Academic journal article European Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Roma in Serbia after the Collapse of Yugoslavia: Political Implications and Media Silence on Racial Violence

Academic journal article European Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Roma in Serbia after the Collapse of Yugoslavia: Political Implications and Media Silence on Racial Violence

Article excerpt

4. The Roma Issue and Europe

The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe with official estimates up to 12 million (Bereny, 2010). Roma people, the most unique and the oldest non-European minority with origins in India, are widely dispersed throughout Europe. They have endured a long history of nomadic life. As nomads, who emigrated from India, Roma have never expressed state building efforts. In respect to the Roma's historical position two factors must be brought together: the absence of common national consciousness and diffusion of ethnic characteristics. In the 15th century repression started against them. For their entire history Roma have been the targets of racist attacks and police abuse. Roma have been repeatedly criticized for theft, debauchery and witchcraft. They have often been hanged, persecuted across the borders and in the best case their colonies were located in strictly marked places also intended for other marginal people.

On the other hand, in communist countries the state employment programs offered them social integration. The communist governments didn t allow racial discrimination, which Roma have confronted today in almost all parts of Europe (Bordjevic & Balic, 2004). Unfortunately, under the pretext of integration, implicit assimilation often occurred. Attempts at limiting their nomadic way of life were just one of the many legal strategies. However, multi-national socialist Yugoslavia was self-managing federation (six republics and two provinces) with significant ethnic diversity. Government replaced the term "national minority" with the term "nationality. A key principle of Yugoslavia, the "brotherhood and unity", guarantee freedom and rights to all "nationalities". Roma people often realize that the best living conditions were under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, president for life of Yugoslavia The fall of communism in the 1990's and changes within the welfare state in the Western countries faced a record number of racist attacks on Roma as well as governments' request for forcing Roma people out of host countries without any right to asylum (Cahn & Guild, 2010).

Roma may have equal rights in theory and in human rights law but in reality they are discriminated in almost all aspects of social life. They are the poorest ethnic minority particularly in former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. They represent the largest number of refugees which seeks asylum from the countries in which they were settled, looking for a better life abroad (Bereny, 2010). The countries of Western Europe try to obstruct their arrival and return them to the country of previous residence. Roma constitute a prominent European case of transnational nonintegrated minority5. Of all European ethnic minorities, Roma are the least employed in the national and European institutions. The deficit of Roma participants in European institutions completely involves Roma visibility in Europe and sends very negative signals to Roma people.

5. Roma Minority in Serbia

It is estimated that there are approximately 500 000 to 600 000 Roma in Serbia. From the first race-hate murder 1997 in Serbia, the position of Roma has worsened with the general worsening of the standard of living in the country. After the 5 October 2000 changes, a transitional democratic post-Milosevic government was formed. The Roma acquired minority status in 2002. However, there is no evidence yet of real improvement in Roma integration. Dominant social representation about them lost its idealistic romantic base (music, exotic customs, beauty) and became negative. The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights demonstrates that the Roma are the most socially jeopardized ethnic minority that is mostly disposed to discrimination. Recent surveys indicate that discrimination in education and employment are perceived to be a major problem by Roma people (Miladinovic, 2008). Roma children do not have full and equal access to education. …

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