EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘Summit sees Sarkozy, Barroso clash in bitter Roma row‘:

As a convinced European, I appreciate the recent concerns over the handling by France of the situation of Roma citizens, all the more so because I am also Romanian of origin.

However, I am also a person who lived for a limited period of time in close proximity to Roma communities. As such I also witnessed the great challenges any government would have in adequately integrating Roma communities.

I believe a lot more can be done on the part of countries of origin to understand the Roma culture and find better ways to provide them with equal opportunities.

But I also believe that there is a flip side to the same coin: the willingness of the Roma communities to conform with the norms of modern society. And it is this side of the coin that I do not see discussed much in the media or elsewhere. I believe it will benefit us all if the matter is presented in a balanced way.

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  1. When I was in France a few years ago I witnessed how well the authorities treat the Roma minority hailing from Eastern Europe. By well I mean with kindness and a total lack of discrimination. The latter had easy access to social programmes and to free medical care, even though they had next to no French language skills and no residence papers (I was once solicited to translate between a Gypsy squatter and the local social service). It was a surprise, therefore, to learn that these people were now considered “parias” in France- in the words of a Presseurop editorial.

    So what sparked the current scandal ? For one thing, the economic crisis, which always exacerbates social and inter-ethnic tensions, because the state’s generosity has to be drastically diminished. One should not underestimate another event that caused outrage in France and whence the current situation snowballed: the violent attack by a group of ‘gens du voyage’ (apparently not Romanian-born) of a French rural police station.

    I agree with you that it’s hard to find a “balanced” assessment of the situation. I think this is because any changes and improvements in the life of the Roma community are almost always figured out and imposed from the outside. Its members mainly wish to preserve their way of life as is.

  2. The members of the Roma community may wish to preserve their way of life as it is — but this exactly is the problem as their way of life does often not fit within the rules of modern society. Migration, refusal to allow children to go to school, arranged marriages at pre-teen ages, reluctance to be part of the official job market… It’s difficult to see how these can be reconciled with the legislation of an EU country no matter which one…

  3. It’s outrageous that Euractiv publishes only homogenous (read: bleeding heart liberal) views on it’s “positions” section on the Roma issue. Any position Euractiv puts out there glorifies the importance of respecting Roma rights and condemns Sarkozy. What about maintaining a healthy and productive society? What about the rights of French citizens who are harassed by Roma in their neighborhoods and on their way to work? What about the rights of the French taxpayer who sees his hard-earned money benefit non-working Romanians and their children? What positives have the Roma in France contributed to society? Why is it incumbent on the French government to integrate them and not the Romanian government? One of the positions published by Euractiv was from a member of the Helsinki Commission who downplayed the fact that a significant amount of petty crimes are committed within the Roma community by stating that police commit crimes, too. That’s ridiculous! All of this worry about sounding ‘racist’ prevents politicians from solving real problems. You can’t compare a group of people statstically shown to commit crimes to law-enforcement officials. Senseless statements like this need not be platformed by Euractiv.

  4. “What about the rights of the French taxpayer who sees his hard-earned money benefit non-working Romanians and their children?”

    Romanians are not all Roma as Frenchmen are not all of African descent.

    “Why is it incumbent on the French government to integrate them and not the Romanian government?”

    If suddenly all the French born people of African descent would move to the UK would it be France’s responsibility? Free movement of people, the Romas are now an EU issue, no longer a Romanian issue. It’s not like the Romanian government didn’t struggle with the Roma integration until now.

    “What about the rights of French citizens who are harassed by Roma in their neighborhoods and on their way to work?”

    Romanians are harassed by the Roma people also. It is necessary to understand that the Romas have no feeling of attachment to their home country as long as they can live off by their own rules.

    I have friends that some people might consider Roma because of their appearance and I even have a friend that admits he is of Roma descendance although he does not have the Roma appearance and they are all integrated in the Romanian institutions. It’s really an issue with the traditional Roma way of life, of their general attitude towards life that has to change in order to achieve integration.

