It’s Time We Built Bridges, Not Walls

During the Spring 2020 semester, students taking Social Policy and Politics in the EU course worked in groups to  socially-oriented campaigns. In their presentations and campaign descriptions they were to outline the rationale for your campaign; measures / actions that the campaign will involve; its target audience as well as its projected outcomes. On the Module’s website, we will present several of their ideas in the form of separate posts.


Campaign in Support of Roma Communities amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Zdravko Cherkezov, Milka Stoycheva and Sofija Gajic

The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining moment in European history. For Roma communities, it is a life-or-death moment. There are 12 million Roma dispersed all around Europe, and most of them live in shanty towns with no access to water, electricity, or sanitation: a recipe for disaster during a COVID-19 pandemic. In Bulgaria, the home of 750 000 Roma people, misery and starvation loom as large as the threat of the invisible virus. With 86% at-risk poverty rate, and 55% pre-crisis unemployment rate among Bulgarian Roma, a socioeconomic crisis was always going to hit Roma people the hardest, but the COVID-19 crisis is the worst possible scenario. Since the Roma people have mainly been active in the informal sector, they are completely excluded from these emerging corona-response related social protection measures. Without an income or social support, thousands are left without the means by which to purchase food. It is paramount that we act to change that.

In response to these challenges, we have created a campaign whose main goal is to create opportunities for informed dialogue between government officials and the Bulgairian civil society. We will work to help NGOs voice their demands and influence the national strategy with regards to the treatment of Roma people amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. 

By means of open letters, petitions, and organized discussion panels between stakeholders we will put forward a number of proposals for the better treatment of the Roma community. Among the main propositions are the permanent removal of the walls around all Roma neighborhoods, the establishment of facilities for clean running water, the mobilization of a bigger number of health mediators for the purpose of informing the Roma communities about the disease, as well as the provision of social safety net for the Roma, who have lost all sources of income due to the crisis. We will also use traditional and non-traditional media channels to raise awareness among the Bulgarian citizens about the campaign. 

The whole European community has a great interest in improving the treatment of the Roma in the current crisis. We urge fellow Member States, such as Romania and Slovakia, to join our campaign. The Roma deserve to live better lives, and with urgent action now, we hope to deliver such promise. Who knows, maybe after the crisis Europe will emerge with an EU-wide Roma Strategy.