Archive | October, 2012

Projectitis *- the Dutch disease of EU funding targeting Roma

30 Oct

European Structural Funds (ESFs)- according to the European Commission (EC)- are meant “to reduce differences in prosperity and living standards across European Union (EU) Member States and regions, and therefore promoting economic and social cohesion.”

According to the same institution, Roma (with a population estimated at 10 to 12 million) are “victims of prejudice and deep-rooted social exclusion” and “face prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives. They are marginalised and live in very poor socio-economic conditions”. The EC’s Human Rights Watchdog the Fundamental Right Agency considers that “Roma are the most discriminated ethnic minority in Europe”.

ESFs are inefficient when it comes to Roma social inclusion and if continued the same way will become a major factor in promoting social exclusion and increase the already dangerous polarisation among Roma and non-Roma. ESFs design is totally inappropriate to address the situation of Roma ghettoes and forces Roma NGOs to adapt to projects guidelines that make no sense and reflect partially and most of the times not at all their past activities or their mission statement. Ghettoes are and were the main reasons for the series of Roma crises that forced the EU to start working on social inclusion of Roma.

Up to this moment the ESFs and other EU Funding had no effect to stop the constant migration of Roma from Eastern Europe to Western Europe and the growth of Roma ghettoes at the edges of big cities both in Eastern and Western Europe.

Incentives to change the existing situation are minimal.

What we witness at this moment is an anomaly; the European Commission and National Governments behave as Human Rights NGOs and are very vocal during expensive and rather useless meetings in Brussels about the discrimination of Roma. They seem incapable to come up with solutions and reluctant to take any steps that could change the status quo. The very few Roma NGOs that have an acceptable institutional capacity are mostly busy working as contractors implementing social inclusion projects paid, designed and monitored by the EC and Member States. Both the European Commission and Member States recognize the very limited in house expertise on Roma issues. There are practically no experts with significant hands on or academic expertise employed in decision-making positions either within the European Commission or Member States. Those experts exist; ironically many work implementing wrong but very well paid projects of social inclusion that pursue policies and directions designed by inexperienced but in charge inexperienced bureaucrats and politicians.

Here a list of serious problems that is well known to those working with EU funds and Roma but remain hidden, unsaid and unaddressed by those who could solve this : bureaucrats and politicians in decision making positions.

1. The priorities and directions of EU funding for addressing the social inclusion of Roma are decided overwhelmingly by well intended people that have limited (if any) interest in Roma issues as well as close to zero experience working with Roma at the grassroots level. This applies both to high and medium level bureaucrats in the European Commission and national governments. Results are as anybody expect – limited – some say catastrophic.

2. The main incentives for those designing and implementing projects to address the most problematic issues at the grassroots are minimal compared to incentives for research, reports, high-level meetings and trainings. The result is an expensive paper and hot air industry that makes a very small Roma elite, a significant number of bureaucrats and desk researchers happy and able to enjoy a comfortable life style. Four and five star hotels are also important beneficiaries.

There are very few people willing and even fewer able to work in the Roma ghettoes or most isolated and difficult Roma communities. The changes within the communities are many, rapid and often impossible to predict, as the communities have to respond fast to changes, challenges or economic opportunities. From the design of priorities till the start of projects’ implementation there is an average period of two to three years that make most ESFs projects too obsolete to be effective for grassroots work. Migration, a much higher than average incarceration, domestic violence, prostitution, drugs, small criminality and illiteracy rates are all reason why even the unusual efficient EU funded projects are impossible to replicate in these places. Project beneficiaries are hard to be found and even harder to be kept interested. Therefore bureaucrats in Brussels or capital cities and NGOs prefer “safe projects” focused on researches, reports, meetings and trainings that can fulfill easy the required indicators and entail minimal efforts both for those implementing them and their supervisors.

3. Most of the few projects with real community impact financed by European Social Fund resulted in serious problems for the leading NGOs. Even some of the strongest NGOs were or are on the brink of financial collapse due to the ESFs. Member State’s bureaucracy is unprepared and incapable to deal with projects that are complex and innovative. The end result is financial blockages that lead to financial insolvency and disappearance of NGOs. Roma NGOs are even at a higher risk as most Roma NGOs have in general much limited managerial and financial capacity and little experience with EU funding. Moreover there are not many mainstream bureaucrats that will make any effort to help Roma NGOs to get through the stupendous amount of paper work needed for reimbursements. Racism against Roma is not a rare occurrence among state institutions.

4. Most of the ESFs Funds in Romania were directed towards organisations of political cronies that learned how to use the system for their own benefit. The fact that the directors of the Management Authorities for the ESFs are named politically and most of the times have no skills whatsoever to be in these positions lead to widespread corruption. Cheating and bribing are usual practices and some NGOs consider these as the only way to be able to survive a corrupt, rigid or inflexible bureaucracy that has no reasons to try to understand difficulties of grassroots projects and help NGOs. Fake reporting is widespread- the most hunted and valuable human resources are at this moment innovative accountants able to solve the financial quagmire and not at all people capable to change communities. Roma NGOs needed to adapt to the overall trend.

Exposure of corruption within Roma NGOs in much sexier for the press as it plays on the very popular anti-Roma sentiment all over Eastern Europe. The incentives for journalists to investigate Roma corruption are therefore much higher. The end result is further stigmatization and exclusion of Roma. Some appalling corruption acts were exposed and some involved Roma. Unfortunately as with the case of larger corruption scandals and the civil society in Romani the reaction of the Roma civil society to those scandals was shameful. Most if not all of the culprits remain in the same positions.

