IBNA interview: Marian Daragiu President of the Roma Civic Democratic Alliance
By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Speaking to IBNA, Marian Daragiu, a sociologist and head of the Civic Democratic Alliance of Roma in Romania, the first Roma representing party in Romania, warns against the superficiality and ignorance that European politicians treat the Roma issue with, amid the resurgence of an electorally motivated debate in France at the expense of the ethnic minority, and calls for serious pan-European measures to integrate the poverty stricken population.
The Roma are again in the crossfire of electoral fighting in France. What does this indicate – political cowardice, lack of vision, responsibility and interest in a pan-European problem? What is your reaction to this situation?
While the ordinary citizen, politically unaffiliated, every day feels the annoying presence of some of the Roma citizens on Europe’s streets, the European politicians, including the French ones, face the Roma issue every four years. The superficiality in identifying so-called solutions, see the program of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) passed three years ago, denotes not only a crass lack of knowledge concerning the causal problems this people cope with, but also a transfer of responsibility from country to country without the intention to approach medium and long term solutions for a population whose recent history is profoundly anchored in the slavery period of 14th-18th century. After all, we are talking about cynicism and political impotence with deep discriminatory or, in the happiest case, assimilationist, roots that the Roma population has faced throughout history. Final solutions imposed through political decisions, Auschwitz-type, or abandoning the Roma in marginal colonies nowadays are the proof of politicians’ superficiality in finding real solutions to a real problem.
How do you comment on the French minister of Interior’s statements that it is an illusion to integrate the large majority of Roma in France and, therefore, the optimal solution is their repatriation?
Roma’s visible presence on the streets of Europe is the tip of the poverty and social exclusion iceberg that the large majority of Roma face. Victims of their own ignorance, the European politicians continue to float the idea the vast majority of Roma are on the streets of Paris or elsewhere in Europe, ignoring the large mass of sedentary Roma. Over the almost 20 years of work in the Roma communities in Romania, I have interacted with tens of thousands Roma parents and children in the isolated colonies in the country. These are places where we need to act by means of integrated, sustained and long term projected policies. The repatriation “solution” of the Roma citizens has to be analyzed, inclusively from the perspective of the Romanian citizens’ and specialists’ migration to France, specialists that the Romanian state has invested a lot of money in and now they are contributing to the welfare of the friendly French state.
At the same time, since the revolution of 1789, we learnt that liberty, equality and fraternity are attributed that characterize a people which is willing to create equal chances to all its citizens. Once Romania joined the big European family, the Roma ethnics who form the ethnic group coping with the most serious problems of poverty and social exclusion should benefit from more of the time, creativity, interest and political will of decision makers.
The economic crisis torn Europe has become the stage of radical manifestations. The European Commission has warned about the radicalization of the political discourse and the risk a consistent number of representatives of far right and populist parties enter the European Parliament next year. Do you expect an aggravation of the discourse aimed at the Roma minority in this context?
In a period of degradation of the population’s general welfare, amid the economic and financial crisis that affects the whole Europe, history teaches us there has always been a scapegoat. Not the high level corruption, not the extremely low degree of EU funds absorption, not fraudulent public tenders that deprived us of infrastructure are the causes that affect the day to day standard of living, but it is the Roma who trouble Europe and the European citizen’s welfare. Scapegoats, powerless actors, willy-nilly survivors, pushed on the streets by poverty statistically recognized in the politicians’ cabinets, the Roma can again fall prey to a history not too distant.
For the superficial, uneducated and racist politicians, Roma will always be the most convenient bargaining chip. Amid the discriminatory attitude of the large majority against the Roma minority, more and more verbal sideslips and abrupt decisions aimed at the Roma have as a goal winning the voters’ sympathy. This is already happening. The far right parties only have to look at Europe’s recent history and learn from the predecessors who invented programs that defy the psychosis limits, such as the Holocaust. If these political trends, extremist and populist parties will find shelter under the European Parliament’s cupola, it will be regrettable. The slogan “unity in diversity” will have to be reformulated.
Politicians in the West frequently use the argument the Roma integration is a responsibility that strictly belongs to the country of origin. This is an argument which, in my opinion, runs counter the status of European citizens the Roma have and which enables them to settle anywhere they like. Is the Roma integration a responsibility only of Romania or is it a European one?
In my point of view, the social-economic and educational integration is a process which should equally envision the citizens of any state. The country of origin has the primary responsibility towards its own citizens and, if for years running, 6 years for Romania, we can use European financial instruments to sustain and accelerate national policies to reduce the risk of social exclusion for the Roma population, this is even better.
In this context, what would be the pan-European solution for an effective integration of the Roma people, regardless f whether we speak about the origin or the destination country?
Strategies, public policies, actions, indicators, measures to monitor the progress of their implementation, EU countries inter-related evaluations, powerful corrections (within the prerogatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament) for the countries that fail to integrate in their national policies the European priorities of Roma integration, medium and long term planning (15-20 years) and periodic measurement of the progress, the involvement of specialized human resources and the diminution/abortion of political populism.