New laws are needed in Italy to protect the country’s Roma and Sinti residents from discrimination, according to a new Committee of Ministers resolution. It was adopted on 4 July following a report on Italy’s compliance with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
On the 9th July 2012, a meeting was held between members of the ERPC and the representatives of the European Commission to discuss the involvement of civil society in the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS). All parties aimed to discuss the best method(s) through which to ensure and maintain a continuous dialogue between civil society and the Commission. Throughout the meeting there was a sense of consensus regarding the importance of the involvement of civil society especially during the phase of implementation. The officials of the Commission re-emphasized throughout the course of the meeting, their reliance and need for civil society to notify and inform them of the happenings on the ground. Members of the ERPC also enquired and discussed with the officials of the Commission the best mechanisms with which to exchange information. Some suggestions were put forward, which included establishing national platforms within each member state to enable various layers of civil society to exchange information with other layers within their own member states as well as with their national governments. Another suggestion was the establishment of a platform to enable the Commission to have a dialogue with civil society. EC officials stated that they were in the process of working on this.
Regarding the assessment of the strategies, the EC officials stated that they had requested progress reports from all member states. However, they also emphasized that they had no mandate to oblige member states into submitting neither strategies nor reports. They therefore reiterated the need for civil society to continuously put pressure on their states to maintain a push from below. A brief discussion regarding the management of funds and the capacity of civil society as well as that of local authorities also took place. Some of the participants suggested that the Technical Assistance Funds could be used for capacity building. However, others suggested that in terms of capacity building the Commission should be responsible for civil society alone, and that local authorities be the responsibility of their national governments.
The general tone of the meeting was that of a constructive dialogue between EC officials and those of the ERPC. The Commission in particular expressed their acknowledgement of the necessity of a powerful civil society.
The purpose of this fact sheet is to inform and raise awareness of the social exclusion and discrimination faced by older Roma in Europe among ERIO members, Roma communities, stakeholders and representatives at both the national and European level.
Today the general trends in Europe go towards an ageing population, which challenges social structures and sustainability throughout the member states. The Roma minority constitutes an exception with high fertility rates and shorter life expectancy than mainstream society.
Older European citizens generally face difficulties, which put them in a more vulnerable position compared to the majority of society. It has been recognized on the international level that older persons are exposed to discrimination on various levels and in different areas of life, which is why the European Year 2012 has been dedicated to Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. Due to the extensive marginalization of and discrimination towards Roma, these difficulties hit older Roma even harder compared to other older citizens in Europe.
This fact sheet constitutes (1) an overview of the general situation of the Roma in Europe today, introducing (2) the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012), as well as it provides (3) information on the situation faced by older Roma, closing with (4) general recommendations.
(1) General Situation of the Roma in Europe
“The question of Roma is a thorn in the eye of Europe, not only for Roma for whom freedom from want, freedom from fear and a life of dignity remains a distant dream, but also for the region as a whole that cannot afford such human insecurity among its population.” 
An estimated population of 12 million makes Roma the largest ethnic minority in Europe and by any measure the most vulnerable to discrimination and human rights violations in the EU. As there is no official data collection on ethnicity in Europe and many Roma do not trust census and do not reveal their true ethnicity due to fears of discrimination, there are only estimates about the number of Roma in the different member states. Most Roma are EU citizens, which means they have the same rights and responsibilities as other EU citizens. There are widespread negative attitudes and prejudices from the general population across Europe against this minority, which often leaves them at the margins of society. Throughout Central and Eastern Europe, it is the community with the highest levels of unemployment, specifically vulnerable to racism in the fields of employment, housing, education and healthcare.The prevalence of systematic and structural discrimination poses a grave human rights violation for members of the Roma community.
