Poverty among Roma remains one of the most pressing issues for Central and Eastern European states as they move toward EU integration and sustained economic development. Using a variety of sources and approaches, this report examines the nature of Roma poverty-a multifaceted challenge that can only be addressed by a policy approach that attends to all dimensions of Roma social exclusion and focuses on the potential contributions Roma can make to social and economic development. Since the dominant policy approach in the years after socialism has tended to rely on a fragmented set of projects, often delivered by local NGOs with limited assistance from the state, the opportunity exists to make a difference. The next step is to integrate the lessons of this experience into policy. The mechanisms to facilitate this have been put in place. Most Central and East European countries have formulated strategies for improving the conditions of Roma and established institutions to develop, coordinate, and administer policies and projects. However, the agenda is complex and improvements will not come overnight. Indeed, poverty among Roma communities in some West European countries highlights the scope of the challenge. Effective policy responses will require a multilayered approach involving cross-country partnerships among Roma and international organisations, national and local governments, NGOs and communities.
Prepared for the conference Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future in Budapest, Hungary, June 30July 1, 2003.