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European Parties' Neglect of the Roma is Driving them Towards Anti-EU Factions, Says the Roma Foundation for Europe

June 2024 -3 minutes read

As European citizens go to polls this week, the Roma Foundation for Europe, the leading organisation advocating for the 12 million Roma in Europe, has called on mainstream parties not to ignore them.

By ignoring the Roma, the main European parties are pushing them into the arms of anti-European forces: Roma Foundation for Europe


  • The proportion of children below the age of 15 among the EU’s Roma is two to three times higher than among the majority population.
  • New survey shows mistrust and disappointment in political institutions among Roma in Bulgaria and Romania
  • Roma Foundation lays out ways to realise the full potential of the Roma by strategic investments in education, training, democratic participation and cultural producers.


As European citizens go to polls this week, the Roma Foundation for Europe, the leading organisation advocating for the 12 million Roma in Europe, has called on the main parties not to ignore the largest minority in Europe and push them further into the arms of anti-EU forces. In fact, the foundation urges them to learn from Péter Magyar, Viktor Orbán’s bête noire, who has tapped into public discontent with Hungary's economic woes and took the rare step of visiting a deprived Roma community during a nationwide campaign tour of nearly 200 towns and villages. This is a bold move by the politician that will potentially gain him support from the largest minority in the country.


Leading political parties are missing out on an important opportunity, explains Zeljko Jovanovic, president of the Roma Foundation.


“We have found that the failure of politicians to reach out to the largest minority has negative consequences. Being overlooked by main parties, combined with the economic inequality and discrimination that Roma often face, erodes trust and the belief in democracy among Roma, pushing them to abstain from voting and other political activity or, even worse, pushing them into the hands of anti-European forces.”


A newly released survey in Romania found that 73% of Roma respondents said they had not been contacted by any political party in the two weeks before the survey. The survey, which included 1,018 Roma, was conducted between 16 and 27 May 2024 by IPSOS S.R.L Bucharest for Associazione Roma for Democracy–Italy. A separate survey in Bulgaria revealed that 70.9% of Roma had not been contacted by any political party in the last month. The survey included 1,056 Roma and was conducted by Global Metrics Ltd, Sofia for Associazione Roma for Democracy–Italy between 23 May and 31 May 2024.


“Roma, who have the highest proportion of young people, should be an obvious constituency for politicians committed to equality, democracy and the rule of law to reach out to, mobilize and deliver public services to,” Jovanovic added.


The proportion of children below the age of 15 among the EU’s Roma is two to three times higher than among the majority population. This means there will also be a higher proportion of Roma among the next generations of citizens eligible to vote and run for office. Roma, for example, will make up around 20% of first-time voters in Bulgaria by 2035.


Trust in political institutions among Roma is low. 29.1% of respondents in Bulgaria and 30% in Romania said that political parties—including the families of the parties in the European Parliament—“make promises but don’t take concrete action”. 47.8% of respondents in Bulgaria stated that “politicians don't care what people like me think”. In Romania, 37% of respondents strongly agreed with this statement, while 30% agreed.


When asked whether members of the European Parliament “can defend your interests and concerns”, 38.3% of respondents in Bulgaria and 33% in Romania replied “not at all”.


According to Jovanovic, “Roma are disappointed in how democracy, as well as pro-European parties, politicians and governments, have treated them in the last 20-30 years. Beyond abstaining from voting and other political participation, this leaves many Roma open to authoritarian-leaning politics.”


“The foundation will invest more in research about the political attitudes and preferences among the Roma and thereby bring the voices of our communities as voters to the media and political stakeholders,” he explained.


Ahead of the elections, the foundation and its network of Roma-led organisations also published their Roma for Europe 2030 agenda, which lays out ways to realize the full potential of the Roma by strategic investments in education, training, democratic participation and culture.

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Roma Foundation for Europe

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