The very high level of vulnerability has been recognized at EU level and there is awareness that the situation needs urgent attention. The European Network Against Racism report on discrimination showed that Roma are “specifically highlighted as particularly vulnerable in almost all of the national reports”. On average, 50% of the Roma respondents reported having been discriminated against at least once in the 12 months. Taken by aggregate in the EU overall, the Roma community has the highest level of unemployment (23%), was most likely to have faced discrimination when looking for work (38%), was specifically vulnerable to racism in the field of housing, education (with segregation prevailing in Eastern Europe), and healthcare (17%). Roma face severe discrimination in all spheres of life, which ultimately hinders their social integration. A critical consequence is the emergence of parallel societies “with infrequent contacts with the outside world”. The persistent, very high level of prejudice and stigma against the Roma results in many of them continuing to travel – now migrating to Western Europe in hope of a better future with more opportunities and choices, but where they often experience exclusion and discrimination as well.
According to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, current statistics indicate that the efforts towards integration by the member states made so far have produced limited results; the situation of Roma is described as “still very often deplorable, not to say scandalous”. Despite efforts also made at EU level, discrimination, anti-Gypsyism and hate crime against Roma are rising across Europe and far-right extremism is on the rise in many of the new member states. Clearly, the situation is unacceptable and contradicts with European values.
(1) European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012)
“Time has come to take concrete actions to ensure older people have a dignified lifestyle.” 
Each year since 1983, Europe has been initiating a “European Year” awareness campaign designed to inform the citizens of Europe on a critical topic and to open the dialogue to work towards change in mentalities and behaviour. These European Years further provide an opportunity to draw the attention of national governments and actors to relevant social themes.
The current year has been declared as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012). It has the ambition to work towards achieving a sustainable society for all ages, where older citizens can enjoy a decent, healthy and independent lifestyle.
The objectives of EY2012 are to approach the demographic challenges related with a longer life and to implement strategies that empower and treat older people fairly by encouraging policymakers and stakeholders at all levels to promote active ageing and intergenerational solidarity. Here, improving the general conditions of older people in areas such as employment, healthcare, social services, adult learning, volunteering, housing, IT services, and transport services by promoting active and healthy ageing and social participation is the central idea.
EY2012 highlights the importance of commitment from all relevant actors – ranging from individuals to private and public bodies on all levels – to be translated into concrete actions. The campaign lists numerous, multifunctional activities that local and regional actors can carry out to promote active ageing and solidarity between generations. 
In the area of promoting active ageing in employment, relevant factors are keeping older workers’ skills up to date, developing innovative services to support employment of older workers, and exchanging good ideas and best practice on active ageing in employment. When it comes to promoting active ageing in society, relevant factors are enabling senior volunteering activities, ensuring active citizenship of older people, facilitating social networks and supporting informal carers. In terms of what actors can do to promote healthy ageing and independent living, relevant factors are preventing dependency, supporting independent living through home-based ICT solutions, promoting quality health and long-term care, and improving accessibility of transport and physical infrastructure. Finally, in the area of enhancing solidarity between generations, local and regional actors can promote cross-generational exchanges, facilitate mutual understanding between generations and promote age-diversity in employment and the silver economy.
Looking at the relevance of the EY2012 program and its objectives for the European Roma, there is an urgent need to advocate for an integrated approach that puts older, socially disadvantaged and dependent Roma, who are among the most vulnerable older citizens in Europe, at the core of all initiatives and policies.
 “How to promote active ageing in Europe – EU support to local and regional actors”. AGE Platform Europe (in partnership with the Committee of the Regions and the European Commission). http://ec.europa.eu. Sep 2011
(1) The Situation of Older Roma in Europe
“Instead of becoming calmer and more secure as we get older, we older Roma start to live […] with greater insecurity and concern about our situation […]. Roma are unwelcome everywhere.” – Roma woman, 64, Italy 
] The European Roma population has a shorter life expectancy than the overall European population
The “Health and the Roma Community, analysis of the situation in Europe” report  compounded by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, which considered the countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain, shows that based on longevity and old-age indicators Roma have generally a shorter life expectancy compared to the majority of the population of the countries they live. Here, the longevity indicator focuses on the proportion of the population aged 75 and over in comparison with the 65 and over group while the old-age indicator takes the proportion of people aged 85 and over in comparison, once again, with those over age 64. Hence, the Roma population’s longevity rate is 25.7% compared to 51% for the EU while the old-age rate is 4.5% for the Roma population as opposed to 11.2% for the EU.