  5. I am a British Citizen living in the UK. I am passionate about the EU and its growth.For 2000 years we Europeans have butchered each other by the millions and now we have a chance for peace for 2000 years. What a heaven sent prospect for our children!
    I once lived in a caravan and towed it about in an old London Black Taxi -whilst working 9 to 5 in an office. It was a taste of the gypsy life and while it had its good points they were far outweighed by the bad.
    The Roma will have to choose their future- a caravan- foot loose and fancy free -making integration almost impossible or settle down and help build a more integrated society and future.

  6. From their first appearance in Europe to our days, Roma have been considered a “problem ” by the various states and a threat by Western States. Relevant, for this, is the paradox of Roma migration.
    B.1. Is Roma permanent migration a myth or reality?
    Migration was for Roma a defense against external aggression and discrimination and a means of seaming a livelihood. Existing non identification with the country they are living in, combined with a lack of confidence in the social structure and legal institutions, authority crises, are some of the main reasons way some Roma take this decision to leave relatively easily. Still, as the nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life for finding working conditions and survival ones, has always been preferred by some Roma throughout their history, many have chosen to settle at various times in history. So, the Roma permanent migration is a myth, not the reality. Romany population was forced to be nomad or semi-nomad by coerciveageable outflows to the west.”37 The EU governments do not seem to be very interested in solving this problem in the European Union itself.
    Among the ones that are responsible for setting up and implementing anti-discriminatory measures and legal frameworks for minority rights per se are the EU member states, too. The European Council ’s directive “of implement-ing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin,” adopted in 2000 (Directive 2000/43/EC, the so-called “Race Equality Directive ”)38, has become part of the acquis communautaire. Therefore, its provisions have to be adopted by the CEE countries in order to be accepted in the EU. But they have to be implemented by the EU member states also, by 2003. This document is a much more specific one in the field of minority rights (in-cluding the anti-discrimination provisions) than the body of legislation expressing the Copenhagen criteria of 1993 or than the provisions of the Europe Agreements or the Accession Partnerships concluded with the candidate countries.
    Meanwhile, the European Union urges the CEE countries to consider the integration of the Romany minority in their societies an important priority and one example for CEE countries. In order to support this processes (the inte-gration in the CEE societies before the theoretical integration in the EU itself), the European Union is providing the Central and Eastern European states with a set of financial means, mainly through its Phare Program. Important amounts of money have been used specifically for developing various (soft) cultural, educational, and legal projects for the Roma. Since 1998, these countries have also used their national Phare programs to set up policies for improving the situation of the Roma in their societies, like in our case-study from Romania. The European Union through other less significant programs has provided other amounts of money.
    measures of authorities.
    B.2.What is the paradox of Roma migration?
    Paradoxically, the law in many places has forced sedentarisation on those who preferred to stay nomadic spe-cially in the ex – communist space, while in other places or at other times, restrictive or repressive laws kept those who wished to settle constantly on the move.
    B.3. What is the real threat for the International Security: the “Romany problem” (Roma migration) or the “social fracture” of globalization?
    To answer this question we have to analyze: to what extent, and in what ways, does globalization contribute to international and intra-national conflict?
    . As part of their broader examination of the situation of minorities in candidate countries, the Reports also consider the extent of protection against racially motivated violence, and the role of anti-minority statements, espe-cially by public officials, in creating a climate conducive to violence and discrimination.
    What is the link between the “Roma problem” and the “social fracture”?
    Market economy, especially the “embedded neo-liberal” version of it, has marginalized disadvantaged social groups, including the Roma, even in the most developed European countries, despite efforts in the social field. In Cen¬tral and Eastern Europe the economic and political transition has aggravated their socially disadvantaged situation. So the solution for them is to migrate from Central and Eastern European Countries to Western European Countries, unlike other people on more or less the same social and economic situation. All Romany organizations proposed on several occasions, that states should explore the possibilities of concluding interstate agreements to provide the possibility of legal migration for seasonal work across international borders because the migration of the Roma has become a burning issue for the whole Europe, although the number of Romany migrants is insignificant and not higher than the average migration trend from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This is because it attracts greater public attention by its exotic nature. From their first appearance in Europe to the present days, the Roma have been considered a “problem ” by the various states but we can’t solve the Romany “problem” without solving the social fracture of globalization. So, for Roma the globalization and the European integration is an opportunity to contribute to the anti-hegemonic pro¬ject of the European Civil Society, even the International Civil Society in alliance with other concerned social forces. If not, the Roma problem will remain in one inertial paradigm, with Roma people isolated in their struggle for social jus¬tice. Political will for Unity and Globalism, a new vision for new functional structures and the justifiability of the right to development are the key words for solving the two related problems of “social fracture” and “Romany problem.”