5. Most of the European money (well over 60% and sometimes over 90%) are spent on administration (salaries, rent, office supplies) meetings and reports. Most of the trainings targeting Roma population make no sense and have disastrous results as long-term employment remains an exception rather than an average result. There are cases when same people were trained multiple times and not rarely by the same trainers using the same curricula. Not even the most optimistic expert in Romania will give a better estimation than 20% of the total funding to reach the targeted vulnerable communities.

6. The significant incentives both Roma and non-Roma have towards exclusion and segregation are mainly ignored or unknown to those in charge. We remain caught in dangerous dichotomy an exaggerated politically correct language that is deployed by EU high-level government officials, Human Rights activists and strident anti-Gypsyism of the mainstream societies. Some of the most serious issues are never admitted or addressed by European Funding.

Most of the Roma that live in ghettoes or isolated communities are functional illiterates. Their average educational achievement is much under the national average. That makes them almost unemployable outside very badly paid jobs. Begging, prostitution and small criminality in Western Europe all pay hugely better than any legal job in Romania. Iron collection, basking, selling newspapers or cleaning cars in intersections in Paris, Brussels or London require very limited education and have significant better economical benefits compared to a legal job in Bucharest or Sofia. Roma are the most hated group in Eastern Europe – less than 10% of Romanians will accept Roma within their families. Investment in curbing anti-Gypsyism remains almost inexistent as it is funding that could be used to change the ghettoes. Most of the successful Roma prefer to assimilate than to face racism. The success in attracting the successful Roma within the political and professional European elites remains for the last decade a main point of bombastic speeches of high level EU and government representatives.

7. Donors’ exit and unfair competition. Most donors withdrew from Member States with significant Roma population as it was clear the European Union funds dwarfed any other donor interested in Roma issues. Some of the previous donors decided to apply for EU funding themselves. In some cases very powerful intergovernmental and international institutions such as the UNDP, World Bank, Council of Europe, OSCE, UNICEF and many others decided to apply and won important funds targeting Roma inclusion.

There are many cases in Romania and Eastern Europe when huge businesses won very important contracts funded by the European Structural Funds. The idea to involve such business is good but in practice there are many things that do not work well. In some of those cases the big businesses did nothing but collected a substantial and perfectly legal fee and contracted some other much smaller businesses to do the implementation.

Big intergovernmental organisations have very expensive bureaucracies and very little experience on Roma issues. Most of them are forced to contract other organisations. Is not a rare occurrence that the last ones had to subcontract Roma experts able to do the work at the grassroots level. This is a waste of European money as public money is administrated at least twice by some of the most expensive bureaucracies in Europe. Small Roma NGOs that should be the basis of any significant social inclusion movement cannot compete with such organisations and either disappear or adapt to the wrong but available rules for funding at the national level.

8. Initiatives of the European Commission and Member States related to Roma issues are hard if not impossible to coordinate. Powerful Commissioners, director generals, ministers and highly educated bureaucrats were all pushed by a series of crisis (most strident ones in Italy and France) in having to deal with Roma issues. This is a very thorny political issue and not at all an easy or beneficial topic for career “development” within the EC or national governments. Accordingly, lots of positioning took place in the last years and a large number of medium level bureaucrats change positions as people tried to consolidate their careers getting out as soon as possible from positions dealing with Roma issues. There are some exceptions to this rule but mostly at the low and medium management level.

The best strategy for any senior bureaucrat in charge of Roma issues is to stall any decision and wait for a new appointment/position as the only effective solution is major reform at all levels. Reforms are expensive and considering that any significant amounts of money directed to Roma issues will be hugely unpopular among institutions and the majorities alike there is no incentive whatsoever to pursue such a path.

A number of window dressing toothless measures were taken by intergovernmental organisations and delayed significantly progress. The need for a EU Roma Framework Strategy was proposed first time in 1996 and included in a more explicit form in a report published by the European Commission in 2004. Only this year the EC and Member States started working on it. Coordination within the European Commission remains lackluster as were the results of the few informal initiatives meant to deal with the Roma issue.

9. The existing EU monitoring and assessment mechanisms are too diplomatic and tend to focus almost exclusively on positive practices. This tendency translates in practical terms into discouragement of constructive criticism or objective reporting of failed practices. The focus on positive practices often backfires as most governments or implementing organisations will present exaggerated positive reports or positive reports of totally or partially failed projects. Such practices lead to further financing, a cycle that clearly discourages constructive, but critical, analysis of failures. This leads to a repetition of mistakes and becomes an inefficient way of using EU or national money. In the very rare case of critical reports or evaluations the European Commission will go to lengths to purge out criticism and sometimes delay or block the release of papers the Commission is unhappy with. The result at this moment is nothing but a dangerously growing balloon – the reporting of Roma organisations and governments present more and more positive practices and achievements on paper while at the level of Roma communities these results are considerable less visible and sometimes minimal or non-existent. The strident discrepancy leads to frustrations both of Roma communities and the majorities and discredits the EU, governments and Roma organisations. This is a significant factor for increased exclusion.

10 .There are a number of other serious backlash effects EU funding had on Roma civil society. Watchdog Roma NGOs were replaced in part by submissive and opportunistic NGOs happy to access the enormous salaries possible by accessing Structural Funds distributed by governments. There is a running joke between Roma elites saying that if the European Commission will launch a EU social inclusion grant for Roma social inclusion settlements on the moon there will be tens of organisations claiming the required three years experience. Most of the best Roma Human Rights activists are nowadays well paid contractors within EU funded Structural Projects that have limited if any impact on Roma social inclusion overall.

11. The existing incentive of Romanian authorities (largest Roma population in Europe is in Romania) and possibly of other countries’ authorities to access Structural Funds that can help the social inclusion of Roma is minimal at best.

