The Roma community is one of the largest minority groups in the EU, with an estimated number of 10 million Roma living in Europe. Helena Dalli, the EU new commissioner for equality, has stated that she will soon visit one of the most discriminated Roma settlements in Europe, one which also endured Nazi violence.
According to the recently published Eurobarometer Survey, this is a quite challenging undertaking for the new EU commissioner; prejudice towards the Roma is quite high in Malta, Dalli’s home country, where the Roma minority makes up only a small percentage of the total population. Malta, however, seems to be influenced by exposure to the Italian media and the propaganda of the far-right leader, Matteo Salvini.
The findings of the Eurobarometer Survey show that 39% of people in Malta would feel uncomfortable if one of their children were in a romantic relationship with a member of the Roma community, a higher percentage than the EU member states who responded to the same question. Other countries where people expressed similar feelings are: Bulgaria (73%), Greece (60%), Cyprus (55%) and Italy (51%). In contrast, only 12% of Swedish respondents said they would feel uncomfortable with their child dating someone from the Roma community. Furthermore, 21% of people in Malta would feel uncomfortable if their children attended school with Roma schoolmates, compared to 27% of all EU respondents.
Other survey results showed that 49% of EU respondents said they would feel comfortable with a prime minister of Roma ethnicity. Meanwhile, 32% of respondents from Malta would feel the same. In general, the results of the study showed that 61% of the EU respondents agreed that society would benefit from the integration of Roma people, while results from Malta were indeterminate.