ERGO report: Impact of Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19 on Roma communities in the European Union and the Western Balkans

Together with partners from seven EU Member States, five Western Balkan countries and Turkey, ERGO Network has prepared an in-depth study about the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had and continue to has on Roma and Travellers across Europe.

Access the study here. 

The data collected in this survey confirms that marginalized Roma and Travellers are amongst the most affected and impacted by Covid-19, mainly due to their devastating living conditions and exclusion, triggered by widespread antigypsyism. As this study suggests, during the pandemic many Roma and Travellers living in poverty found it very hard to protect themselves from getting the virus because of lack of access to water and sanitation. This was even harder for those living in segregated and informal settlements and/or improvised shelters.

Despite some positive responses regarding immediate measures taken by some governments and local authorities to assist vulnerable groups, including Roma and Travellers, increasing concerns from our members called for more consolidated data in order to better understand the situation of Roma and Travellers in the EU and Western Balkans and Turkey. The data is necessary to advocate for  better institutional and political coordination and a focus on minimising the impact of the pandemic in its second and/ or third wave on vulnerable communities including Roma and Travellers.

As a result, ERGO Network together with its members and partner organisations prepared national surveys in seven EU countries and six Western Balkan countries and Turkey. The results of this survey constitute the basis of this report. Besides data on key areas of access to education, employment, basic needs, health and housing, migration, discrimination and gender aspects, it also includes recommendations from the respondents themselves as well as from ERGO Network.

This survey was possible thanks the valuable contributions from ERGO members and partners. We would like to thank in particular Roma Active Albania in Albania, Otaharin in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expert Orhan Tahir in Belgium, Integro in Bulgaria, Slovo 21 and Life Together in Czechia, Amrita OBK association in Hungary, Pavee Point in Ireland, Voice of Roma Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo, RROMA in North Macedonia, Nevo Parudimos in Romania, Roma Forum in Serbia, Roma Advocacy and Research Centre in Slovakia and Zero Discrimination association in Turkey as well as Roma and Traveller communities in all the respective countries.

We especially thank the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) whose survey on the Covid impact (1) on Roma in Spain was used as inspiration for our ERGO survey.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache , Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.


ERGO Network carried out this work in the framework of the project “Roma Included in Social Europe”, funded by the EaSI Programme (all parts concerning EU Member States) and in the framework of the project “Romani Women Power of Change “ (all parts concerning Western Balkans and Turkey) carried out as a partner of Roma Active Albania and funded by the European Union.

This publication has received funding from the European Union. The information contained in this publication reflects only the authors’ view, and its contents not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This publication has received financial
support from the Foreign Office of the
Federal Republic of Germany.



ERGO responds to the EPSR Action Plan

ERGO Network responds to the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights

On 4 March 2021, the European Commission proposed an Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar), aiming to turn its 20 policy principles into concrete policy actions. The European Commission has pledged to make the Social Pillar “the compass of Europe’s recovery and our best tool to ensuring no one is left behind”.

The Action Plan draws on a wide-scale public consultation, which received over 1000 responses, including ERGO Network’s comprehensive position paper How to ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers on Roma equality, inclusion, and participation?, where each of the 20 principles is explained in terms of its implications for Roma rights, including relevant thematic statistics and concrete policy recommendations.

=> Access ERGO Network’s full response to the Action Plan

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the inclusion of the EU Strategic Framework and Council Recommendation on Roma Equality, Inclusion, and Participation as an integrant policy action of the Social Pillar Action Plan, which firmly anchors the delivery on the EU Roma Framework under the umbrella of the Social Pillar and throughout the European Semester.  Unfortunately, the European Roma are only mentioned once in the rest of the document, exclusively in relation to employment. It is a missed opportunity not to have a specific focus on the Roma also in other areas, such as skills, equality, and poverty.

More encouragingly, ethnic minorities or ethnic background are referred to several times. While wording could have been stronger, the mentions are very welcome, as they uphold and mainstream Principle 3, Equal Opportunities. The plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups is highlighted a few times throughout the text, and the Action Plan includes several welcome references to combatting discrimination. While this is positive, unfortunately the document falls short of mainstreaming a true anti-discrimination approach in all its areas.