Romania as most of the Eastern and Central European member states with significant Roma populations have poor absorption rates of ESFs. The amount of money that reaches Roma communities is minimal in comparison with necessities and in strident discrepancy with the claims of high rank government and EU officials about the help provided by the European Union.

At an expert meeting with Ludovic Orban earlier this year the Romanian minister of EU affairs – a job created in order to improve the absorption of EU funds in Romania -he made clear that his ministry is focused on the larger Structural Funds –big infrastructure projects that can significantly improve the low absorption rates and please both politicians and the majorities. Those funds are practically irrelevant for the social inclusion of Roma. The lack of sufficient technical expertise within his ministry (and all Eastern European ministries for that matter) was exposed as a major problem as the best bureaucrats left for much better salaries offered by the private sector. Roma issues were clearly not a priority for his ministry.

The European Social Fund is the most relevant off all the existing funding for Roma social inclusion. Absorption rates are under 10%. The lines of financing are much smaller compared to all other Structural Funds making it the lowest priority for governments. Reduced inside technical expertise, pressure to focus on the biggest lines of financing as well as the overall prevalent anti-Gypsyism makes Roma inclusion a very low priority for governments, politicians and local administrations. The result is a very poor use of EU funding opportunities that might be used for Roma.

Local administrations in cities and villages with a large Roma population in Romania do not have any incentives to attract Roma funding. The salaries of people working in the local administrations are the same with or without EU funding and most of those responsible for Structural Funds have very limited(if any) technical expertise. The Roma votes are easy to buy and mayors are reluctant to get involved in Roma issues as a good majority of mainstream voters are openly against Roma.

12. Mainstream funding directly from the European Commission that could be used for social inclusion of Roma targets European networks.

To qualify for such a networks the EC requires at minimum 9 and most of the times 15 EU member states to be covered. Outside Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia one can hardly find any reliable Roma organizations capable to deal with European Funds. This type of funding remains largely inaccessible to Roma.

Conclusions

Solutions exist. But none of those are simple or fast to implement. A major switch in the funding concepts related to Roma inclusion is needed. European funds should invest massively in development of the Roma civil society – in active citizenship. It should stimulate work in the most difficult communities and encourage organisations that manage to get the support of the communities in their work. Intergovernmental and international organisations that work on Roma issues should be required to attract Roma expertise and invest in educating Roma.

I am one of the initiators and until recently a member of the Making the Most board an OSI’s initiative that helps Roma NGOs deal with Structural Funds. I took part in many peer-review processes and evaluations of ESF’s funded projects and I lead a think-tank in Bucharest – Policy Center for Roma and Minorities that works in one of the worst ghettoes in Bucharest. I was involved in the writing of two reports commissioned by the EC. The organisations I lead is the recipient of 2012 UNICEF award for Sports and Education.


[i] The Dutch disease linked an increase of available natural resources to a decrease of manufacturing output and a paradoxical economic downturn. I argue in my analysis that the explosion of available funds for Roma inclusion (if not seriously rethought) leads to a significant increase of paper production, rhetoric, expensive meetings and an overall decrease in efficiency of public money, grassroots work, erosion and disappearance of some of the most important pillars of the Roma civil society. This analysis might well apply to civil society in general but my expertise gives me more legitimacy to argue about the Roma civil society.

The arguments here are not against European Funds nor against European Roma Strategy. Those, I believe, are very much needed as otherwise Member States with significant Roma population will probably continue to do nothing to address anti-Gypsyism and Roma exclusion. It is much more comfortable for Central and Eastern European governments to tacitly encourage Roma migration and ask the European Union to solve “their”(Roma) problems than tackle it themselves. Many times in the past high-level officials did not hesitate in drawing a very clear but racist line between”them” Roma and “real” national citizens.

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Subdued and wrong

24 Oct

Preamble

I just returned from two great days at the Forum 2000 in Prague: many brilliant minds, most of them ready to engage in debate, to expose their vulnerabilities, and to learn from others.

Following this experience, I decided to write a series of articles about things I would like to see changed; things that are stridently in contradiction with the Forum 2000 and Havel’s ideals. Ideas I heard during last years at Aspen seminars and Plato’s virtues of the city and care for the soul also influenced my decision.

****

October 2012. I attended a conference about transition and conflict focused on North Africa, the Middle East, Cyprus and Eastern Europe. The director of the USAID office of the Middle East Program commented on Turkey as a member of the European Union. His comments showed that he was ignorant about the most relevant initiatives of the European Union in his field. He was also unaware that all Eastern European members of the EU are donor countries and for some of them, one main target of their development aid is Egypt. He was unaware of the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Egypt, and did not know that Turkey is a major donor in the region. His office is based in Egypt.

During the last ten years I have heard many similarly astounding comments from people at the highest level, both bureaucrats and politicians. At an OSCE meeting a few years ago, I dared to wake up a dozing ambassador (I wanted him to hear what I was about to say about his country). My request to ‘please wake up the ambassador’ was considered rude: but I didn’t know the appropriate diplomatic protocol for waking somebody up during a high-level meeting! I also could not find a more diplomatic word than  ‘incompetent’ to describe an incoherent and rather offensive speech on Roma delivered by another ambassador a day later. He had no practical or academic experience on the issue but was in charge of Roma issues within the OSCE.

The EU Commissioner in charge of Roma, Viviane Reding, similarly has no background or experience on Roma. At the start of her mandate I heard the Commissioner stating emphatically that there should be no Roma-focused EU policy. Nowadays – a few years and a few crises later – the Commissioner presents the EU Roma Policy as her major achievement. Her staff avoids at all costs putting her in the position to engage in open discussions on Roma and ensures she leaves the scene as quickly as possible after any speech she delivers on Roma. She might have some great ideas but the tacit refusal to debate makes her vulnerable to critics. After all these years in charge of Roma issues she has yet to prove interest in learning. I am not aware of even a single visit in a ‘difficult’ Roma neighborhood. I could not find even a mention of this. Some of her colleagues did it in the past – serious progress was achieved also due to those visits.

