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A European Parliament without Roma representation? [editar]


A European Parliament without Roma representation?

It is an anomaly that the largest European minority (some 12 million people) is left out of the European Parliament. It is no coincidence that it is the minority with the highest rates of inequality, poverty, social exclusion and discrimination.

It is a step backwards compared to previous legislatures, and it is up to the parties and the institutions themselves to take measures to ensure the effective representation of a plural and diverse society such as the European.

Following the recent elections on 9 June, a total of 720 seats have been elected to represent European citizens in the European Parliament (EP) for the next five years. Of this total number of representatives, a priori, none will be occupied by Roma. Although there were several Roma candidates on the lists, none of them obtained the necessary votes. This was the case in the Czech Republic for David Beňák for the ANO movement, Ivana Batthyány for Levice and Jaroslav Miko for Mayors and Independents. In Slovakia, Peter Pollák sought re-election and Dominik Lakato¨ stood for the Volt party. In the case of Spain, only one Roma candidate, Ainhoa Carbonell for the PSOE, was running. In Bulgaria, Vanya Grigorova for Bulgarian Solidarity, and in Belgium, Dejan Stankovic Kralj for CD&V. In Italy, Jessica Todaro for the Alleanza Verdi Sinistra party. In Hungary, Csaba Bogdán stood for the Tisza movement. The latter is the closest to a possible election as he was in eighth place and his party won seven seats. However, the leader of the Tisza list of candidates may refuse to take the seat, which would mean that Csaba could win a seat. Although uncertain at this stage, if confirmed, this would be great news and although very limited, it would mean that the EP would finally have a Roma representative in the current legislature.

Unfortunately, we have had the same experience in Spain after the last general elections, in which any Roma representation in Congress disappeared, after a legislature with three Roma deputies, and in which we saw how their imprint was present in many of the legislative developments, ensuring that social advances also reached the Roma community. In addition to their legislative work, they contributed to changing the social image of the Roma people, which has always been associated with poverty and marginalisation.

This situation is a step backwards. This European legislature will be the first since 2004-2009 in which there will not be at least one Roma MEP in the European Parliament. In previous legislatures there were diverse Roma representatives, such as, for the first time, Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia (1986-1999); Viktória Mohácsi (2004-2009); Livia Jaroka (2004-2024); Soraya Post (2014-2019); Damian Drăghici (2014-2019); Romeo Franz (2019-2024); Peter Pollak (2019-2024) and Patricia Caro Maya (2024).

Both during this and previous legislatures, the legislative work of the European Parliament concerning the Roma people has been intense. We can highlight the launch of the first EU Framework of National Roma Integration Strategies for the period 2011-2020 and its renewal and current validity for 2021-2030;  the EU Anti-racism Action Plan (2020-2025), Resolution on the situation of substandard housing and settlements of marginalised populations such as the European Roma, the work of some of the specific intergroups on anti-racism and diversity (ARDI), the promotion and support of the annual Roma Week within the EP and in collaboration with organised civil society, its consideration in a transversal way and very present in some of the Committees, such as LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs), FEMM (Women's Rights and Gender Equality), EMPLOYMENT (Employment and Social Affairs) or CULTURE (Culture and Education), etc... . And of course the approval of the European Funds and their increasing consideration of the Roma issue and request for alignment with policies aimed at advancing Roma inclusion and equality in the EU.

Many of these initiatives have been promoted and/or supported by Roma MEPs who have worked to put the unequal situation of Roma people at the centre of the EP's legislative action.

This lack of Roma representation in the European Parliament, being the largest ethnic minority in Europe, should make us reflect on how to improve the channels of political participation of Roma citizens. Fortunately, nowadays many professional and diverse Roma are trained, committed to politics and with enthusiasm and aspirations to take on public responsibilities. This is a complex and multidimensional process of change that must be tackled, firstly, through internal mechanisms and the willingness of political parties and groups to systematically incorporate the diversity of society on electoral lists, ensuring the incorporation of people or groups traditionally excluded from decision-making spaces, such as the Roma. But we should also reflect on the possibility of the institutions themselves making progress in implementing measures to ensure the representation of under-represented groups.