From Victimhood to Citizenship: The Path of Roma Integration: A Debate

From Victimhood to Citizenship: The Path of Roma Integration: A Debate

From Victimhood to Citizenship: The Path of Roma Integration: A Debate

From Victimhood to Citizenship: The Path of Roma Integration: A Debate

Synopsis

Will Guy is Research Fellow at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies of the University of Bristol, UK

The disappointing results of over two decades of activism in the supposedly more liberal climate of post- Communist democracies prompted three renowned experts to exchange views, sometimes conflicting, about the situation of Roma in Eastern Europe. Their forthright statements stimulated other stakeholders at a workshop, and the distilled text of this discussion constitutes the fourth chapter of the book.

While the book offers no easy solutions, the pre-eminence of its contributors and the lively arguments they provoked guarantee that it will be a touchstone for future debate as pro-Roma policies come under threat in Europe's time of crisis.

Excerpt

The three essays we are presenting here for discussion may prove contentious in some readers’ eyes. They trigger a fundamental discussion on the self-image of the Roma activists, and the goals they should be pursuing in the future. They sow seeds of doubt as to whether the Roma movement is on the right track, and they are doing this, moreover, at a time when the eu Commission, the eu member states are tasked with developing action plans for Roma inclusion. Nicolae Gheorghe welcomes the development options created by the EU’s initiative. He writes: Tor the first time in history, Roma have prospects of reflecting and playing an active part in bringing about social change. the role of Roma opinion-makers is to suggest new approaches, focusing on integration rather than on being victims.’ But then, in the course of his argument, he calls for a moratorium: no more payments from the eu before a new strategy has emerged – an ethically grounded action scenario.

András Bíró, whose essay has triggered a process of reflection which we aim to flesh out in this book, warns in what are sometimes harsh words against continuing the approach that many Roma activists have adopted in the past. Like his friend and longstanding discussion partner Nicolae Gheorghe, he demands nothing less than a new culture, one in which there is no longer a place for ethically dubious instant gratification (shmekeria) – the search for devious and not always kosher options for satisfying one’s own needs.

Martin Kovats focuses on the politicisation of Roma identity arguing that the European discourse of ‘Roma’ cannot be understood as reflecting ‘Roma’ reality, but as a construction of the wider political environment. He advocates reflection on how ‘Roma’ use ethnic identity in their political activities (after all, national citizenship is a more powerful identity in terms of legal entitlement). Furthermore he urges activists to embrace other, non-ethnic, aspects of politics so they can forge effective political relations with non-Roma (without whom Roma politics is segregated and reflects and even contributes to the general marginalisation/segregation of ‘Roma’ people).

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