Eastern Europe’s Roma Predicament: Integration or Emigration
- Eastern Europe’s Roma, also known as Gypsies, are desperate to break out of the grinding poverty in which many of them live -- but they frequently see little hope of doing so in their home countries. Gypsies, who constitute Europe’s biggest ethnic minority, would first need to break out of a web of circumstances that prevents them from progressing. Chief among these is perennial unemployment, fueled by three key factors: (1) The Gypsies’ traditionally low value for education; (2) Poor Roma health standards; (3) Severe prejudice, which not only makes it difficult for Gypsies to find and keep jobs, but reinforces their hardships in education and healthcare.
- In countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, there is a yawning cultural gap between the Roma and the majority populations that prevents interethnic cooperation. Eastern European politicians are usually reluctant to pursue politically unpopular Roma integration policies, and ethnic-Roma politicians are unable or unwilling to organize their communities into anything resembling a civil rights movement.
- The result is that Eastern European Roma, millions of whom are now European Union citizens, are migrating west in search of either quick cash or a new life. But this "solution" is no solution at all, as last summer's deportations in France have shown. If EU member states fail to adopt an effective, continent-wide Roma integration program, the consequences will be serious.
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