Archive | November, 2013


30 Nov

Unexpectedly good

I had a great couple of weeks.

Daniela – one of the Vice-Presidents of a major bank in Romania – one of the nicest people I know (thanks two other dear friends Anca and Catalina) came yesterday with a huge supply of school materials ( enough for 50 children) to donate for the children at the club. She spent time with some of the abandoned children from the ghetto.


My colleagues at World Vision Romania managed to find the resources and came up with a 5 months plan to help the group of Roma that were evicted in Eforie Sud – see

I spent three days in Strasbourg and I had some of the most pragmatic and efficient meetings with European bureaucrats that I can remember. Very impressed indeed with the new Commissioner for Human Rights – witty and funny but also with the people working on child rights more details at . It was also very nice to meet with some of my favorite diplomats the ex Commissioner–Thomas Hammarberg   – during an Amnesty Sweden round table 10 days ago.

The European Voice give no chance to Viviane Reding to be re-appointed as a European Commissioner. A dangerously self involved and vain politician that used her DGs often as instrument of self-promotion will be finally out  – it might be that finally somebody with experience and will to change something to be in charge with Roma issues in the next Commission.

Unexpectedly I received a confirmation from the European Commission as being recognized as an expert in social inclusion by DG Regio. It feels good and considering how hard I am on the European Commission makes me believe that is worth trying to work on improving the way the EU institutions work.

The NGO ERGO (the subject of a informal blacklisting which I wrote about) received an institutional support from the Commission for the next 4 years – this is great as the organization is focused on grassroots work and has a “big mouth” and never shied away of blasting the Commission when needed.

The local administration of Sector 5 decided to help financially the Policy Center – a sign of normality that might give Policy Center the long term sustainability deserved and might give a good idea to those thinking about the best way to finance NGOs. My belief is that institutional support should replace the profoundly damaging project approach that is predominant at this moment.

Today I am going shopping for winter boots and clothes with three of the poorest children that come to basketball and next week together with one of the people I like the most (Catalina) we will hopefully be able to get another 10-12 children covered for winter.


The case of Dumitru G. an excerpt from my book

22 Nov

My book is out –

Here an excerpt

Mr Dumitru G. is a wealthy, successful Romanian businessman.

On September 4, 2008, he booked online a minivan. He paid using his VISA card, and the system issued a confirmation of the booking clearly stating him as the person that made the booking of the vehicle and his address in Romania.

On the September 5, 2008 Dumitru G. arrives at the Europcar office in Munchen Airport and asked to receive his car.

Miss Manske, who was on duty that day at the Europcar office, checked the booking and the payment. She finds no discrepancy with the booking, his ID and address.

She refuses to hand over the vehicle motivating that the company “cannot rent vehicles to Romanian citizens because they steal them and cross the border with them”. Following the subsequent discussions, Europcar’s position towards Romanian citizens is stated again, in presence of the airport police.

Mr Dumitru G has a dark complexion. Miss Manske thought that he looked Roma and according to her company policies Mr Dumitru was a high-risk customer.

Dumitru G. like many others Romanian Roma is fully integrated in the Romanian society. According to a private investigator research many of Romanian employees of successful businesses lead by Roma think the Roma owners build their fortune through theft and violence and is just since recently (before they started working for them) the Roma bosses became honest and hardworking.

For the last 30 years the main focus of anything done by the European Institutions, the UN and national governments has been education and employment of Roma.

A significant number (if not the majority) of Roma that are successfully integrated in their societies hide their ethnic roots as they do not fit the prevailing Roma stereotype – uneducated and unemployed. There are many similar cases as those of Dumitru G. – for these people the problem has nothing to do with education or employment but with racism (anti-Gypsyism). People as Dumitru G. can be the very much-needed positive role models for both the majorities and minorities and contribute significantly to the social inclusion of Roma within the European societies.

For the last three decades the European Institutions equated Roma with uneducated, unskilled, unemployed, poor and often criminal Roma mainly from ghettos and traditional Romani communities. This part of Roma population (that I call Frankenstein Roma) fits the negative stereotypes of the majority populations and was the main focus for European initiatives targeting the social inclusion of Roma. No European awareness campaigns ever targeted either the successfully integrated Roma or the even the much larger group of ethnically mixed Roma.

The selection of much needed highly educated Roma human resources is seriously hindered by the existing target group and leads to low quality leadership and representation which further pushes away the existing successfully integrated Roma elites.

