Empowering Europe’s Roma

There is a Roma problem in Europe, and it is getting worse. But both the problem and its worsening reflect a toxic combination of deep-seated hostility and persistent neglect that Europe can no longer afford.

BUDAPEST – Across Europe, millions are suffering from unemployment and the prospect of a long period of economic stagnation. But no group has been harder hit than the Roma.

There are more than ten million Roma living in Europe, mostly concentrated in the Balkans and in the European Union’s newest member states, especially Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Hungary. What is truly shocking is that their living conditions have actually deteriorated since many of them became EU citizens. At the same time, the majority population’s attitude has become more hostile almost everywhere in Europe.

The two trends are mutually reinforcing: marginalization breeds contempt, and vice versa. The only escape from this trap is investment in education, which would pay enormous social dividends. Consider, for example, that Roma represent more than 20% of new entrants into the labor force in the above-mentioned countries.

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