The Roma in Europe
Paving a Brighter Future
staff writer PAMINA SMITH
^kh Roma population constitutes the From Hunting Game to FU Citizens la largest ethnic minority in the European After traveling from northern India through the ByzUnion, totalling 10 to 12 million cidzens. andne Empire and arriving in Western Europe in the 15th Signifying "man" or "husband" in the Romani century, the Roma had extensive contact with already settled language, "Roma" was adopted as the official European populations throughout their migradon that was internadonal appelladon for the numerous Romani groups marked by centuries of oppression. Amid fears of ordinary at thefirstmeedng of the World Romani Congress in 1971. citizens and the subsequent proliferation of negative myths, These groups include states adopted discriminathe Roma (concentrated tory policies of expulsion in Central and Eastern or forced assimilation, Europe), the Kale (based with Western European in the Iberian Peninsula, countries favoring the especially Spain), the Sind former and Central and (German-speaking areas), Eastern European counthe Manouches (Erenchtries attempdng the latter. speaking areas), and the Some laws effecdvely put Romanisael (Sweden and them on equal footing Norway), among others. with animals; in many The marginal soparts of Germany, Roma cioeconomic existence were still being hunted of the Roma has most for sport as late as the notably caused tensions 1830s. with the emergence of Anti-Roma discrimithe nation-state. In the nation persisted well into nineteenth century, the contemporary society. In ever-hardening borders an act now known as the of nadons proved to afPorajmos or the "Deflict the Roma, who often vouring," Nazi officials came into conflict with during World War II government authorigathered Roma into conties and resulted in their centration camps, where removal from districts, hundreds of thousands towns, cities, and counwere killed or died as a retries. This predicament A Bulgarian Roma man sits in a makeshift camp near apartment sult. Post-1989, Romain continues to affect them building "Block 20" in a suburb of the town of Yambol, southeast the newly democratized to this day, most visibfy of Sofia, Bulgaria. countries of Central and in the infamous French Eastern Europe found expulsions of 2010. themselves in a unique situation. On one hand, they rapidly However, there are growing indicadons diat states are became the primary victim of discriminadon and hate crimes more willing to develop mechanisms and policies promodng due to greater liberty of expression. Roma also faced severe the social integradon of the Roma at both nadonal and local unemployment with the erosion of protected accommodalevels, with the case of Spain frequently lauded as a "best tion systems and the transfer of low-rental housingfromthe pracdce" example. Although sporadic displays of prejudice state to municipalities. In consequence, many relocated to continue to emerge in several EU countries, recent developthe slum ghettoes of major cities. ments reveal an emergent international resolve to help the On the other hand, the post-Communist era brought Roma, a European people, become more integrated in their unprecedented opportunities. Roma organizations could own continent. now create global networks by easily collaborating across
32 HARVARD I N T E R N A T I O N A L R E V I E W « Summer 2011


many of the strategies implemented to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria were badly executed and consisted of band-aid solutions to deeply ingrained issues that require. The "Spanish Model" and Supranational Progress Spain. average life expectancy at birth is 76 for men and 82 for women: for the Roma populadon.WORLD IN REVIEW the former Iron Curtain divide. The European Union itself prioridzed the economic and democradc requirements of accession. health. poor living condidons with limited or non-existent access to basic public works and inadequate access to healthcare.. These included the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy. has been regularly cited as a model for achieving relative social integration of the Roma—the second-largest Roma community in Europe esdmated at 700. Romania on October 8. and a new incentive for addressing the problems of the Roma arose because of the new prospect of EU enlargement. leaving the fight against social inclusion to the side.long-term planning. The prevalence of discrimination and negative ste- ". Eundamental Rights. the programs largely failed to improve the siuiadon and in some cases even worsened it. As José Manuel Eresno.Roma also encounter very Photo Courtesy Reuters reotj^es against the Roma pejoradvely impacts these key areas. Because of dieir unsanitary and inhospitable living conditions. about 200 miles northwest of the city of Bucharest.2010.000-970. the rule of law. "The fact is that gypsies in some countries have lower living standards today than 15 years ago. In the European Union. " human rights. EU Commissioner for Employment. and employment. Numerous polidcal officials have recently noted Spain's success including Viviane Reding. it is 10 years less. Social Affairs. Andor commented to Spanish newspaper El Mundo how "Spain has shown that it is possible to integrate Two Roma women peruse the offerings of an open air weekly market in Agnita.. But many of the strategies implemented to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria were badly executed and consisted of band-aid soludons to deeply ingrained issues that required thoughtful and long-term planning. the European Union offeredfinancialand technical aid with many projects geared specifically at promodng the greater integradon of the Roma. housing. adviser to the EU Commission on Roma issues and head