] Older European Roma have been neglected in policies due to their low proportion within the Roma population and their lower visibility in society
The “Roma Thematic Report”  analyzes the Roma age structure and estimated that about half of the Roma population in Central and Eastern Europe is in fact less than 20 years old. Here, the average age of Roma was estimated to be 25.1 years old, compared to 40.24 for all citizens in the EU, with over 62% under the age of 29 against 35% in the EU. This differs considerably from the general trends of an ageing population in Europe. This age structure is linked to lower life expectancy and higher fertility rates within the Roma communities. Further, it shows that only 2.56% of the Roma population is above 65 years old. Further, it is indicating that the average age of Roma is lower in segregated areas. Referring to a 2010 World Bank publication, the report looks at the economic and fiscal costs of Roma exclusion. The declining and ageing population in Europe will undoubtedly result in fiscal burdens for the governments as expenditures on pensions and health care will rise while the social security contributions of the working age population will decline. Here, the authors argue for the importance of including the Roma population in the labour market from an economic perspective, particularly as the Roma population consists of so many young people. Combining the factors of less than 3% of the Roma population being above 65 and the fact that national governments have economic interests in targeting the younger Roma, older Roma have been left out from the debate and neglected.
 “Roma Thematic Report – Evaluation of ESF Support for Enhancing Access to the Labour Market and the Social Inclusion of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities”. Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services. www.cses.co.uk. May 2011. p.12/13
Older Roma face severe exclusion and discrimination
The joint paper “Discrimination and exclusion: Voicing the experiences and struggles of older Roma”  conducted by AGE and ERIO in 2011, which is based on qualitative interviews with older Roma in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and Poland, illustrates the often shattering situation of older Roma. Although largely invisible, the group faces unacceptable levels of poverty, exclusion and discrimination, which obstruct their ability to enjoy their fundamental rights as older citizens and prevent their integration into mainstream society.
The first-hand testimonies gathered by AGE show that the main obstacles encountered by older Roma are the lack of access to education, work related training or employment, and the lack of adequate income to provide for themselves in terms of housing and healthcare. Here, there is not only a general lack of awareness and information available to older Roma about their rights, but they often also experience unequal treatment from public authorities, health and service providers and other social points of contact. Further, many older Roma feel treated “like second class people”.  The unacceptably high levels of poverty and discrimination result in social exclusion and hinder integration into society. Lacking social contacts outside the family further contribute to the feeling of exclusion among older Roma, who tend to suffer from loneliness and a feeling of lack of respect for them. The non-existence of an organized community life and having lived under critical conditions for many years, older Roma often lack the motivation to integrate; they are tired and disillusioned from long-lasting negative experiences and have no confidence in society.
Older Roma often experience long-term unemployment and face compounded discrimination when trying to find work. Clearly, this impacts heavily on the adequacy of their old age income and is a root cause for poverty and exclusion. Due to a lifelong segregation from mainstream society, which denied them access to education, many older Roma have very few qualifications, low literacy levels and are ill informed about how to take advantage of opportunities or how to push for their rights to education and training. Further, older Roma are highly vulnerable to poor housing conditions, especially in the poorest case study countries Bulgaria and Poland, which is increased in segregated and informal neighbourhoods. The housing situation changes significantly for the better for Roma who are refugees or Italian or German citizens. The research also confirms that a combination of hazardous housing and living conditions, poor understanding of health issues and severe obstacles to access the healthcare system lead to a poorer state of health among older Roma compared to the rest of society.
è As an especially vulnerable sub-group, older Roma need to be targeted specifically
All of the above illustrates the disadvantageous situation of older Roma, that they are affected as a group in all key areas of life and that their exclusion combines personal, social, economic and cultural issues. Older Roma experience “multiple discrimination” on the grounds of race, ethnicity and age. The complex situation calls for an inclusive and holistic approach involving different and diverse actors. Factors like relatively low numbers and lower economic benefits are neither feasible nor acceptable reasons for the neglect of older Roma. Ultimately, the group deserves Europe’s attention; targeting their well-being is European societies’ responsibility, will bring numerous social benefits and strengthen core European values.