    In conclusion, the “Romany Problem” is a benign threat, while the “social fracture” is a malign threat for the national and International Security.
    Raising awareness on the Roma issue
    Roma, from their first appearance in Europe till our days were and are still treated as an undesired group in all Europe, according to the old paradigm of coercion and exclusion. In the post-Cold War period, facing an increase in the number of challenges, the Central and Eastern European governments have become relatively indifferent to Roma problems. Meanwhile, it is the European Union that has become aware of the Romany issues, especially since the early 1990s, when it saw a rise in the number of Central and Eastern European Roma trying to obtain asylum status in the West. But the EU tries either to ignore the Romany problem, or – rather – to avoid the Central and Eastern European Roma presence on the EU territory, following the traditional western paradigm and motivating that its not a solution as it is stipulated on the latest document of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:59. Migration does not represent a true solution to the problems of the Roma in Europe. In order to tackle the root causes of migration, measures must be taken to increase confidence in and identification with existing social and political structures in the countries of origin. Priority ought to be given to combating all forms of discrimination, and encouragement should be given to the improvement of Romany communities’ living conditions and social situation all across Europe.
    60. Special measures should be taken to help the Romany migrants from Central and Eastern Europe already living in Western European countries. It is important to prevent unauthorized stay in a country, and avoid the further marginalisation of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrants.”32 This vision is in contradiction with the needs of the Romany community and their desire to migrate for seasonal work. The Central and Eastern European countries, but also the EU member states and the Roma themselves have to propose viable solutions to these issues starting from common standards and avoiding double standards for this European minority of Roma.
    The effective participation of the Romany minority in public life is a vital element in all-democratic societies, but the participation must always take a voluntary form.
    In order to address this situation, a comprehensive yet most varied approach is needed. Better living condi¬tions, improved social situation, legal status of Roma in all Europe and an efficient struggle against all forms of dis-crimination and segregation of the Roma must be a top priority in all the European states.
    While everybody else decides for them, the Roma are not able to assert the political weight proportionate to their numbers. So, we need a real representation at all levels of Roma, inclusive at European level on all European Insti¬tutions.
    There is a need to strengthen, clarify and harmonize the work of multilateral organizations and Roma Civil So¬ciety has to be represented on all this structures and participate on the decision making process.
    The Council of Europe can and must play an important role in improving the legal status, the level of equality and the living conditions of the Roma. The proposal of establishing a European Roma Consultative Forum is urgent. A Charter on the Fundamental Rights of Roma should be initiated. The need for the institution of a European Roma Om-budsman and a European Roma study and training center is also urgent.
    The perspective of the enlargement issue is that “the enlargement of the EU to the Central and Eastern Euro-pean candidate countries would bring in its wake a substantial growth in the number of Romany citizens of the EU. This perspective calls for investing joint efforts in setting up a consistent inclusive and anti-discriminatory framework for the Romany population, in the candidate countries and within the EU.”33
    The Romany problem proves to be, from this perspective, one of the greatest challenges for the EU enlargement. Moreover, “their populations are young and faster growing than the average. Without education, they will miss out on civil rights, their communities will be further weakened and Europe ’s social cohesion could be threatened.”34 During the 1990s, the Central and Eastern European governments have tended to approach the Romany problems mainly from a “social ”perspective, without directly linking it to ethnicity, politics, or minority rights. So, “problems of the Roma require more comprehensive policies, including elements of affirmative action.”35
    There are few European documents dealing with it: the document no.8830 (motion for a recommenda-tion)/September 22, 2000, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, whose title is “Improvement of living and social conditions of the Roma/Gypsy population in order to decrease possible Romany migration from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.”
    This European body notes that “the fight against all forms of discrimination and improving living and social conditions of the Romany/Gypsy communities should be a priority in handling the migration problems of the Roma/Gypsies from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.” But the same European institution is “concerned that in the past few years a growing tendency to migration, or at least a growing intention of migration, has been felt in the Romany/Gypsy communities in all Central and Eastern European countries. As a consequence, some countries in West¬ern Europe were forced to take legal measures to prevent Romany/Gypsy migration in greater numbers.”36
    The EU authorities still try to solve the Romany problem using a narrow perspective: they hope that providing Romany minority groups with rights and opportunities in the countries whose citizens they are.