The extraordinary meeting on Roma issues this year in Brussels organized by her directorate was extraordinary only in regards to the abysmal proportion of Roma speakers, the incredible lack of dialogue and the near zero input from those who work at the grassroots level. The cost of the meeting and the lack of results were also extraordinary.

This type of situation appears to me to be a general rule rather than an exception all over Europe. Decision-making, when it comes to extreme poverty and social exclusion, relevant to the case of many Roma, is almost always in the hands of people who completely lack the skills to take such decisions. The relatively few competent people in the EU and intergovernmental structures, as well as in governments, remain blocked in irrelevant positions and struggle to advance even minor changes.

The major output of the EU and similar institutions when it comes to Roma issues so far is hot air, expensive reports written in a language almost incomprehensible for those working at the grassroots level, and resources wasted on fancy and irrelevant meetings.

Criticism is strongly discouraged – lip service is required nowadays not only to advance in a bureaucratic career within the above-mentioned institutions but also to ensure presence at EU and international meeting as well as funding for NGOs. There is yet not a word of any negative experience when it comes to European Funds to be found on the Commission’s website.

The dependency of a strong majority of NGOs in Europe on EU funding is a disastrous development. Watch-dog NGOs – fundamental to safeguarding civil liberties and human rights in EU member states – now depend on funding that is practically controlled by governments or the European Commission. Criticism towards the government or the European Commission in many cases equates with no access to European funding and the eventual disappearance of those NGOs.

Financing for grassroots interventions in the most problematic areas is almost impossible to come by. The focus on projects and quantitative indicators – mostly designed by people with superficial or no knowledge of the reality on the ground – has led to an explosion of activities with no impact on the ground, and in turn, this significantly dilutes the legitimacy of NGOs.

Ghettos provide the most severe example of social exclusion. A grassroots activity within a Roma ghetto is very complex and needs to take into account a volatile and quickly changing environment. Drugs, prostitution, small criminality, high mobility (people go abroad, or are imprisoned at a much higher rate than average), extreme poverty, violence, and very low educational levels are all reasons why such interventions need to be long-term and cannot provide the typical and immediate indicators required by EU funding.

On the other hand, its easy to justify spending some 2 to 3 million Euros on a project with clear indicators, for example: 10 meetings with 20-30 people each sharing experiences, 3 reports, 5 roundtables, 2-3 trainings, 5000 flyers, 200 posters, 8 partners in EU member states, and 3 TV broadcasts. And the real results? Hot air and paper production with no impact whatsoever on social inclusion. Such a project has a good chance to obtain funding, despite the fact that 10 to 20 projects in ghettos could be financed with the same money.

In the last years NGOs have become social contractors that show a worrisome tendency to adapt to whatever the project requirements are. I have witnessed NGOs staffed by the same (very few) people developing projects dealing with education, health, housing, anti-discrimination legislation, monitoring policies, media campaigns, poverty and exclusion all at the same time. Often none of the staff members are experts in any of the above-mentioned topics. People working in the field joke that if there was money for the social inclusion of Roma on the moon, there would be no lack of NGOs ready to prove their required three years of experience for accessing European funds.

In the following weeks I will give examples and argue that:

1.     There are major problems with the system of big intergovernmental institutions dealing with Roma issues. Most of them show clear signs of institutional racism.

2.     A significant part of the funding available at this moment works against Roma civil society rather than for it.

3.     Many decision-makers at the level of intergovernmental institutions and governments are unprepared, and sometimes completely inept when it comes to Roma issues.

4.     A significant amount of the already insufficient funding targeting Roma is wasted.

5.     There are major problems with Roma leadership and the existing European concept of Roma identity is both fake and detrimental to social inclusion.

6.     The main European incentives work against addressing the huge problems within the poorest and most excluded Roma communities.

Disclaimer

These articles are not meant in any way to be attacks against institutions. They will be indeed critical analyses of these institutions made with the strong belief that critical thinking is the responsibility of any European citizen and the only way to prevent aberrations from and improve democracy. The exposure of major flaws of the leadership of these institutions is meant to help address existing and prevent similar occurrences. There are many cases of the Kings of politics, bureaucracies but also of civil society that are far too used to admiration for their invisible “clothes”. Civil society is responsible to make sure they embarrass themselves and the rest of us for as a short time as possible.

There are some amazing people that work within these institutions and NGOs. I can only hope that what I will write will help them to achieve their goals.

I do believe many good things happened due to these institutions (stakeholders). But as an admirer of Havel I also believe that intellectuals have a responsibility to predict and talk about problems and leaders (political or bureaucratic) have a duty to listen and act.

I expect my rationale to be flawed at times and I hope my readers will let me know and help improve the arguments and proofs in my articles.

Despre paranoie colectiva, coruptie si solutii

15 Oct

Despre paranoie colectiva, coruptie si solutii

O buna parte a politicienilor romani par sau sunt convinsi ca au o menire mesianica – aceea de a scapa Romania de coruptii din tabara opusa. Mesajele transmise societatii romanesti de catre mass media si elitele politice si intelectuale sunt in acest moment dezastruoase. Acestea justifica o abordare profund iresponsabila care cere perfectiunea elitelor in timp ce noi insine suntem absolviti de orice fel de responsabilitate. Teorii care mai decare mai fantasmagorice prind din ce in ce mai mult la un public alienat si duc la o ascensiune periculoasa a unor personaje fie dubioase, fie la limita schizofreniei, cum ar fi Dan Diaconescu, Gigi Becali sau Vadim Tudor.

