Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The Roma as a Protected Minority? Policies and Best Practices in the EU

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The Roma as a Protected Minority? Policies and Best Practices in the EU

Article excerpt


The Roma people are one of the most heterogeneous minority groups in Europe, encompassing a broad variety of cultural traits and linguistic diversity, resulting in numerous sub-groups and fragmented identities. However, the group defines itself as a 'unified nonterritorial transnational nation'. The most recent developments at European level show an increasing willingness to adopt minority rights documents directed to autochthonous minorities. This has provided also the Roma, or part of them, with opportunities to be granted effective protection with support in the rights-based approach. The following paper will focus on the issue of Roma minority protection in the EU. The first two sections introduce the key features present in the debate regarding Roma minorities, highlighting the in-group diversity. The third one analyses the different legal status of the Roma communities in the EU. The fourth section highlights the importance of a framework instrument for the protection of territorial minorities at a macro-regional level. The fifth part gives an overview on the European Roma policy and the sixth section looks at best practices in Europe as far as protection of Roma is concerned: lessons can be learned, in this respect, from Slovenia and Sweden. The level of protection will be analysed at both theoretical and empirical level, through the help of the results of a small scale research carried out among minority members.

Keywords: minority, Roma, EU, policies, protection

1. Introduction: terminological premises

Important theoretical distinctions can be made between different types of minorities. The first one concerns the relationship that such minorities have with the territory. From this point of view minorities can be autochthonous or allochthonous.

The former are also called indigenous, historical or territorial minorities; these terms refer to communities whose members have a language or culture distinct from the rest of the population; very often, they became minorities as a consequence of re-drawing of international borders; in other cases they are ethnic groups which did not achieve statehood of their own and instead form part of a larger country or several countries; in some cases they might have migrated to the country very long time ago and therefore are considered territorial minorities. Autochthonous minorities resist assimilation more strenuously, they have a deeper knowledge of the State they are living in and ask not only for equal treatment but also for guarantee of active participation in public life through various forms of autonomy. The scope of application of treaties and conventions pertaining to minorities are usually applied to this type of minorities.

The latter are the allochthonous minorities, also called new or non-territorial minorities: these terms refer to groups formed following the decision of individuals and families to leave their original homeland and immigrate to another country for economic, political or other reasons; they consist of migrants and refugees including their descendants.

Where can the Roma be situated? The distinction between these two types of minority can be relative. On the theoretical level, it is not possible to define a clear limit between these two situations. In principle, autochthonous groups can be defined as those who have been living on a territory for a long time so that it has been possible to experiment a mutual adaptation to the physical environment (cultural influence and ecological influence). It is though possible to give some concrete reference in order to distinguish between these two kinds of minorities by referring to a detailed charter of languages at the end of the last period of stability, which is variable, but which, in the case of Europe, comprises a period between the 1 7th and 1 8th century (Héraud, 1966: 155-172). In this sense, allochthonous minorities are those stemming from the current migration flows of the last decades. …

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