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LSE IDEAS has hosted a panel discussion on the EU and the Roma, exploring criticisms of the European Union and its alleged failures to tackle discrimination towards Romani people.

Hosted by LSE IDEAS (The London School of Economics’ foreign policy think tank), the discussion was chaired by Jennifer Jackson-Preece, an Associate Professor in Nationalism at the London School of Economics, and featured the speakers Romeo Franz MEP, the first Sinto elected from Germany to the European Parliament, and Angéla Kóczé, Assistant Professor, Chair of Romani Studies, and Academic Director of the Roma Graduate Preparation Program at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

This discussion was the inaugural event for the Racism and International Politics webinar Series, launched by LSE IDEAS amidst global calls for change in response to the longstanding racial inequality, exposed by COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd earlier this year.

Discussing the relationship between the Romani communities in Europe, and their treatment within society, Jennifer Jackson-Preece, London School of Economics and chair of the discussion, said:

“The Roma, or Romani people, are Europe’s largest ethnic minority, with an estimated population of between 10 and 12 million, of whom approximately six million are citizens or residents of the EU. Many are still victims of prejudice and social exclusion despite the discrimination ban across EU member states.”

Romeo Franz, Member of the European Parliament, said:

“The discrimination, social exclusion and segregation that the Romani people face is mutually reinforcing. They are confronted with limited access to quality education and difficulties in integrating into the labour market… Romani people face greater exposure to unemployment and employment precariousness, decreasing opportunities for poverty reduction and social inclusion through the labour market.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, without a greater commitment from EU governments, little will change for our (Romani) people. I’m glad that we currently have a large majority in the European parliament that is in favour of European equality law for Romani people and a rule of law mechanism that ensures respect for fundamental rights as a precondition for the member states to gain access to EU funding. Only with legislative action, will we enable Romani people to exercise their rights as equal citizens.”

Angéla Kóczé, Central European University, said:

“One thing is very clear, there is a huge gap, what I would call ‘a racial gap’, between the Roma and non-Roma in Europe. Europe’s Fundamental Right Agency, in 2016, revealed that some 80% of Romani people, in the nine EU member states with the largest Romani populations, live below their country’s poverty threshold… meanwhile we’re talking about things like ‘human rights’ and ‘a bottom-up approach’.

“There has long been an assertion that the Roma have been instrumental in creating their own poverty. These are the kind of narratives that have been coming up again and again, and then we’re citing the statistics, but we’re not going beyond those numbers. We’re not looking at how these kind of disadvantages have accumulated through history.”

You can view the panel discussion here:

To learn more about the Racism and International Politics series, visit the LSE IDEAS website:


For more information or to speak to an LSE IDEAS spokesperson, please contact Jonny Stone at

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