Desigur, radicalizarea discursului este una ciclica perioadele dinaintea alegerilor fiind cele mai critice. Din pacate retorica devine din ce in ce mai vitriolica si creste riscul unei societati paranoice.

Simptomele tipice ale paranoiei individuale sau colective sunt suspiciunea fata de ceilalti, dezvoltarea unor teorii ale conspiratiei care justifica o constructie imaginara a individului/grupului si o apetenta pentru ostilitate, atitudine neiertatoare sau capacitate redusa de introspectie critica. Bonus, un simt redus al umorului.

Paranoia colectiva impiedica posibilitatea progresului. Zdrobitoarea majoritate a politicienilor romani si a elitelor in functii de conducere au facut compromisuri mai mult sau mai putin serioase pentru a ajunge in pozitiile de putere pe care le au in acest moment.Calitatea clasei noastre politice nu poate fi fundamental diferita de calitatea elitelor intelectuale si nici de calitatea societatii romanesti in ansamblul ei.

Eliminarea brusca sau chiar pe termen mediu a coruptiei in Romania ar fi imposibila fara un colaps al societatii romanesti. O buna parte din diplomele obtinute ar trebui anulate, zeci de mii de politicieni, profesori, judecatori, avocati, functionari publici, doctori, directori, oameni de afaceri, jurnalisti, lideri ai societatii civile ar trebui sa fie concediati sau, mai mult, trimisi in puscarie.

Minciunile, inselaciunile, furturile sau nepotismele proprii sunt considerate scapari, greseli minore, interpretari rautacioase sau ostile ale unor intentii cinstite, compromisuri justificate sau greseli care ar trebui iertate. Incapacitatea de a judeca echilibrat si cat de cat obiectiv nu este restransa la clasa politica ci este larg raspandita in societatea romaneasca. Diplome obtinute fraudulos, plagiate, sotii, copii sau alte rude promovate in functii nemeritate, mici sau mai mari furtisaguri, folosirea imorala si adesea ilegala a pozitiilor obtinute pentru a castiga bani sau putere si incurajarea mitei sunt mult mai putin tolerate la politicieni decat propriile noastre “derapaje”. De la taximetristul care nu are rest pana la jurnalistul care “uita” sa isi declare o parte din venituri sau care cere/accepta mita, toti suntem foarte exigenti cu cei care ne conduc atata timp cat nu putem noi insine sa profitam de influenta pe care o au acestia. Argumente absurde ne sunt intodeauna la indemana pentru a justifica o atitudine relaxata fata de coruptia proprie si una radicala cand vine vorba de coruptia “celorlalti”.

Este imposibil ca liderii PDL-ului sa perceapa ascensiunea politica ridicola a fiicei presedintelui pana in Parlamentul European ca fiind meritata. Totusi, atat Cristian Preda, Monica Macovei, Blaga, Boc sau Mihai Razvan Ungureanu au grija fie sa taca fie sa sprijine nepotismul prezidential.

La fel de remarcabila este si accesiunea Dacianei Sarbu care, in timpul in care tatal ei era ministru in guvernul Nastase, a avut parte de o explozie a carierei pana in functia de secretar de stat. Miron Mitrea, Ion Iliescu, Viorel Hrebenciuc, Adrian Nastase si nici grupul de la Cluj nu au avut nicio reactie.

Pozitiile nerusinat de bine platite din comitetele directoare ale diverselor companii de stat au fost, in buna parte, ocupate de politicieni sau rude care, adesea, nu au nicio legatura cu activitatea acestor companii. Cazul domnului Bogdan Olteanu, fost presedinte al Camerei Deputatilor si apoi numit vice-guvernator al BNR-ului, ramane strident.

Discutiile despre nepotism sunt rare in sanul clasei politice si al intelectualitatii romanesti. Un numar important al elitelor politice si intelectuale pot fi acuzate de nepotism. Nepotismul este prezent, in fapt, peste tot in societatea romaneasca si reprezinta un factor important care favorizeaza raspandirea si acceptarea coruptiei.

Un numar important de jurnalisti si intelectuali au o influenta semnificativa asupra politicii romanesti. Acestia nu ezita sa emita zilnic judecati de valoare dure si nediscutabile despre societatea romaneasca si, in special, despre coruptia clasei politice. Marea lor majoritate sunt platiti de oameni mult mai corupti decat cei pe care ii infiereaza zilnic in ziare sau la televizor. Adesea, ziarele sau televiziunile unde acestia predica o etica si moralitate absoluta a elitelor nu au nicio problema in a primi bani de reclama de la firme dubioase, in a promova prostitutia mascata, bauturi alcolice sau alimente profund nesanatoase.

Havel scria ca intelectualii ar trebui sa prevada si sa discute diversele amenintari, orori sau catastrofe, iar politicianul ar trebui sa ii asculte, sa se gandeasca la cum ar putea acestea sa fie evitate si sa actioneze in consecinta.In acest moment, rolurile in societate sunt aproape inversate:  intelectualii si jurnalistii cauta solutii politice, iar politicienii sunt preocupati in a discuta amenintarile si ororile datorate adversarilor lor politici. Partea de actiune este elegant ignorata de toata lumea.

Aceeasi atitudine apare si la cetateanul roman care teoretic ar trebui sa puna presiune pentru imbunatatirea sistemului democratic. Cetatenii par sa fie mult mai interesati de mita electorala decat de pastrarea democratiei.

