A new EU Framework for Roma Integration policies is in the making – now is the time to avoid past mistakes!
The current EU Framework for Roma Integration policies runs out this year. The EC is committed to renewing it for another decade. The current one however has triggered a massive increase in Roma-related institutional activity, but little tangible improvement for Roma people’s real lives. For a new Framework to bring about real change, a thorough evaluation of the current one is necessary. And a profound re-thinking of some of its conceptual bases is unavoidable. Tinkering at the margins will not do.
Find here The Progressive Post’s latest special Dossier: a collection of articles that analyse the current framework and that suggest ways for improvement.
By defining Roma as a distinct transnational ethnic minority and policy object, the EU’s Roma policy feeds into the ethno-nationalist idea in some EU Member States that they alien to the state’s nation, Martin Kovats, Special Advisor on Roma issues to the EC, argues in his article on Roma Integration: civic equality or ethnic empowerment? The EU thus participates in driving a wedge driven between Roma citizens and their national states, turning them into an ‘orphan people‘, taken care of only by a ‘stepmother country‘: the EU. A new EU framework needs to focus on securing consider economic and social rights for citizens rather than an ambiguous and externally applied ethnicity.
But Who are the Roma?, Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov from the University of St Andrews ask. And were an easy straightforward answer is expected, it turns out that Europe’s Roma minority is hardly definable. Decades of publications by the Council of Europe and the European Union mainly show one thing: conceptual dithering, further complicated by the various national terminologies and – last but certainly not least – by many groups’ own diverging conceptions of their ethnicity. The impossibility of a consistent definition however hints at a European Roma policy that is doomed to failure.
Roma activist and Visiting Professor at the Central European University Iulius Rostas however hammers home one main message: EU Roma Framework: listening first! For too long the European institutions have spoken aboutRoma, but not really withthem. And if they did, it was with a small selected sample of highly educated English-speakers among them. But only listening actively to Roma people of all venues of live could give a chance to make it better this time. The very existence of the only EU policy that is explicitly based on ethnicity entails an obligation to involve Roma people in the processes – but for that to happen, a large-scale bottom-up process is required. In organising that, the EU has a real chance to bring about change.