DecadeWatch Romania 2010 Report - Mid Term Evaluation of the Decade of Roma Inclusion
Wenesday, 07 April 2010

Roma - between the "hammer" of victimization declarations and the "anvil" of government's ignorance


"Romania has the largest Roma community in the region. This ethnic minority is characterized by very low levels of education and employment, high unemployment, discrimination, social exclusion and extreme poverty." Such a quote can be found, obsessively, in all the sociological studies, international organizations reports, public policy drafts, and social surveys in the last 20 years appertaining to Roma in Romania. It is "chic" for each author that examines Roma people to use such a quote and the Roma population is already confounded with these characteristics. Roma become mere numbers in statistics and are associated with "problems" by the government and the society. If we were to put a face to these "numbers," according to our level of tolerance or empathy, we would find a large spectrum of options, including successful manele singers, owners of limousines and large houses (the examples preferred by the majority population), but also Roma living at the edge of the society, whose entire existence revolves around city dump, people without a face, whose faces we often avoid, but who represent "the subject of many public policy measures."


The "Roma problem" is well-known to everyone. The government representatives are aware of it and have acknowledged it during debates, symposiums, conferences, and meetings organized since decades ago. Billions of words appertaining to the "Roma problem" have been printed, photocopied, and distributed all this time. NGO activists, politicians, government representatives, and workers in various fields related to Roma organized hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands debates on the "Roma problem," but the practical consequences of these efforts are still far from occurring. However the "problem of Roma" does not belong only to them, but to the entire Romanian society. The fact that after 20 years of struggles, the problems that Roma people are facing are strikingly the same denotes a lack of consistency from the part of the politicians who detain all the means of intervention.


There are strategies, position drafts, plans of action, budget proposals, but the real problem for the Roma minority is the gangrene of the systemic discrimination they are subject to. Favorite targets of stereotype and prejudices in a society unexposed to diversity during the communist period, Roma people have been, and continue to be between the hammer and the anvil, between the rejection from non-Roma majority and the ignorance of a government whose agenda, most often, is parallel to the one of the ordinary citizen, be it Roma or non-Roma. It is easy for dignitaries and politicians to invite Roma to go to school in order to escape the endemic poverty they are facing; but, at the same time, the elected officials show little worry with the creation of jobs, the creation of business opportunities, the stimulation of entrepreneurial spirit, which are engines for the real development of economy, benefitting the entire society, including Roma and non-Roma alike. It is also easy for the government officials to turn the responsibility they have been invested with during elections to a minority that is unpopular and lacks the means of social interventions, being captive to the condition of "social benefits recipients." Finally, it is easy for government officials to create 10-years national strategies, plans of actions, and specific measures for Roma – only as declarative statements – given that declarations represent the only source of financing the intended measures.


Political decision makers need to realize that, without a real investment in the potential shown by Roma, the "Roma problem" is not going to change… Thus, it is necessary at least in this moment, at the middle of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, that government officials, and elected politicians through uninominal voting system to become more accountable towards the citizens that elected them and that they promised to represent; in other words, to speak less, and do more.


Iulian Stoian, LL.M.

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