ERIO would like to put forward the following recommendations to the European Commission in order to improve the lives of older Roma:
- Ensure member states target the situation and needs of older Roma during the implementation of their National Roma Integration Strategies;
- Ensure a meaningful participation of older Roma in the implementation and monitoring processes of the National Roma Integration Strategies and any policy related to their needs;
- Support the inclusion of older Roma issues and needs in mainstream policies concerning older people;
- Include older Roma as a highly relevant target group for the EY2012 campaign;
- Urge member states to gather ethnic and statistical data on the situation of older Roma in the areas of health, employment, education, social services and housing for a better consideration of their needs;
- Make sure that policies and strategies addressing older Roma are an integral component of European countries’ social development strategies;
- Ensure that the issue of discrimination against older Roma is included in mainstream debates on Roma at European and national level;
- Tackle the issues that prevent Roma reaching the same life expectancy as the rest of society;
- Ensure better healthcare and social services for older Roma;
- Tackle the prevalence of social exclusion by promoting activities on the community level to integrate older Roma.
 Ibid. p.4
This factsheet is supported under the European Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity – PROGRESS (2007-2013).
This programme is managed by the Directorate-General for Employment, social affairs and equal opportunities of the European Commission. It was established to financially support the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the employment and social affairs area, as set out in the Social Agenda, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Lisbon Strategy goals in these fields.
The seven-year Programme targets all stakeholders who can help shape the development of appropriate and effective employment and social legislation and policies, across the EU-27, EFTA-EEA and EU candidate and pre-candidate countries.
PROGRESS mission is to strengthen the EU contribution in support of Member States’ commitment. PROGRESS will be instrumental in:
- providing analysis and policy advice on PROGRESS policy areas;
- monitoring and reporting on the implementation of EU legislation and policies in PROGRESS policy areas;
- promoting policy transfer, learning and support among Member States on EU objectives and priorities; and
- relaying the views of the stakeholders and society at large
For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/progress
The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.
On 1 July 2012, Cyprus will take over the next Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It will complete the term of the trio Poland-Denmark-Cyprus. During its six month tenure, Cyprus will have the opportunity to develop the policy context and developments made to improve the lives of Roma across Europe. At the end of 2011, member states submitted their National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) to the European Commission. The European Roma Information Office, as an international advocacy organisation working to combat racist discrimination against Roma encourages and expects that the Cyprus Presidency will keep high in its agenda the engagement to tackle the many problems and obstacles faced by Roma and the alarming increase in anti-Gypsyism.
1. National Roma Integration Strategies
Most member states submitted their National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) to the European Commission. However, as the Commission’s assessment demonstrates, most member states need to improve their strategies in order to make a positive impact on the socio-economic situation of Roma. As such, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Ensure that the European Commission pressures member states to follow the recommendations included in the Commission’s assessment of the strategies in May 2012 and to revise their NRIS. Strategies should include a stronger human rights based approach, including a focus on anti-discrimination, anti-Gypsyism and gender.
- Ensure that member states involve a sufficient number of Roma representatives in a meaningful collaboration during the implementation of the NRIS. An effective Roma participation is needed in order for polices to be successful and to have a positive impact on Roma communities.
- Ensure that the European Commission and member states have a strong monitoring mechanism with clear indicators. In addition, the Commission’s assessment and monitoring should include the improvement achieved of the Framework by enlargement and candidate countries. More specifically, urge the Commission to ensure that these countries efficiently and swiftly transpose and implement the Framework at national and local level and follow the recommendations included in the Commission’s assessment of the strategies in May 2012.
- Assist member states to properly use EU financial instruments for Roma inclusion (e.g. Structural Funds) as a way to improve the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies. Also ensure that member states are committed to use these funds.