of the Spanish government's Race and Ethnic Equality Council. Without a clear policy framework and effective topdown inidatives. Therefore. and László Andor. Low-quality segregated education has led to low educadonal attainment. however. current strategies implemented by nadonal governments to address these deeply-rooted socioeconomic problems only slightly differ from those poorly executed during EU accession and have had minimal effects on combadng social exclusion. and Cidzenship. the EU Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Jusdce. and Inclusion. to help prepare Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries for accession. about half of Roma men and one-third of Roma women enrolled in school (whereas the majority Bulgarian population enjoys a 9 out of 10figure). According to a recent World Bank Policy Report. which outlined the various requirements demanded of candidate countries. they could aspire for EU membership by fulfilling the 1993 Copenhagen criteria. Roma face a shorter lifedme than non-Roma. Since Central and Eastern European countries now boasted democradc regimes. among Bulgarian 15-18 year olds in 2010. Summer2{)ll »H ARVAR D INTERNATIONAL REVIEW ." The Current Situation Multiple factors contribute to the social exclusion of the Roma today and the main areas of concern remain education.000. and respect for minorides.. Overall. stated to the New York Times.. After the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements. a large portion of the current Roma community could finally boast EU citizenship and enjoy supranadonal protecdon of their human rights.

and almost all have access to health care. The program helps ensure that regional and local initiatives improve as many factors as possible for Roma communities. In Spain. More than 85 percent of the country's Roma are literate. which administers the Roma employment program Acceder or "to access. pursues permanent solutions and has an integrated. Spain subsequently granted the Roma participation in its new democracy and the guarantee of protecting Roma rights. unemployed Roma earn the ment ordered police to dismantle Roma camps before those of other illegal groups. who coined the term "Spanish Model..practical factors affecting exclusion.WORLD IN REVIEW the Roma and give a better life to this community. in many Central and Eastern European countries trying to address the Roma problem. Secondly. According to José Manuel Fresno. civic associations and the Catholic Church strongly supported Roma rights and promotion. despite a return to formal democracy.." Even Romanian member of parliament Oana Niculescu-Mizil declared that in Spain "the Roma do not need ghettos. Acceder has been liighly acclaimed by many experts as one of the best integration schemes A Roma family lives in a tent after police moved their caravan from an illegal camp in Europe. and just about all Roma children start elementary school. Spain benefited from a growto help the most excluded and disadvantaged Roma groups through special methods especially designed for this population... the universal welfare social protection system of Spain. this positive rhetoric does have evidentiary support. The first key element is Spain's effective democracy. Throughout the 1970s-80s. The fourth characteristic regards the targeted approach of Spanish governments (national." active since 2000. do not necessarily ensure that security forces and public authorities take care to ensure the full participation and protection of the Roma in their public institutions. Although no up-to-date figures exist. thus creating a downtop approach with the active engagement of different types of local organizations and associations. following the democratic transition. the unsteady economic situation mostly benefits the middle and upper classes. and municipal) "The National Roma Development Program. in Lesquin. multi-sectoral approach that addresses the numerous practical factors affecting exclusion. renewed since 1989. Rights groups accused France of racial hatred after the governyoung. The Spanish government implements several initiatives that fall in line with Eresno's categories.pursues permanent solutions and has an integrated." there are five characteristics that distinguish Spain from other European countries and have ing economy and improved economic conditions. The National Roma Development Program." contributed to its success in integrating the Roma.. In third place. for disadvantaged children and the elderly) has been very inclusive and has benefitted the general Roma community because of their low socioeconomic status. France. former Communist countries. T h e Spanish government also finances organizations such as the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG). Finally.g. This stands in stark contrast to the prevalent top-down approach in other European countries.. general social services. regional. providing access to education. and specialized social services (e. In contrast.. at least 75 percent are believed to have some sort of steady income. multi-sectoral approach that addresses the. Thanks to the program. the Roma were finally recognized as legal Spanish citizens with equal rights and obligations. Today. the engaging Spanish civic movement in favor of the Roma community has contributed to the success of Roma integration initiatives. with money from both national and regional levels. health. 34 HARVARD I N T E R N A T I O N A L R E VI EW • Summer 2011 . which consequently helped improve Roma living conditions and decrease the rate of unemployment. such as access to housing and jobs. 92 percent of Roma live in standard apartments or houses. Under the 1978 Constitution that reestablished democracy in Spain." Although perhaps overstated.

