Anti-Roma riots erupted in Bulgaria last month, following a death linked to an alleged Roma crime boss. In an email interview, Martin Kovats, a special adviser to the European Commission on Roma issues, discussed the European Union’s Roma policy.
WPR: What are the main areas of concern regarding the Roma in Europe, from the perspective of both human rights advocates and national governments?
Martin Kovats: For human rights advocates, the persistence of disadvantage among and discrimination against the Roma raises questions about the utility of rights to deliver social change. National governments have a range of perspectives, as the political significance of Roma varies widely between states. For some, the Roma are an important feature of domestic politics; for others they are almost irrelevant. At the EU level, the primary concern is inter-EU migration, as well as economic development, social cohesion and increasingly the implications for EU values of anti-Roma far-right politics.