ERGO Network further welcomes the fact that the Action Plan includes concrete, quantifiable targets, on employment, education, and poverty reduction. These mirror objectives also included in the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality, Participation, and Inclusion – though the links are, sadly, not made explicit in the Action Plan. While equality is combined with the target on skills, there is no corresponding measurable objective. Moreover, the Equality section of the Action Plan focusses exclusively on gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities. It is unfortunate that other groups did not receive the same attention, particularly as their thematic EU strategies are clearly mentioned as falling under the scope of the Social Pillar.

We further appreciate that the implementation of the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights will be explicitly monitored through the European Semester and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. While the targets set minimum standards, it is hoped that Member States will raise the level of ambition in defining their own national targets. In this context, we very much welcome the European Commission’s encouragement to Member States to collect data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin, in line with the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan.

ERGO Network very much welcomes that the revised Social Scoreboard will also apply in enlargement countries, as part of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) process, while the Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) III will pro­vide increased funding for a flagship initiative to implement Youth Guarantee schemes, as part of the dialogue with Western Balkans.

Member States are encouraged to make use of the full range of EU funds available to implement the Action Plan, but no specific earmarking of funds is connected to the targets of the Pillar, and there is no minimum social expenditure foreseen for the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The European Commission must issue clear guidelines to Governments and Managing Authorities for allocations to be made for the vulnerable and Roma especially – including through a corresponding enabling condition and Roma-specific indicator.

It is very positive that civil society is mentioned explicitly and repeatedly as a partner for the implementation of the Action Plan, and Member States are encouraged to ensure engagement of all relevant stakeholders. The Action Plan will only be effective if it achieves wide ownership by beneficiaries, and if it is rooted in direct evidence from the ground. Roma communities and their NGO representatives must be involved at all stages of policy design, delivery, and monitoring.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

CLLD Meeting with EC desk officers

ERGO Network members meet EC desk officers to discuss Community-Led Local Development

On 11 March 2021, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network facilitated an online exchange meeting between its national members in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Romania, and their counterparts in the country desks of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), DG Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), and DG Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI). Other European Commission staff responsible for related affairs was also in attendance.

The main topics covered in the meeting were:

  • Presentation of the main findings of the ERGO Network evaluation report of the CLLD cycle 2014-2020 in the three countries.
  • Updates on the possibility to introduce the Roma indicators in connecting the EU Roma Strategic Framework with EU funds.
  • Updates on how to best feed Roma realities and proposals (particularly with a view to the pandemic and recovery) in the current MFF negotiations.
  • Updates on the preparation of the National Roma Strategic Frameworks and National Recovery and Resilience Plans.

ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabaňová recalled that the organisation had been engaging extensively with CLLD processes since 2014, given the key role these processes can play in empowering Roma communities to identify bottom-up, beneficiary-led solutions that can tackle Roma poverty and social exclusion. Ms Hrabaňová pointed to the comprehensive synthesis report ERGO Network produced this year, evaluating the CLLD cycle for its entire duration (2014-2020) from a Roma perspective in three countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. She concluded by reassuring desk officers that ERGO Network national members and staff stood committed, willing, and able to provide all necessary input and feedback from their work directly at grassroots level, to make sure that the voice of the Roma was being heard.

  • Access here the ERGO Network publication “Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) for Roma inclusion. Evaluation Report 2014-2020”

Daniel Grebeldinger, ERGO Network CLLD expert (Nevo Parudimos, Romania) offered participants a comprehensive presentation of the main findings of the evaluation report. Roma involvement in CLLD and Local Action Group structures remained unequal, while more work needed to be done to build the capacity of all actors involved – local authorities, other LAG members, Roma NGOs, and community leaders – to engage with these processes. Cooperation with the Managing Authorities was not always smooth, and delays in launching the calls and the evaluations persisted, making planning and delivering projects a challenge. While more and more local development strategies had included Roma as priority beneficiaries, further efforts were needed to ensure that interventions genuinely reached the Roma and made a difference in their lives, with their full participation. The ERGO Network report presents concrete recommendations for the Managing Authorities, for the LAGs, and for Roma communities themselves.

The presentation was followed by an interactive Q&A session with the European Commission representatives in attendance, where specific points of the report were further elaborated upon. After the opening plenary, participants split into breakout rooms according to countries, in order to be able to exchange bilaterally in more detail about specific national concerns. ERGO Network will continue to engage closely with CLLD processes on the ground, with a view to ensure that Roma rights, inclusion, and participation were prioritized in this framework. The dialogue with the European Commission will continue through follow-up exchange meetings.