it faces difficuldes due to the different nadonal context. The Spanish model may thus serve as a useful starting point for these countries to improve the status of Roma. as we have seen. and of the Council of the European Union. the Spanish model cannot be easily replicated in other member-states. iS the overwhelmingly supported March 9 resolution on die Photo Courtesy Reuters Summer 2011 «HARVARD INTERNATIONAL REVIEW Í351 . members of the Hungarian Vedero Future Outlook Although there are no quick solutions to these deep-seated problems.7 percent of votes in the 2010 parliamentary election. currently the only Roma Member of Euroinsdtudonal frameworks that will work to ensure that the pean Parhament serving in the 2009-2014 session. the situadon remains significandy worse in other European countries. However.WORLD IN REVIEW equivalent of a high-school degree. and very pronounced discriminadon—multiple barriers to improving the Roma situadon. the European Parliament. housing. and 12 percent of Roma still live in substandard housing in Spain. faces a labor market with a weak business fabric. parties. 201 I . This framework also establishes minimum standards at the European level for Roma access to employment. By demonstrating that all garian extreme-right Jobbik party. where in tackling these issues. Romania. the recent developments arising at the international level seem Roma people arrive on a car as they celebrate St. education. The Council of Europe passed the the appellation. flag. Despite the new wave of racism linked to the return of ultra right-wing pardes and groups in many European countries. The success of the program has led Romania's Nadonal Agency for Roma to implement its own version. and healthcare. and obtain jobs through agreements with private companies. George s Day. mechanisms for Roma integradon are solidifying. The European Parliament. extremely precarious living standards for the Roma populadon. which foresaw the officially established—the situation of the largest European creation of a new European training program for lawyers minority group seems to be heading in a posidve direcdon. passed community can adequately enjoy basicfreedomsand human a number of measures regarding the Roma. difficulties regarding Roma integradon programs and initiatives in member-states. As the case of Romania shows. Toleradon of these who currently participate in the cooperative Decade of acdons by the center-right government appears quite inconRoma Inclusion initiative launched in 2005—the expulsions sistent with a country that currently occupies the presidency led the Council of Europe. led by Thanks to the recent efforts of European insdtudons and organizations. acquire technical skills. culminadng in rights on the European continent. for example. organizes anti-Roma demonstrations. The HunEuropean-level polidcal agendas.Those who celebrate the traditional of some coordination and structural holiday often engage in feasting. in to promise at least an amelioradon Donji Vakuf. and Roma mediators who will give legal and administrative advice to communities. with 4 percent residing in shantytowns. The situadon of Spanish Roma today is sdll far from acceptable. the Roma now benefit from supranational Livia Járóka. a sluggish and bureaucradc public administradon. which won 16. Based on the findings of this taskforce. The French expulsions of summer 2010 played an paramilitary guard harassed 430 Roma inhabitants as they ironically useful role in situating the Roma on national and patrolled the town of Gyöngyöspata for 16 days. 2011) that will help member-states develop their own strategies to integrate the minority populadon and more efficiently use EU funds at their disposal. the Commission elaborated the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (announced on April 5. explicidy attrimember-states need to be involved in combating the social butes societal difficuldes to "Gyj^sy crime" and frequently exclusion of the Roma—not solely those in Eastern Europe. Just over 7 out of every 10 Spanish Roma over the age of 15 are completely or funcdonally illiterate. problems concerning the Roma population still persist. Despite the enthusiastic publicity. or Djurdjevdan. south of Sarajevo on May 6. and visiting friends and family. and hymn of the Roma people were Strasbourg Declaration in October 2010. As recendy as March 2011. But with this year the European Commission to take a more proactive role marking the 40th anniversary of the 1971 Congress. EU Roma Inclusion strategy. However.

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