Academic journal article Romani Studies

One-Size-Fits-All Roma? on the Normative Dilemmas of the Emerging European Roma Policy

Academic journal article Romani Studies

One-Size-Fits-All Roma? on the Normative Dilemmas of the Emerging European Roma Policy

Article excerpt

The article discusses three moral and political dilemmas that arise in the context of the emerging European Roma policy, and on which all concerned parties, including grassroots Romani organisations, should be able to express their views. The first dilemma is whether anti-discrimination measures based on universal individual rights are sufficient to promote the social inclusion of Roma, or whether policies based on group-differentiated minority rights are required to ensure the exercise of their fundamental human rights. Even though there appears to be a consensus on the insufficiency of the former approach, it is unclear exactly what kinds of minority rights should be promoted, which leads us to the second dilemma: generic versus targeted minority rights. The third dilemma is whether to recognise Roma as a national minority or as a non-territorial nation. The article argues that the notion of non-territorial nation can be debated on anthropological, political and moral grounds.

Keywords: Roma policies, self-determination, anti-discrimination, desegregation, minority rights, non-territorial nation, normative dilemmas, recognition, integration

As I write this article in March 2009, the Hungarian public sphere is flooded with articles, reports, and demonstrations discussing crimes committed by or against Roma. The former refers to Gypsy criminality1 and openly stigmatises an entire ethnic group, whereas the latter draws our attention to the increasing pervasiveness of racist discourses and a series of crimes committed against Romani people since January 2008, including 15 incidents in which Roma houses being firebombed and two attacks on Roma homes with hand grenades in which at least five people of Romani origin were killed (ERRC 2009).

The tense atmosphere does not facilitate reflection on questions of social inclusion and self-determination in the context of an emerging European Roma policy. The criminalisation of the problem drastically shrinks the space for moral argumentation on questions of justice (Kis 2009: 59). This article grew out of the conviction that democratic discussion of the dilemmas of social inclusion and self-determination diffuses discourses of fear and threat.

The article aims to contribute to the discussion on the emerging European Roma policy by highlighting and analysing some of the ethical and political dilemmas that policy-makers and civil activists face when promoting the social inclusion and self-determination of Roma. These dilemmas can be translated into European policy options on which all concerned parties, especially grassroots Romani organisations, will be able to deliberate. In particular, three dilemmas are presented (i) the relation of self-determination to anti-discrimination; (ii) the question of Roma specific norms and policies; and (iii) the dilemma of whether the Roma should be recognised as a national minority or as a non-territorial nation. Before discussing the dilemmas, their international context is presented.

The international context

International actors play a crucial role in the codification, spread and acceptance of norms in relation to Roma. International governmental and nongovernmental actors can promote three kinds of norm: the protection of fundamental human rights; generic minority rights; and Roma-specific norms.

In addition to the general human-rights regime based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a comprehensive international legal and institutional framework has developed in the last 15 to 20 years aiming at the protection of the rights of minorities.

The United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities in 1992 as well as other intergovernmental organisations, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (unesco), the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, have developed norms on minority or indigenous rights. …

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