Exista tendinta absolut normala de a ne aplica standarde diferite noua si apropiatilor nostri (care sa ne justifice imaginea buna sau foarte buna pe care o avem fata de noi insine) si standarde mult mai dure celorlalti. In conditii de stres, exagerarea lucrurilor pozitive (la noi) si celor negative (la adversar/inamic/oponent) duc la disparitia dialogului si la inlocuirea acestuia cu insulte. Experienta personala, in general interpretata emotional si nu logic, inlocuieste argumentarea rationala. Emotiile alimenteaza scandalurile care, la randul lor, cresc agresivitatea si reactiile impulsive – adesea distructive. Constructia unor paradigme imaginare dihotomice, in care “noi” suntem cei buni, iar “ei“ sunt cei rai, este urmatorul pas si calea sigura catre paranoia colectiva.

Demonizarea si auto-demonizarea elitelor politice romanesti nu ajuta la nimic in cazul de fata ci, din contra, intensifica spirala paranoica in care ne aflam. Faptul ca scandalul politic are cea mai mare audienta in mass media, amplifica si mai mult paranoia colectiva. Polarizarea si partizanatul sunt urmari catastrofice care duc la accentuarea rupturii sociale. Pozitionarea intelectualilor neutri de o parte sau de alta a unei baricade imaginare, din dorinta de a evita “raul mai mare”, este un rezultat nefast, dar logic.

Tratamentele in cazul paranoiei, fie ea individuala sau colectiva, au rezultate foarte proaste, in special pentru ca paranoicii refuza in general tratamentul.

Ca si in cazul democratiei, eliminarea coruptiei este o lupta continua care trebuie “impinsa” de jos in sus. Atata timp cat cetateanul roman se plange de coruptia sistemului, dar continua sa dea spagi si cauta sa gaseasca “scurtaturi” pentru a obtine ceea ce are nevoie, lucrurile nu se vor schimba.

Exista sute de exemple practice care sa inspire solutii.

Politicienii marcanti ar trebui incurajati sa isi recunoasca public greselile si sa fie sprijiniti in a crea un sistem care sa elimine posibilitatea repetarilor acelorasi greseli pe care ei insisi le-au facut. Atat Ponta, Geoana, cat si Basescu au dat de inteles de cateva ori ca ar fi dispusi sa o faca.  Stabilirea unor norme legale clare care sa previna nepotismul/clanurile politice trebuie incurajata de societatea civila. Renuntarea la discursul apocaliptic ar fi si ea de ajutor in ciuda scaderilor de audienta.

Romania a facut progrese mari in ultimii 20 de ani. Un fost prim-ministru este in inchisoare pentru coruptie. Institutiile statului au ramas cat de cat functionale, in ciuda unei veri deosebit de tensionate. Suntem parte a Uniunii Europene si o tara cu un nivel mult mai bun de trai decat majoritatea statelor lumii. E clar ca putem sa ne rezolvam problemele si ca avem sustinere externa pentru a o face. Singurul lucru care pare ca ne lipseste este motivatia de a ne trata paranoia noastra colectiva.

Rasism si superficialitate parte a II

12 Oct

Ieri domnul Geambasu de la gazeta sporturilor a publicat un articol care are o parte stupefianta pe blogul lui http://blogsport.gsp.ro/geambasu/2012/10/11/jos-discriminarea-sus-incriminarea/

Mai jos raspunsul meu – in italice

A spune bancuri cu olteni, moldoveni şi ardeleni este o formă de rasism? Dar a spune bulibăşeală ce este?.  

Nu exista o contradictie intre banc si rasism. Nu toate bancurile cu olteni, moldoveni si ardeleni sunt rasiste dar unele dintre ele sunt. Acelasi lucru se aplica si pentru bulibaseala. In cazul in care termenul este folosit cu dispret si cu intentia clara de a pune pe cineva intr-o pozitie inferioara atunci este rasism.

Cineva a cărui identitate este secretă, pentru că altfel omul care supraveghează ar fi în pericol de moarte, zice Valeriu Nicolae. De ce s-ar putea simţi totuşi ameninţată o persoană care ne vrea binele şi este remunerată pentru asta?

A suspenda o echipa de fotbal cu cateva mii daca nu zeci de mii de suporteri fanatici este periculos. Pentru a face exemplul mai clar e ca si cum te-ai duce in mijlocul galeriei Stelei si ai incepe sa scandezi pro-Rapid sau pro-Dinamo si sa te astepti sa primesti laude pentru curaj.In ceea ce priveste pericolul de moarte  eu am primit sute de amenintari cu moartea dupa ce am fost acuzat de un ziar romanesc ca am cauzat suspendarea Stelei. Mai mult niste huligani mi-au spart geamurile de la masina.

Referirea la renumerare este artificiala, rau intentionata sau prost documentata. Observatorii pe rasism nu sunt renumerati. Sunt voluntari.

Sau e rău spus “ungurul”? Reformulez. Maghiarul Marton Esterhazi, cetăţean al Republicii Ungare. Aşa sună corect, nu?

Nu ma pricep la ce este “rau spus”. In acest context insa folosirea cuvantului ungur nu are nicio legatura cu rasismul.

Aflăm că Esterhazi n-are nici o competenţă în materie de manifestări rasiste şi xenofobe. Degeaba i s-a părut oficialului UEFA că românii au organizat şi s-au purtat impecabil la meciul Stelei cu danezii, în van a trăit el cu impresia că toate au fost la locul lor, că nimeni şi nimic, înainte, în timpul şi după partidă, nu a lăsat să se întrevadă sămînţa unor manifestări discriminatorii.

Esterhazi nu are competente pe rasism si nici nu a spus ca are. Nu exista nicio legatura intre organizarea meciului si expertiza in domeniul rasismului .Esterhazi nefiind vorbitor de limba romana nu poate sa inteleaga ce scandeaza suporterii. De aici nevoia de a avea observatori care sa vorbeasca aceasi limba ca si suporterii.