  7. The EU governments do not seem to be very interested in solving this problem in the European Union itself.
    Among the ones that are responsible for setting up and implementing anti-discriminatory measures and legal frameworks for minority rights per se are the EU member states, too. The European Council ’s directive “of implement-ing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin,” adopted in 2000 (Directive 2000/43/EC, the so-called “Race Equality Directive ”)38, has become part of the acquis communautaire. Therefore, its provisions have to be adopted by the CEE countries in order to be accepted in the EU. But they were supposed to be implemented by the EU member states also, by 2003. This document is a much more specific one in the field of minority rights (in-cluding the anti-discrimination provisions) than the body of legislation expressing the Copenhagen criteria of 1993 or than the provisions of the Europe Agreements or the Accession Partnerships concluded with the candidate countries.
    Meanwhile, the European Union urges the CEE countries to consider the integration of the Romany minority in their societies an important priority and one example for CEE countries. In order to support this processes (the inte-gration in the CEE societies before the theoretical integration in the EU itself), the European Union is providing the Central and Eastern European states with a set of financial means, mainly through its Phare Program. Important amounts of money have been used specifically for developing various (soft) cultural, educational, and legal projects for the Roma. Since 1998, these countries have also used their national Phare programs to set up policies for improving the situation of the Roma in their societies, like in our case-study from Romania. The European Union through other less significant programs has provided other amounts of money and from ESF, structural funds.

  8. In order to find a global governance system involving the protection of minority rights it is necessary to have a common denominator of sustainable development and human security for all actors of international system. The right to development has to be the key word, as an integrative concept of all human needs, for the humanity as a whole. For this we need a new worldview based on a common vision for all of us. We have to start with the local level because many of the problems facing Roma occur at the local level and the keys to the solutions of these problems have to be found at the local level. Within the Phare program for to improving of the Roma situa¬tion in Romania a partnership was created between local authorities and Roma, but not on the basis of the 40-projects-majority from Romania. Different examples of successful Roma projects fulfilled three main conditions and one there was also an important lesson we learned from the drafting of the strategy: Roma participation, Inte-grative approach, Intensive co-operation with authorities are the conditions and its the inadequacy of mirror imag-ing which is the most important lesson. Recruiting Western experts, who know little of Romania and have only the vaguest idea of the Romany problem, even if such individuals sincerely identify themselves as benevolent agents of change, is obviously a mistake. Consultants and experts are trained to solve routine problems within rou¬tine procedures. They are not trained to reflect creatively on the emergence and stabilization of the complex insti¬tutions of Romany protection. Ordinary experts’ training, therefore, is not adequate to the extraordinary problems faced by the manager of a strategy for improvement of Roma situation. In Romania, as everywhere else, a strategy cannot succeed without attention to social context, local infrastructure, professional skills, logistic capacities, and political support. A foreign expert cannot help without a strong cooperation with government partners and Roma civil society, so knowledge alone is never enough. The fact that western experts are eligible for the coordination position is the reflection of the neo-liberal view. For this reason the government and the Roma civil society de-cided to make the strategy without foreign support, to protest against this asymmetry and it was a success but only for the design of the strategy. In order to implement the strategy with the Roma civil society participation a new protocol between the civil Society and the government is needed.
    So, the differences of wages is also a big problem because in our Romanian Phare evaluation more than half of the project came back in the pockets of Western experts and 10% was only for the manager of this project as we evaluated before. This provides a lot of tensions and a high sense of social injustice and for this reason Ro-manian experts weren’t encouraged to work and collaborate with western consultants and experts. The EU and the US should jointly create and fund a Strategy Center, to be located at a prominent political sciences school or a major public-policy school with a strong international program. Such a center-which can be focused initially on Roma but might eventually assume a wider mandate-could provide a forum for sustainable development program managers with extensive field experience to take time off for reflection, to write monographs in which they distil lessons from the projects they have been involved with, and to make proposals for project selection, project de-