  • Access here the report of the online exchange meeting between ERGO Network national members and the European Commission (plenary only).

Ineffectiveness or misuse of EU funds

Ineffectiveness or misuse of EU funds

Synthesis report of case studies from ERGO Network members in 4 countries

In 2020, in the framework of ERGO Network’s Work Programme “Roma Included in Social Europe” funded by DG EMPL,  ERGO members from Romania (Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities), Bulgaria (Integro Association), Hungary (Butterfly Development) and Slovakia (Roma Advocacy and Research Centre) conducted case studies to support monitoring of funds and to contribute to a better design of funding programmes.

More specifically, the case studies aimed to:

  • provide evidence of ineffectiveness and/or misuse of EU funds to the EC and managing authorities (not fulfilling the enabling conditions – not contributing to diversity, participation, combating discrimination)
  • give recommendations on how to design more effective funding programmes for of Roma inclusion
  • increase awareness of the importance of transparency in funding

The case studies showed that:

  • EU Roma related funds are not always implemented adequately or in the best interest of the Roma communities it intends to target.
  • Often Roma and CSOs are not consulted during the implementation of projects.
  • despite considerable EU funds spent, the precarious situation of Roma where investments took place is deepening.
  • There is a lack of adequate needs assessment of the target groups’ situation to measure the adequacy and efficiency of the proposed actions.
  • There are restrictive conditions for participation of NGOs, which in most cases limited in practice the participation of the Roma community itself as an active party in the implementation of activities.
  • The project implementation guidelines may discriminate against NGOs putting them at a disadvantage compared to other partners -i.e. NGOs cannot receive advance payments due to the impossibility of guaranteeing this payment
  • NGOs may have problems receiving project indirect costs, which may stop the process of effective management of project activities
  • There are unnecessary, bureaucratic requirements for reporting on activities, which further burdens the work of partner civil society organizations.
  • The management of the procedures may pose challenges for the implementation of projects. In Bulgaria, the procedure was conceived as integrated and is applied under two different operational programmes. In the process of implementation, however, the projects were divided into two parts, under 2 different programmes and Managing authorities, which had their own separate requirements, guidelines and procedures, often very different from one another – which made the reporting process very difficult at the expense of the implementation of activities.

The individual case studies can be downloaded at the end of each summary.

You can download the synthesis report here.

Roma inclusion in the Community-Led Local Development

Roma inclusion in the Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) cycle 2014-2020

Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) is an initiative for involving citizens at local level in developing responses to today’s social, environmental, and economic challenges, and a promising tool for investing in Roma inclusion. Unemployment, poverty, and social exclusion, which are key topics for Europe’s Roma, are among the challenges that the EU has identified for CLLD. Approved CLLD strategies can mean that significant EU funds are available for several years to support those activities and investments that matter the most. The European Commission equally expects CLLD to give ownership to beneficiaries, with a special focus on marginalized communities, through capacity building, empowerment, full transparency, and sharing of the decision-making power.

ERGO Network invests in and supports (pro-) Roma NGOs, community-based organisations, and Roma activists to become involved in CLLD initiatives in their countries, so that as many CLLD strategies as possible tackle Roma exclusion. During 2020, ERGO Network members conducted comprehensive research in three key countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania), to evaluate the functioning and implementation of the CLLD cycle 2014-2020, with a view to assessing the extent to which Roma inclusion was mainstreamed throughout the CLLD processes, in what concerns both the content of the activities, as well as stakeholder involvement. The partners carrying out this research were Integro Association (Bulgaria), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Nevo Parudimos (Romania).

The objectives of the evaluation were:

  • To provide evidence on the inclusion of Roma in all stages of the CLLD process
  • To assess the quality of Roma inclusion in development strategies and funded projects
  • To empower Local Action Groups through increased knowledge of CLLD and strengthen accountability mechanisms at local level
  • To empower Roma to take part in the CLLD processes
  • To provide recommendations on improvements in the CLLD process to foster Roma inclusion for the next programming period
  • To showcase good practices of CLLD projects which put the Roma at their core.

Download the full synthesis evaluation report here!