On Conformity

23 Oct

In the 1950s Solomon Asch discovered that under strong group pressure 75% of the group he tested agreed that three obviously unequal lines are equal. The only pressure they received were words.

Now let’s imagine this hypothetic situation of an intergovernmental institution.

This institution has a budget of hundred of billions per year. Let’s call this money the E-money. The institution pays its employees amazingly well – for the overwhelming majority of the people employed the pay is far better than they could ever make if working anywhere else.

Benefits are great and most of them have expensive lifestyles and significant loans to pay ( heavy dependency on their salaries) .  The leadership is appointed politically and it is hungry for more power. This power translates in distributing as much as possible or more the existing budgets in order to ask for more E-money and increase their leverage.

Most of the money we are talking about is sent to member states. In most of these member states political interests heavily control the distribution of the E-money. On top of this the political leadership needs to show very high level of absorption of these funds in order to stay in power. They want badly this money to be spent no matter what.

Funds are supposed to be mainly used by the local administrations. The local administrations happen to be some of the most corrupted of the institutions in these member states. Mayors are known for funneling money towards their own pockets or some other powerful local politicians. Their money and corruption can many times determine the results of the votes in the elections.

A fragment of the available money goes to NGOs that will have to implement projects mainly designed by people in the intergovernmental institution (people that are not experts on the issue but career bureaucrats) and people in the governments (also with no expertise as most are just public servants)  Most of these NGOs can not survive without this money. They have to apply for the poorly designed projects and spend all the existing budget in order not to be penalized.

There is a very serious money crisis of the mass-media. Most of the projects financed by this intergovernmental institution have a budget for advertising that is vital for the survival of many media outlets. There is a strong culture in many of the member states part of this intergovernmental institution that discourages criticism of your patrons.

Some of the E-money go to E-agencies that employ some other very well paid bureaucrats and some (few) experts . Most of those agencies produce very expensive reports and hot air that is used to justify their huge budgets. Only exceptionally these agencies do anything at the grassroots. Those reports matter for nobody else but the very few people that already know the problems.

All the above mentioned players have to work together in order to expose flaws of the system. If there is a serious scandal about the inefficiency of the way these funds are used then the very comfortable lives of these very powerful elites will be serious disturbed.

Let’s pretend that some of the E-money need to be spent on some of the most vulnerable group with a very weak or no representation among all the players.

What are the chances of conformity in the case of the European Commission and Roma funds ?  What are the chances of these main players to agree that the way funding works at this moment is profoundly damaging to the situation of Roma communities ? What are the chances even to agree on a serious investigation on how these funds are used ? Very , very small isn’t’ it ?

The truth is that despite what every single one of these players knows there are abysmal results of the Roma projects the European Commission mainly (if not always) wants to talk about positive practice. Senior managers are misinformed or do not care if they are lied to. The result is that the EC carries on with this charade that things are improving or could improve within the Roma communities with the help of the European Funds.  They can not until the system is not reformed.

I was told by well intended people that indeed this is a system that is and has been superbly beneficial to these above mentioned elites but it is also fundamental to decades of peace on the Continent and criticism could destroy this achievement.

This is a logical fallacy. There is no link whatsoever between what is now an extremely dangerous system of financing and encouragement of lips service and the achievements of the European Union.

It is not just the European Commission that runs a huge risks of conforming to an obvious lie but also the Fundamental Rights Agency, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the UN and all other main funders of Roma projects.

A culture of conformity and lip service will destroy the credibility of the European Union. And that will be indeed a shame as the majority of us living in Europe want the European project to be a real success and not just a useless report of positive practices nobody cares to believe or read.

Criticism is not something good just when done by well chosen pet critics that can not influence whatsoever the outcome of the reports, talks or conferences dominated  by people that have huge incentives to conform to the lips service culture.

Criticism and powerful independent watch dog mechanisms are compulsory in order to keep in check such an important and powerful bureaucracy.

And indeed, once that is reformed we might stand a chance to reform some of the worst governments in the EU.


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