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When a Roma... When a Roma...
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-09-16 07:53:36
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It looks like Nicolas Sarkozy’s legacy in modern European history will be connected with the destiny and the torturing past of the Roma people; and despite the EU commissioner’s extreme comment comparing France’s attitude to the Roma people with the Nazi Germany the French reaction definitely brings shivers to the European democratic spine.

So when Viviane Reding called the European commission to take legal action against France for the violent deportation of the Roma people describing the act as a disgrace and comparing it with what the Nazis did against the Roma people before and during the WWII the French government equally calm answered that if Luxemburg feels so close to the Roma people they are welcome to hoist them. Amazing, kindergarten’s yard fights with a lot of domestic smell that might dirt the whole Europe unveiling the dangerous turn of the European states to prejudice and racism and all that coming out of fear and ignorance.

I’m not going to go through the cultural identity of the Roma people or their contribution in the general European culture – is amazing that we forget their music contribution not only as performers but also as constructors of unique music instruments, and that’s just a small example – but amazingly just because of their ethnic identity they are excluded from a major EU right, to travel and work freely in any European member state. A right guaranteed from the European foundations for every European member citizen and that since the beginnings of the alliance and when we were talking about a relaxed economic alliance back in seventies.

First of all there are Roma people in every single European country, from Greece to Finland, Italy, Spain and Ireland, Romania or Bulgaria there are Roma people. These people have identical ethnic characteristics that include language, customs and traditions including dressing codes. These elements characterise an ethnic minority that the union is obliged – from its foundations – to protect. Due to their nomadic life style and temporary sometimes out of the mainstream working attitude the Roma people have been for centuries victims of prejudice and unfair pogroms in Europe with the Nazi Germany and the Communist USSR their pick the last century. The Roma people are not the only ethnic minority in Europe, for example Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia share the Lapis minority who have similar ethnic characteristics that include language, customs, traditions and even dressing codes.

The Roma people just like any other European citizen have the rights of the member country that they carry its passport, so the Irish Roma have the same rights any Irish person has, the French Roma the same every French person has and the Romanian people exactly the same like every Romanian person has including the right to travel everywhere in side the Union, register and work in every member state without any special problems and procedures.

Now here comes the sensitive part that obviously the French government uses. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union even thought both countries are also members of the Maastricht treaty and under the fear of huge immigrant’s waves some of the European countries made a special note that they will control the numbers of immigrants from those countries. Actually it was the UK that insisted the exceptional note and it was France the country that opposed it on the beginning. This is called irony.

However even using this note the French government has the right to control immigration from Bulgaria and Romania and has the legal right to deport Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants that exceed the acceptable numbers but disgracefully – this is were the word Viviane Reding used fits well – limited this right to an ethnic minority that originates from these two countries.

The unacceptable part of it is that Sarkozy did it for totally populist and internal reasons trying to calm the increasing xenophobic and prejudice wave in France that needs somebody to blame and the Roma people – easy spotted in the streets – were the easy victim. The sequences of this act are tremendous and I’m afraid a sign of what is changing in Europe the last few years using immigration as an excuse for the most disgraceful and embarrassing acts.

Many times in different articles I have asked how many it takes to call something genocide, ethnic clearance or ethnic pogrom. Does it take thousands, hundreds or just some tens and what Sarkozy’s government is doing now is it just a deportation following a legal note established a few years ago or he’s actually doing a pogrom against an ethnic minority which has started with the Romanian Roma ands it will follow with the French Roma? After all these people as I mentioned before share common language, traditions even dressing codes so how the policeman will be able to different the Romanian Roma from the French Roma?

And of course the argument “if you want them, take them!” to the Luxembourgian government because the commissioner is from Luxemburg shows the whole stupidity of the issue. If Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t like comparisons with the Nazi Germany then he has to do something about it and if he wants to deport the over-numbered Romanian immigrants he has at least the legal right to do it but deporting an ethnic minority he is losing every ethic right to legalize it.


         
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Emanuel Paparella2010-09-16 16:12:49
Indeed Thanos, one can shout till one is blue in the face “libertè, egalitè, fraternitè” but these words will only be that, words on paper, till they are put into action and the virtues they espouse practiced; not to speak that the very concept of brotherhood and universal humanity is rather problematic one without the accompanying concept of a universal fatherhood. So, what we are left with are hypocritical words about human inalienable rights accompanied by shameful actions worthy of ethnic tribalism and xenophobia. And once that slippery slope is embarked upon by any nation of the EU, what happens to the vaunted European Union? The answer to that troubling question, which is a question of overarching cultural identity (what does it mean to be a European?)as the founding fathers well understood, is a troubling one at best, for it leads to an inconvenient truth, the present situation, exacerbated by economic troubles, does not bode well for the future of the EU. Marx was wrong in many aspects of his philosophy but he was right in pointing out that those who do not learn from their own history are bound to repeat it. Yes, there are soccer games to console ourselves with on Sunday, but they will not save us from ultimate decadence if “virtue” is understood in a merely Machiavellian mode.


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