More on the EU and the Roma

In response to reader Scott, who raises some good points on my last post:

Romania is near to being the most impoverished country in Europe, and if there are no jobs in Romania workers will go where the jobs are. I would label them economic refugees (forced migration through economic necessity).

First off, I’d draw a distinction between Romanians of Romanian descent (of which there are more than a few in Italy) and Romanians who claim Roma descent. The former group has certainly felt this, which is why the Romanian state funded an ad campaign in Italy called “Romania, piacere di conoscerti” (Romania, pleased to meet you) showing the positive contributions that Romanian transplants to the belpaese have made. Divisive, surely, but it did underline a difference that many Italians were failing to see.

However, I find it ironic that French taxpayer dollars are basically paying for Roma vacations. They are deported, go home to see family and friends, and then return to France where they are let right back in. Does that make any sense?

Secondly, you’re right about the lack of fiscal prudence in deporting undocumented immigrants. There’s doubtlessly something cosmetic about deportation; in the specific case of the LN in Italy, the very small number of deportations actually carried out is in inverse proportion to the media attention they’re given, which is of course healthy for the League’s populist base. I would wager that, given the poor showing of Sarkozy’s UMP party in recent regional election, that something similar might be going on in France. After all, isn’t deportation the ultimate failure of any meaningful immigration policy?

I also suspect that other world leaders are secretly jealous of the bravado of Sarkozy and Maroni, and wish they could enact such policies yet with an even more hardline stance.

Every politician wants to be seen as “tough on crime,” no matter who commits it (indigenous or migrant populations) – just look at the rising number of Americans behind bars for minor crimes, serving those multi-century sentences that were formerly reserved for triple-named celebrity serial killers. (The Economist recently ran an excellent piece on this.)

The state has always made it clear that there is no place for nomadism in industrialized nations.

But I’m unsure of your assertion that states necessarily frown on nomadism. Look at the empires created in medieval central Asia, the Chinese in southeast Asia, or, perhaps most germane to a Westerner, the Jews in Europe. And I don’t think the crimes of the Third Reich against European Jews and Gypsies were necessarily a product of statism per se.

At any rate, the presences of large groups of nomadic people in southeastern Europe – their economic needs and ability, their habits and culture – should not have been lost on the European Commission during the 18 years that Romania waited to join the EU. So I would rephrase your conditional that “If you’re going to deport someone, either ban them forever or don’t fly them out at all” to “if you’re going to let someone into your club, be prepared to deal with both their advantages and defects.” Europe has certainly been able to make good use of Romanian labor, but has failed to develop any kind of coherent policy other than deportation to deal with serial lawbreakers from within its own bloc – no matter what their ethnic affiliation is. At bottom, it is simply a measure of just how far Europe has to come to ever closer union.

6 thoughts on “More on the EU and the Roma”

  1. Scott says,

    “I would ask readers what they would do if a group of Roma just moved in down the street. Would it change your mind in any way if it was in your backyard?”

    If anyone moved in down my street it would be because they don’t have somewhere better to go. Is it not possible to provide land and facilities for people who want to live nomadic lifestyles? There’s plenty of money for wining and dining politicians, lots of empty real-estate just lying around abandoned that could be sold off to provide funds for basic facilities. Some years ago, local councils in the UK had a statutory requirement to do just this – it hardly made a dent in their budgets.

    “other world leaders are secretly jealous of the bravado of Sarkozy and Maroni, and wish they could enact such policies yet with an even more hardline stance.”

    A more hardline stance applied to one group of the population can also be applied to another group. We’ve gone from deportations of non-EU Roma to EU Roma; which group of EU citizens will be next? In the not too distant future I suspect north European EU countries will be looking to expel southern European refugees back to Greece, Portugal and, er, Italy. I’m sure a lot of world leaders are jealous of Hitler and Mussolini’s powers too. Siding with them only encourages them.

    “The state has always made it clear that there is no place for nomadism in industrialized nations.”

    The Italian Constitution makes it clear that Italy is a republic based on work and repudiates war – does anyone still believe this.

    Why shouldn’t there be a place for nomadism in industrialised nations? All the talk of tradition ignores the fact that nomadism rather than working in a factory used to be the normal way of life.

    1. vidgro,
      Good points. I do believe nomadism is a normal way of living, and should not only be allowed but encouraged. I think borders of any type are ridiculous, and states are obviously defined by boundaries and possession of land. Nomads are hard to control, hard to count, hard to extract taxes from, and have their own beliefs which are not often part of the dominant system practiced by the state. No wonder states try to exclude these people from a living if they don’t want to play by the state’s rules.

  2. Scott,

    I don’t think nomadism is a normal way of living any more or that it should be particularly encouraged – it was born of necessity and scarcity. Most people don’t choose nomadism and there are issues of health, education, rights, discrimination and so in within nomadic communities that shouldn’t be idealised.

    The point is, however, that the Italian, French and other governments are less concerned about these issues and more intent on playing the race card for populist and electoral reasons. It’s a race to the bottom that can consequences that even soft racists who go along with these steps may suddenly find themselves victims of.

    The original post pointed out that immigration is a fact of life – even in Italy – despite the behaviour of governments and other racists and how squalid it is for the Italian government to treat the issue as a game to play with the French government – with the Roma as political footballs.

    It all serves to imply that the Roma are to blame for various social, economic and political problems in France and Italy – and hide the fact that the real dangers to ordinary people are their own governments and the ruling elites whose bidding they so willingly do.

  3. It’s a good article but at the end of the day it points out something uniquely Spanish that is hard to replicate in France and Italy. I’d hazard a guess that what upsets France and Italy so much is the very transient nature of their newfound Roma populations. As I’ve said before in these pages, the problem in Italy is not one of culture, but one of law — what to do with citizens of other countries, such as Romania, when they break the law in Italy? Identity is strongly rooted in place in Italy, and the transient nature of the Roma — not their culture — is what is problematic here. I’m certainly not trying to toe Bossi’s Lega line, but just suggesting that Spain has a much deeper and richer history with their Roma — who, as the article says, are very settled, than Italy does. (One only has to look into the oeuvres of Bizet and Tchaikovsky to find evidence of this.) If more Italian Roma ‘felt’ Italian (and if Italians felt more like the Roma were co-citizens) then the problem would be less pronounced, and we wouldn’t be comparing what amounts to Italian apples to Valencia oranges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.