2. Fight poverty and social exclusion
ERIO welcomes the fact that the Cypriot Presidency has amongst its priorities the creation of job positions and employment opportunities as well as the recovery from the economic crisis since Roma are one of the most affected groups. The vicious poverty cycle that many Roma find themselves in must be broken in order to achieve the EU’s commitment set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. In order to reach this goal, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Ensure that the European Commission and member states keep the fight against poverty high in their political agenda in order to tackle the economic crisis. Particular attention should be paid to the more vulnerable groups such as Roma women and girls as well as older members of that group who suffer multiple discrimination.
- Make sure that a comprehensive and multidimensional approach is used to tackle poverty among Roma combining a greater access to quality education, decent employment and housing, social services and quality healthcare.
- Ensure that the Europe 2020 Strategy places on a balanced level a social and economic dimension.
- Ensure that member states effectively use the Structural Funds and other EU financial resources to help eliminate Roma poverty.
3. Fight anti-Gypsyism, anti-Roma sentiments and hate violence for a ‘better Europe’
Europe has been witnessing an alarming rise in xenophobic, anti-Roma rhetoric and sentiments among the general population, politicians and media. This situation might worsen with the current economic crisis since the usual scapegoats are vulnerable people and those from minorities. It is urgent to fight any form of anti-Gypsyism and racist attitudes. As such, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Make sure that the Equality Summit in Cyprus addresses the issue on how to stop the increasing anti-Roma sentiments and hate speech towards this minority. The Summit provides a good opportunity and platform for discussion between different stakeholders on this timely and urgent topic.
- Support member states in their fight against discrimination and racism as a way to improve their response to various forms of violence.
- Make sure the EU urges member states to respect existent EU legislation on combating racism and xenophobia, i.e. the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the EU anti-discrimination directives and more specifically the Race Equality Directive.
4. EU funding
Present negotiations on the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework will define the sector-specific funding programmes, direction and priorities of EU spending in policy areas between 2014 and 2020. The Cypriot Presidency has a unique opportunity to shape these developments. Therefore, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Ensure that during the negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020, adequate funding for activities on inclusion and the promotion of human rights are assured. This will assist in the attainment of the Europe 2020 Strategy goal to reduce poverty and protect fundamental rights.
- Make sure that the next EU budget includes the following priorities: a) capacity building at EU and national level (e.g. to promote Roma participation and on how to use Structural Funds), b) support of EU-level Roma networks in order to maintain the dialogue and cooperation with Roma during policy-making processes and c) enough funding is allocated to the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies.
5. Migration and asylum
ERIO welcomes the fact that the Cypriot Presidency has amongst its key priorities the integration of migrants into their host societies. This issue is particularly relevant for Roma migrants who suffer high levels of poverty and social exclusion and face obstacles to integrate. In order to reverse this situation and to guarantee the inclusion of Roma migrants, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Encourage law enforcement authorities to guarantee full respect of the human dignity of migrants and asylum seekers.
- Encourage member states to find a way to integrate migrant Roma into society, especially if Roma have already lived in these countries on a long-term base or if their children were born there.
- Ensure that the completion of the Common European Asylum System has quality assurance in asylum decision-making as a guiding principle. The Presidency should make sure that member states carefully consider claims for asylum by Roma, especially those coming from Kosovo on an individual basis in accordance with international and national laws and ensure they have access to a fair asylum procedure.
6. Western Balkans
Despite the fact that Roma represent the largest minority group in Western Balkans, they are rarely considered as citizens on an equal footing as other ethnic groups, and little efforts are made to improve their socio-economic conditions. The situation of Roma living in this region is even worse than in the rest of Europe. Time has come to guarantee decent living conditions and protection of fundamental rights to Roma communities in the region. To achieve this, ERIO calls on the Cypriot Presidency to:
- Ensure the European Commission exerts political pressure on and encourages governments in Western Balkans to increase their efforts and to take further steps to improve the economic, social, and political inclusion of Roma in their countries since the integration process remains very slow.
- Ensure that Roma inclusion and the improvement of the Roma situation remains an ‘acquis communautaire’ and that potential and candidate countries satisfy the ‘acquis’. In order to make enlargement beneficial for everyone the Roma issue should be effectively tackled prior accession.