    sign, partner selection, and the improvement of communications between headquarters and field officers. The ul-timate goal of such a center would be to provide, in effect Romany and Romanian consultants and experts. This will avoid the channeling of foreign funding should be towards projects with strong domestic allies and weak do-mestic enemies. This includes allies and enemies in civil society as well as in the public sector. So foreign support should be given to efforts that combine top-down and bottom-up features, working with both the regulators and the regulated. What is equally required is a good deal of commitment to a morality which will enable us to look ahead, to invest into the future, to widen the limits of an immediate self-centered horizon, to transcend the boundaries of one’s nation and generation. The preventive approach in order to prevent the conflicts of Globaliza-tion is not easy because it creates institutional, authority and distribution crises. This is due to the fact that the ac-tual global governance can’t accommodate the biggest contradiction between the two logics of globalization: the logic of global capital characterized by individualistic and corporate profit and self interest, and the logic of global Civilization designed to provide a good life for humanity. So, “the continuing gap between Unity and Integration in the contemporary world order foreshadows further tensions and conflicts until its institutions and processes of governance can accommodate both the universalizing and the localizing effects of globalization and both logics of globalization”57. In other words, the two types of logic are the logic of the private sector and the logic of the pub¬lic sector (by democratization of actual European governance and structural foreign policy58).
    Knowing the incredible complexity of the Romany problem – this is a de facto denial of their member-ship application. It could mean, though, on the other hand, that the European Union would change its inner struc¬ture (becoming, maybe, a multi-speed polity) in order to accommodate new countries with various problems.
    Can the Roma Civil Society be the opportunity for the drawing a new enlargement paradigm (which was the principal question of this thesis)? After analyzing the bottom-up Strategy for the improvement of the Roma situation from Romania, we can conclude that Roma Civil Society (still, not by itself), may prove to be a good opportunity for a new paradigm of enlargement. The protocol signed by the Roma Social Party and the Social Democratic Party from Romania can challenge the actual paradigm of enlargement dominated by free market and laissez -faire philosophy. Perspectives for a new EU paradigm of Roma integration can start from the new per¬spective of the Council of Europe, consisting of more importance given to economic and social rights, especially the right to have a property. To a large extent this was in response to the perceived need to ensure that the social dimension of the European internal market is not neglected in the rush to economic unity and rationalization. It might also be in part an answer to the excesses of the free market and the laissez – faire philosophy that dominate and are still part of the actual hegemonic project of embedded neo-liberalism. The Council of Europe must play an important role in improving the legal status, the level of equality and the living conditions of the Roma, in estab-lishing a European Roma Consultative Forum, in initiating A Charter on the Fundamental Rights of Roma and in funding the institution of a European Roma Ombudsman and a European Roma study and training center.
    The cooperative relationship has to be not only at the national level but also between Western and Eastern Europe, between the center and periphery within the EU and outside of it. The right to solidarity can be a new way of approaching the issue. Also the right to have a property can change the neo-liberal hegemonic position in Europe.
    Why Cooperation?
    Forty-five years of a command economy dominated by a one-party socialist state limited Eastern Euro-pean economic growth, grass-roots democratic participation, and political liberty. It resulted in a serious eco-nomic, social, and political crisis and led to the inescapable conclusion that socialism was not the appropriate sys¬tem for modernization in the region, so let’s hope that the virtues of cooperation will help finding the third way in a neo-Gramscian perspective. Because there are several forms of states and national interest, the raison d’etat cannot be separated from society, as it depends on the configuration of social forces at the state level. Gramsci’s concept of the integral state is analytically useful for the conceptualization of the relation between state and