism at the forefront and it puts more pressure on Member States to close the gap between Roma people and the majority populations.[12] However, as stressed by the Parliament’s rapporteur for the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies Romeo Franz on the Parliament magazine, «without an equality law for Romani people and without a rule of law mechanism, the framework strategy remains a toothless tiger». Franz, the first ever Sinto from Germany to be elected to the European Parliament, expected the European Commission to draft a legislation after the adoption by 545 MEPs of the resolution calling for a law for Romani people on 17 September 2020, but instead they came up with a new strategic framework. According to him, only with legislative action Romani people could be able to exercise their rights as equal citizens and he states that: 

«The EU has the power to make a law for Romani people possible. [] The EU Commission must propose legislation to the Parliament and the Council to make sure Romani people will be treated as equal citizens. I committed to continue this work until the law becomes a reality


[2] COM (2020) 620 final, A Union of Equality: EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, 07.10.2020, Brussels. 



[5] Ibidem.

[6] Ibidem.  


[8] COM (2020) 620 final, A Union of Equality: EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, 07.10.2020, Brussels. 


[10] COM (2020) 620 final, A Union of Equality: EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, 07.10.2020, Brussels.