EU Struggles to Ensure Equal Education for Roma Children

Sarhan Basem
A smart Roma female pupil posing with backpack in the classroom.

Despite Infringement Proceedings and Allocations of EU Funds, Roma Children’s Rights in Education Remain at Risk

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) In a disheartening revelation, the European Commission’s recent data from the Fundamental Rights Agency Survey on Roma, released in January 2023, has shown little improvement in the plight of Roma children’s education across several member states. This alarming revelation comes nearly a decade after the Commission launched its first-ever infringement proceeding against a member state for failing to uphold its commitment to anti-discrimination of Roma children in education back in 2014.

The situation has remained dire, with measures undertaken by concerned member states deemed insufficient and ineffective. The lack of rigorous monitoring and implementation of these measures has prompted the European Commission’s decision to refer Slovakia to the Court of Justice in April 2023 for its failure to adequately address the issue.

MEP Peter Pollak Speaks Out

MEP Peter Pollak

Prominent Member of the European Parliament, Peter Pollak, weighed in on the situation, highlighting the gravity of the ongoing crisis. He stated, “Segregation and discrimination of Roma children represent gross violations of children’s rights but also constitute serious limits to well-functioning democracy and the rule of law.”

Pollak continued, “Poverty and social deprivation cannot be justification for placing Roma children in schools for light mental disability. Over the past years, the situation has not improved and continues to be critical, despite a significant amount of EU funds made available to support member states concerned to remedy the situation. As proved, facade politics are not enough! Comprehensive reforms must be immediately launched to make schools fully inclusive for Roma children.”

In a passionate plea, Pollak emphasized, “The Roma children deserve to have a future and to become fully-fledged Europeans! Therefore, we cannot turn a blind eye to it, especially now when we are facing demographic challenges and rapidly advancing toward digitalization. Nobody should be left behind!”

EU’s Ongoing Roma Commitment

The European Union has long been committed to ensuring the rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity. However, the persisting challenges faced by Roma children in accessing quality education underscore the need for a renewed and more vigorous effort to address this issue comprehensively.

The European Commission’s findings are a stark reminder that mere promises and superficial measures are insufficient to tackle the deep-rooted discrimination against Roma children in education. To achieve real progress, it is imperative that member states take concrete actions to eliminate segregation and discrimination in schools and ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to access quality education.

As the EU grapples with demographic shifts and technological advancements, the inclusion of all its citizens, including Roma children, becomes more critical than ever. It is a challenge that demands immediate attention and unwavering commitment to building a fairer and more inclusive European Union for all.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.