International Roma Day - 2022 - Roma Issues Today
By: Deny Dobobrov
In our everyday life, we all hear about the word “Human Rights”, but have you ever wondered what does it really mean? What do you think of when you hear the term “Human Rights”? Well, let me make it easy for you. It simply means all humans are born equal and, in that capacity, must be treated equally. Now, if I were to tell you that within your own country, the Roma community is not being provided with equal rights, you will agree that their human rights are being violated, won’t you? This is exactly what is happening to the Roma community. Despite being the largest ethnic group in Europe, they classify as the most discriminated against community. The Roma do not have an identity and are, therefore, not recognized as a separate entity.
There is a disconnect between the implementation of and the development of protective measures and social reforms addressing the racial divide and disparities as a remedy. It is difficult to predict an edict's ability to remedy or minimize risk when it comes to opposing groups within a society. For instance, the EU can coordinate, meet, develop, and ratify a bill into law. The EU, on the other hand, has a far more difficult time encouraging other states within its Union to reinforce measures that safeguard and protect the rights of minority and ethnic groups in their society as these measures conflict with the cultural norms and capacities of their constituents.
Upholding a level of integrity and decorum in hindsight when it comes to the Roma people in Europe is rather obtuse in its definitive vernacular. The advocacy of civil rights, inclusion, and diversity sounds good on paper but not in its execution. The EU can put forth a decree stating that under EU law all people born are naturalized citizens yet the interpretation within its Union states may not manifest in the same capacity. As the Roma are not naturalized citizens, simply merely ethnic migrant workers or refugees without documentation. Then the interpretation of the law is null, overridden, no longer having any credence.
Therefore, as the Roma are citizens of no country how can they be citizens in the country in which they inhabit and raise families in, its an illogical statement. Thus lies the problem, as they are the problem of no country, and have no rights, or protections under the law, and are “refugees” then no EU or non EU state under the guise of the law will endorse or implement any reforms concerning the Romani people. They can contest the validity of the law under the interpretation of their “status” as non citizens naturalized or otherwise.
The state has the right to either implement a EU law or contest the law under its own interpretation and therein lies the problem. The status of the Roma in Europe hinders their ability; there is no upward mobility, only stagnation. Without opportunity and access to social programs, education, and equal opportunity employment they have no other discourse but to stay within or below the poverty line. The disparity is a social one not a cultural one, if a society refrains from evolving, or developing facets that minimize division and exclusion from its frameworks then it gives rise to social unrest, antisocial deviance, and other undesirable behaviors.
The lack of action on the part of the government creates in itself a schism without remedy. WRF has developed facets that will enable both sides to enter into constructive dialogue in an attempt to create a solution with an outcome satisfactory to both the Romani community and central agencies/governments. It is inevitable that a compromise may not be met; however, a channel is open to continue to converse until a viable solution is devised that meets the needs of the Roma and the agency and or government in which dialogue was opened.
There have been previous initiatives to address the situation of the Roma in the EU, but these have suffered from a lack of concrete targets, uneven implementation and ineffective monitoring. There has been little concrete improvement in respect for the rights of the great majority of the Roma community. The most basic human rights of Roma people are being violated everyday throughout Europe and the situation will not change until European governments decide to address it. There is still a clear lack of political will as well as public support to allow for Roma integration.
Roma people living in Western Europe are indeed European citizens, most of them have migrated from Romania and Bulgaria, which have been member states of the EU since 2007. They therefore enjoy the full benefits that come with EU citizenship, including the freedom of movement and the right to settle in other EU member states. One of the reasons pointed to by many human rights advocates and the EU Commission is the lack of political support for the Roma community. Roma have been the designated scapegoat for many politicians in Europe on either side of the political spectrum.
Even when at risk of serious human rights violations, Roma face discrimination in accessing protection mechanisms on an equal footing with the rest of the population, including in accessing the asylum procedure. In the EU the general policy is that all member states should be considered “safe countries of origin” with respect to asylum matters, which means an EU citizen may not be granted asylum in another EU member state.
There are many issues with regards to Roma & Politics that need to be brought directly to your attention, in order for you to have a better understanding of the gap between politics, representation (and misrepresentation) and Roma in Europe. However, we will simply summarize with emphasis added: MEPs such as Franz Romeo, Peter Pollák, Livia Jaroka etc, are misleading the Roma people, other MEPs and other officials by acting like they represent the Roma in an official capacity. They do not engage the community nor do they consult with mandated community leaders. Therefore, they should not and can not act in an official capacity on behalf of the Roma within any institution of the European Union.
It is rather disappointing and sad to see that Roma issues under the guise of these people, Governments, International Organizations and Civil Society in Europe has become a business industry, and it is even more sad that there exists an "Elite" group within the industry who controls it all, from platforms, inclusion projects, participation in the political area, socio-economic projects, funding etc.
The lack of strong platforms, policy proposals or even statements on Roma issues reinforces the notion that political parties, regardless of ideology or ethnicity, are not strong Roma advocates. Although Roma could potentially force their issues onto a party platform, the incentive for them to become active members or even supporters of any political party is extremely low.
Allegations of vote-buying, electoral fraud, intimidation, and other irregularities, are widespread in Roma communities. These offenses are perpetrated by both mainstream and ethnically-based Roma parties. Roma communities, and particularly their leaders, are complicit in these transactions. Financial destitution is a motivator, but political exclusion contributes to the choice by many Roma of short-term economic gain over long-term representation, since they have little faith in the system. These factors add up to a system in which Roma communities at the grassroots are disconnected from political elites – both their own and those in the majority population. Romani citizens lack the wherewithal and incentive to seek political solutions to their problems. Even when they can access critical resources and power structures, they are not often heard by their own leaders, much less by those in the majority population.
This gap between political elites and local citizens is perhaps the greatest barrier to Roma empowerment and inclusion. Roma voters continue to be pushed aside and allow their votes to be brokered and bought rather than earned by those who are committed to better education policy, healthcare facilities or jobs. Though illegal, vote-buying among impoverished Roma flourishes, distorting their political voice.
Last but not least, to conclude our summary of issues, many Roma are literally stateless with no documents – no rights. "Tens of thousands of Roma live in Europe without a nationality. Lacking birth certificates, identity cards, passports and other documents, they are often denied basic rights such as education, healthcare, social assistance and the right to vote" said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. "The right to a nationality is a basic human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It amounts to a ‘right to have rights' and must be enforced – for everyone - with much more energy and determination than has been the case so far."