Acelaşi Valeriu Nicolae ne anunţă că UEFA are big brotheri secreţi în fiecare ţară afiliată care întocmesc rapoarte despre tot ce ar putea aduce atingere concordiei planetare. Hm! Vi se pare că agenţii cu pricina ar semăna cu securiştii mai vechi sau mai noi? Cu kaghebiştii? Cu salariaţii STASI din RDG? Că şi ei încercau să-şi apere cetăţenii de răul care venea de peste graniţe sub forma imperialismului american şi occidental. Prin urmare îi apărau. Cu preţul persecuţiei. Îi urmăreau, îi fişau, îi recrutau ca turnători. Pe cei care nu voiau să fie nici turnători, nici colaboratori şi nu se potoleau îi băgau în închisori.

Paralele pe care le stabiliti intre raportarea unor incidente rasiste sau violente pe stadioane si ceea ce faceau securistii si kaghebisti sunt stupefiante pentru mine un activist pe drepturile omului. Tortionarii platiti ai KGB sau ai Securitatii pusi pe acelasi loc cu persoane care au primit premii importante pentru activitatea lor sociala cum sunt multi in FARE este cel putin ingrijoratoare. Urmarind logica dumneavoastra huliganul de pe stadion poate sa spuna ca este in aceasi paradigma cu Havel sau Coposu.

Nu sînt pregătit pentru multe şi uneori mă simt discriminat. Pe mine cine mă apără?

Dreptul la opinie, o presa puternica, dezbateriile, puterea de a ne recunoaste greselile, bunul simt si legi facute bine si implementate la fel pentru toti sunt solutiile mele .Ca si cu eliminarea rasismului e nevoie de exercitiu si educatie pentru a avea o democratie functionala pentru toti. In cazul in care cineva ar incerca sa va discrimineze restrictionandu-va dreptul la opinie ar trebui sa va puteti baza pe cei din societatea civila ca o sa va apere.

 PS. Cum colegii dvs de redactie au numarul meu m-as fi asteptat sa ma fi intrebat macar daca observatorii pe rasism sunt platiti sau nu. Inca odata- nu sunt platiti. Ca toti cei care incearca sa faca ceva fac greseli. E parte din viata.Eu am facut multe greseli in trecut.De exemplu am acuzat pe nedrept ca o poza a lui Haldan era o poza a lui Hitler – am preluat o stire fara sa o verific. Mi-am cerut scuze public suporterilor dinamovisti.

Cred ca un semn de normalitate a unei societati care risca paranoia colectiva este sa ne asumam greselile si sa invatam din ele. Parerea mea este ca dumneavoastra ati gresit postand o opinie emotionala care include cel putin o informatie falsa.Speranta mea este ca amandoi vom fi un pic mai buni ca urmare a acestui dialog.

 

Rasism si superficialitate

9 Oct

Dezbaterile despre rasism in spatiul public sunt din ce in ce mai dese. Incidentele recente de la meciurile Steaua-Rapid si Dinamo-CFR Cluj au generat o multime de reactii  materializate in articole categorice. Au provocat reactia multor trusturi de presa si a multor televiziuni precum si a UEFA, FRF-ului si LPF-ului. Lideri importanti de opinie au considerat ca este necesar sa se pronunte pe marginea acestui subiect. O reactie a Comisiei Europene este asteptata si in mod sigur nu va fi una pozitiva.

De-a lungul timpului am ascultat sau am citit cu atentie pozitiile lui Madalin Voicu, Gigi Becali, Mihai Stoica, Dumitru Dragomir si ale altor cateva  sute de jurnalisti sau personalitati publice pe marginea acestui subiect.

Madalin Voicu este un muzician bun si un politician peste medie, dar asta nu inseamna ca opinia lui despre rasism este una care merita luata in serios. Opinia lui sau a celorlalti mentionati despre fizica cuantica este la fel de irelevanta ca si opinia lor despre scandarile sau banerele de pe stadioane. Niciunul dintre acestia nu au pregatirea necesara pentru a determina ce constituie  sau nu un act de rasism.

Comisiile de disciplina ale LPF-ului sunt pline de oameni care nu au nicio legatura cu analiza rasismului. In mod indiscutabil ei sunt oameni care se pricep la la fotbal, dar nu au si legitimitatea de a emite opinii despre incidente cu caracter rasist sau xenofob.

Expertii ,in general, lipsesc de la aceste discutii. Felul in care este discutat subiectul rasismului  este fie simplist, fie total eronat. Parerile lui Gigi Becali despre tranzactii imobiliare, ale lui Mihai Stoica si Dumitru Dragomir despre managementul unui club de fotbal sunt relevante. Cele despre rasism si xenofobie, nu.

Formatorii de opinie sunt foarte rar si experti pe subiectele despre care discuta. Exemplul Monicai Tatoiu este probabil cel mai strident. Popularitatea  nu ar trebui sa substituie pregatirea profesionala a oamenilor implicati in discutii. Din pacate, nevoie de atentie a celor ca Monica Tatoiu, comoditatea/lenea intelectuala a moderatorilor si a jurnalistilor sau rating-ul par a fi mult mai importante comparativ cu rolul educational al presei si al televiziunii si afecteaza in mod negativ atat discutiile cat si impactul acestora.

UEFA a avut aceleasi probleme ca  LPF-ul in trecut. A decis ca are nevoie de experti pentru aceasta analiza. A creat o organizatie cu rol consultativ pe langa comisia de disciplina, care are experti pe rasism.

FRF-ul de cativa ani buni a inceput sa faca acelasi lucru.

