Roma in the Region

The size of the Roma community in the region

Roma Integration 2020 covers the EU enlargement region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The size of the Roma population in each economy is uncertain and disputed. The table below provides an overview of the available data on the size of the Roma population:

Economy Data year Total pop.
(best official)
% Average estimate x best average %
Albania 2011 2,800,138 11,669 0.42% 115,000 10 4.11%
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2010 3,837,732 16,7711) 0.44% 76,000 5 1.98%
FYR Macedonia 2002 2,022,547 53,879 2.66% 197,000 4 9.74%
Kosovo* 2011 1,739,825 35,784 2.06% 37,500 1 2.16%
Montenegro 2011 620,029 8,305 1.34% 20,000 2 3.23%
Serbia 2011 7,186,862 147,604 2.05% 600,000 4 8.35%
Turkey 2008 71,517,100 700,0002) 0.98% 2,750,000 4 3.85%
Total   89,724,233 974,012 1.09% 3,795,500 4 4.23%

1) The best officially provided number of Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina is from the Needs Assessment done by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees in 2009 (with a note that the actual number of Roma is higher)
2) The best officially provided number of Roma in Turkey is the Academic report prepared in 2008 for the National Security Council of Turkey

The total number of the population of each economy in the table is provided from the official statistics for the same year as the best possible officially provided number for the Roma population. Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia conducted census in 2011 providing ethnically disaggregated data, including data on Roma. Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted its first census in 2013, but did not publish data on Roma. The best available official source is the Needs Assessment conducted by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees in 2010. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia conducted the last census in 2002. Official statistics on Roma in Turkey is unlikely, as the census in Turkey doesn’t provide ethnically disaggregated data. The best possible estimation may be expected from the EU funded project SIROMA mapping the needs of the Roma on local level.

The best possible official data on the Roma population in the region show that there are around one million Roma, representing somewhat over 1% of the total population.

The average estimation on the number of Roma comes from unofficial sources, mainly claims by Roma civil society or Roma leaders collected by the Council of Europe as minimum and maximum estimates from which the median is derived. By these average estimations, the Roma community in the region is 4 times bigger than officially reported. Only in Albania the claims are that the Roma community is 10 times bigger than the official numbers provided, while in Kosovo* the estimations made by the Roma community leaders are coinciding the actual officially reported number. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on the Roma needs assessment, some academic voices claim the average estimate is most probably reflecting the reality.

The average estimates suggest that the Roma community in the region is over 3.5 million, representing over 4% of the total population.

The situation of the Roma community in the region

Opening the Roma Integration 2020 project launch event on 09 June 2016 in Brussels, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn said, “Roma integration is an important element of the enlargement process. Before accession, countries will need to prove tangible progress in the fields of education, employment, health, housing and civil documentation. The Decade of Roma Inclusion has put integration of Roma on the political agenda: the ‘Roma Integration 2020’ programme is a confirmation of the Decade in the enlargement countries, where it aims to achieve sustainable results on the ground.”

This tangible progress in the fields of education, employment, health, housing and civil documentation for Roma in the Western Balkans and Turkey is needed because the European Commission recognized the precarious situation in which Roma communities in the region live.

As Mr Štefan Füle, the predecessor of Mr Hahn, put it: “…across the Western Balkans and Turkey, the situation of most Roma communities remains a matter of serious concern. Many Roma are very often the victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion and live in deep poverty. Roma communities often lack adequate access to healthcare, education, housing and employment. And not all Roma have their civil documentation in order due to cumbersome and often expensive procedures… [A] major challenge is how Roma are perceived. We all - the European Commission, the governments, civil society organisations -need to send out the same message: Roma integration is an important policy. And it is not only investment for the benefit of this minority but it is also an investment to the benefit of society.”

While this precarious situation of the Roma community in the region has been established through numerous observations and reports, comprehensive and reliable data to illustrate it are not readily available, despite the efforts of the Roma Decade for establishing a robust monitoring and reporting system. In line with this, data are particularly scarce for the economies that did not participate in the Roma Decade, namely Kosovo* and Turkey. For the economies that participated in the Roma Decade, the best available data compiled in a comprehensive report can be found in the Roma Inclusion Index 2015 published by the Decade of Roma Inclusion Secretariat.

The Roma Integration 2020 works on putting in place a comprehensive regionally comparable system of process and outcome monitoring of the policies for Roma and their effects on the lives of Roma.

Segments of the life of the Roma community in the region

There are many reports, documentaries, stories, articles and other media products providing wide range of aspects of the life of Roma in the region. A selection of videos available on the internet is listed below:


Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia





* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.