soci¬ety. Social forces are more important than the state (as the main actor of the International World Order) because history is the result of the constant struggle between social forces and is, therefore, constantly subject to change. European integration is no exception to this. While “embedded neo-liberalism” is hegemonic at present, this does not imply that it will also be so in the future. Highlighting the possibility of change was the first step towards en-suring actual change. The second step was an analysis of the potential forces and projects behind a counter-hegemonic bloc, which would come mainly from trade unions (organized at the European level), and those social democratic parties, which might return to their traditional policies. Significant would be the participation of social movements that have a shared resentment against the logic of capitalist exploitation. This would include the vari-ety of identity and social movements (ethnic, nationalist, religious, gender, environmental) that have a common material basis and thus a potentially wide social basis. It will be important for these counter-forces to put forward a coherent strategy, capable of rivaling “embedded neo-liberalism”, especially in the difficult times of transition. This issue is crucial, because the collective will of a counter-hegemonic movement, that lacks an internal logic and a social basis, could become dispersed and scattered into an infinity of individual wills or identities reduced to
    separate and conflicting paths. It’s exactly what happened to the Phare Project for the improvement of the Roma situation from Romania.
    So, we need cooperation but in a more trustful and moral way, based on the three activities-virtues of “globalism” (to bring unity trough solidarity): active communication for understanding, sharing of resources and mutual aid in difficult time. Only in this way we can bridge the gap between the elite’s hegemonic project and the anti-hegemonic ongoing project. We don’t have an alternative to cooperation and to the integrative approach of the new theory of knowledge. The cooperative relationship is the relation for the future at all levels and between the principal paradigms of Knowledge: of Natural Sciences, of Social Sciences, of Ethics and Applied Sciences. The relation is the principal unit of analyses of international relations and this is the big shift of paradigm at the deeper structure of analyses.
    This paper’s hypothesis was supported by some of the last years ’ developments in the policies of the CEE and the EU on the Romany issue (with some of the CEE implementing policies of mimicry and the EU member states trying to block the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe not to support their European integration). In the short-term and medium-term period, the EU might try to have double standards of security, in order to avoid a reconfiguration of its boundaries that could have a considerable negative impact on its internal security. Outside its borders it would promote external security strategies in order to avoid significant Romany outflows from the Central and Eastern Europe. Countries such as Romania would have a hard time trying to convince the EU member states of the benign character of their Romany problem in comparison with the real threat of the “so¬cial fracture” brought by European Integration. For a long period of time, in a sustainable way, we need a com-mon vision for all Roma from Europe. We also need a common strategy of all actors of the international system and a new functional structure to deal with this new type of cooperative relationship between institutions and Roma community; the Roma Office for European Information would be a good start in the right direction.
    So, at the Surface structure – minority rights are evaluated as a threat for security because the nation state is not able to deal with group rights, but at the deeper structure the “social fracture” of globalization is the real threat for national and global security.
    We hope that the answer to the questions posed to EU experts would help achieving a higher level of so¬cial justice. For the moment these questions are without answer because the economic interest is prevalent, on this stage of European Construction dominated by embedded neo-liberalism.
    We need new instruments of understanding the social reality, new methods of investigation, integrative ones for finding solutions for actual “social fracture”: new Political and Civil Society entities able to deal with the real threats of globalization in a cooperative relationship. Most of all we need the deconstruction of the variable of a superpower, replacing the military factor with the integrative research and educational one.

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