Avem nevoie de discutii despre rasism si xenofobie . A avea prieteni romi sau unguri sau a fi roman, ungur, rom sau orice altceva nu are nicio legatura cu a fi sau nu rasist si nici nu face pe nimeni expert in acest subiect. Gigi Becali, Mihai Stoica, Dumitru Dragomir si Madalin Voicu au avut reactii rasiste sau xenofobe in repetate randuri. Toti au nevoie sa fie educati despre ce inseamna rasism si xenofobie si in niciun caz nu pot sa educe pe nimeni despre acest subiect.

Asa cum nimeni nu se naste hot, evazionist sau criminal nimeni nu se naste rasist. Prejudecatile, la fel ca bagajul de cunostinte, se acumuleaza prin invatare . Din pacate, in acest moment mass-media  tinde sa promoveze ideea ca bogatia, celebritatea sau etnia sunt sinonime cu expertiza si experienta.

Schimbarea este destul de simpla. In cazul rasismului pe stadioane LPF-ul poate face acelasi lucru pe care l-a facut UEFA si FRF-ul. Consultarea expertilor pe rasism in cazul incidentelor reclamate ca fiind rasiste sau xenofobe e nu numai logica, dar poate face mult mai eficienta activitatea ligii.

Valeriu Nicolae este membru al comitetului director al organizatiei Fotbal impotriva Rasismului in Europa (FARE) si fondator al Policy Center for Roma and Minorities. FARE are statut de observator pe langa Comisia de Disciplina a UEFA . Policy Center for Roma and Minorities a primit premiul UNICEF in 2012 pentru cea mai buna initiativa in Sport si Educatie in cadrul Galei Beyond Sports.

 

Humiliating institutions

6 Oct

The month of September was marred by a number of appalling incidents proving disgusting levels on anti-Gypsyism in Europe. We did report the incident that happened in Romania with tens of thousands yelling death to the Gypsies and a banner showing respect for a murderer that killed 24 Roma. ( see more at https://valeriucnicolae.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/the-ugly-game/ )

We reported it to the European Commission, to the Council of Europe, to Fundamental Rights Agency,  to the OSCE and all intergovernmental bodies that have significant budgets spent addressing Roma issues.  We reported similar or worst incidents in the past.

We also reported it to UEFA the Governing Body of the European Football. We talked to people in the highest positions at UEFA and at the Romanian Football Federation. They called us.

The strongest declaration against anti-Gypsyism yet to come in Romania from an influential institution came from the president of the Romanian Football Federation on September 27 less than 48 hours after the incident (http://www.frf.ro/sectiune/stiri/articol/comunicat-presa-0 ) . It had a huge impact in the Romanian media.

The strongest letter against anti-Gypsyism ever issued by a European Institutions followed it. It was UEFA that send it and not any of the intergovernmental institutions mentioned above. Michele Platini, UEFA’s president sent it on 4th of October before a European League game of Steaua Bucharest .(http://www.frf.ro/sites/default/files/letter.pdf )

It was posted on the Romanian Football Federation (RFF) the next day – again a very clear and blunt statement that RFF is very serious about eliminating racism on stadiums. It was the main subject of talk in the Romanian media for the day. It lead to hours of prime-time discussions on the subject and tens of articles in printed media.

All intergovernmental organisations mentioned here – European Commission, Council of Europe, Fundamental Rights Agency and OSCE consider that elimination of anti-Gypsyism is a priority. All of them complain about the lack of political will at the level of Member States.

A similar public letter as the one sent by Platini to Romanian Football Federation but this time sent by the leadership of those institutions to the Romanian Prime Minister should be all things considered an obvious step. It could have addressed the political will in Romania.

Such a letter should have asked the Prime Minister to have a clear and public stand against such incidents. As the letter of Platini shows such letters have the potential to produce a major impact in the Romanian society. And would cost almost nothing. A simple letter could have finally revenged  millions of Euros spent on irrelevant meetings and researches at the European level. The Romanian media is clearly positive about the need to eliminate such behavior on the stadiums, therefore, the Prime Minister would have had nothing to lose but possibly even gain popularity with such a statement.

The Commissioner responsible for Roma issues is also responsible for the anti-discrimination issues and justice. The Director in charge on anti-discrimination at the European Commission received our report. The Council of Europe has a High Representative on Roma issues. OSCE has a senior advisor for Roma and Sinti. The Fundamental Rights Agency spends lots of money on Roma reports and visits in the countries to talk about Roma issues.

So what could be the reasons that none of these institutions and people have done nothing up to this moment and missed, arguably ,one of the best opportunities they had to push the Romanian political leadership to make a public statement against racism.

Bureaucratic and political careers in all these institutions are not at all helped by courageous moves targeting change or reform. Diplomacy is often misunderstood for cowardice and the institutional logic within such bodies promotes submissiveness and a culture of zero criticism towards the leadership. Critical voices from within and outside are easily subdued. Expertise on Roma issues is almost inexistent or concentrated in positions with no decision making power whatsoever.

Roma issues are complex and to solve them Europe needs to make significant financial and political efforts. None of these efforts are popular nowadays.

Margalit in his argument for a Decent Society as opposed to the  Just Society  proposed by Rawls emphasized humiliation as a significant problem of state institutions when it comes to its vulnerable groups.

The reaction of the above mentioned intergovernmental institutions in this case compared with the reaction of UEFA could mean two things.

Either all these institutions are a good example of Margalit’s humiliating institutions or they struggle with cowardice and incompetence. An independent analysis of those institutions when it comes to Roma might prove significant structural racism. Many times in the past people in these institutions proved to be at least badly prepared to deal with Roma issues. It might be both issues are in fact a problem.

Nevertheless, serious reform is needed if Europe is serious about its commitment to advance the social inclusion of Roma.