Accordingly, the increase in the number of Roma declaring their ethnic identity is minimal and the number of those Roma who prefer to hide their ethnicity is still between 3 to 10 times bigger. The positive role models are largely missing and the social stigma continues to be perpetrated by the existing leadership.

Cases such as the case of Dumitru G. should signal an urgent need to reform the functional paradigm of the European Institutions.

Over two thirds of Roma[1] do not declare their ethnic identity fearing stigma and most of the professionally successful Roma prefer not to talk about their ethnic identity or hide it. Anti-Gypsyism remains strident and rife within the political elites of Europe as the opinion polls continue to prove year after year that Roma are by far the most hated ethnic group in Europe.

[1] According to the statistics of the Council of Europe

Eurochild – how institutional support can be used to justify promoting racists…

20 Nov

April 2 – 2014 – Closing a chapter. A good step forward as Eurochild recognizes it made a mistake. It took some months but this is a good sign. Reading the recent posting about the Summit released by the Commission it remains clear that the European Commission continues to live in Viviane Reding’s dream world.

Dear colleagues from Roma civil society organisations,

With some delay, I wanted to come back to you regarding your message on the eve of our Annual Conference last year.  The issue has been given due attention in the Eurochild management board.

We acknowledge that we made a mistake to accept financial support & hosting of the conference dinner by Regione Lombardia Council (of which Lega Nord is one of the parties in the government coalition) – without ensuring visible accompanying messages that address their negative policies with respect to children’s rights – Roma & non-Roma.   Our hosts did use the event to push the Regional government to appoint a children’s ombudsman – something that was mentioned repeatedly during the conference.  We will continue to support this advocacy, since a Regional children’s ombudsman will be a significant step forward.  This should have been made clearer in the conference communication together with a more vocal challenge of their wider policies on children.  We recognize that without these accompanying messages, we could be seen to endorse their policies, – which you understand we do not.

With regards to your specific call for Roma experts & visibility in the programme for Roma, as stressed in my previous message, opportunities were available for Roma to put forward proposals during the event preparation.  But we will give this more attention this year (next conference is in Bucharest 26-28th November on Better Public Spending for Better Outcomes for Children & Families).

We continue to recognize the necessity of engaging with elected representatives within the hosting country / region regardless of their political colour.  However, we will be sure to use the opportunity to be more openly critical towards policies that are not aligned with the Eurochild values and policy positions.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at this week’s Roma summit.

Kind regards,

The Eurochild management board

In November 2013 I wrote

We received a letter from Eurochild. A nice one but our main point seemed to be completely missed. So here trying to make it clearer…

Dear Jana,

Thank you for your kind reply to our letter. I decided to make my point a bit clearer in response to your letter. You write :

“Apologies for the confusion over the speaker. Our situation is clarified below.”

There is no confusion about the speaker. Again here is one of the many incredible racist and xenophobic statements of Maroni

As for vigilante attacks on immigrants, that is what happens when Gypsies steal babies, or when Romanians commit sexual violence.”

The clarification reads :

“The Regione Lombardia gave sponsorship to the event – hence the fact that Roberto Maroni was on the list of speakers for the official dinner.  Finally he did not attend, but was attended by the assessore for youth & sports – who unfortunately also comes from the Liga Norte party.   We in no way condone the position of the party – & in particular the position of Mr Maroni.  His presence was a token of their institutional support.”

The fact that Maroni was on your lists of speakers is a blunder.

You can not justify it with the fact that you accepted a sponsorship of the event from the Regione Lombardia. 

 To make my point using a stronger example would be like the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) will accept a sponsorship from the neo-nazis in Europe and have their leader on the list of speakers for an ENAR Conference dealing with anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism.

I believe that the role of civil society is to take a stand against people like Maroni and to function as a watchdog against practices such as those deployed by his party. Rationalizing sponsorships from extremist parties is simply something we should not do. Eurochild is not a diplomatic mission or intergovernmental organisation therefore you can not just invite them and have a tiny disclaimer that you do not condone the position of the party.

The fact that you write you are committed to promoting the rights of Roma children is rather in contradiction with giving the opportunity of an extremist party with a horrendous record of discriminating Roma to speak at your conference. As long as you do not make a much stronger efforts to involve Roma organisations and experts within Eurochild (include Roma experts in the board, provide employment and internship opportunities to help the human resources capacity of Roma) you might risk to be seen as being involved in Roma issues just for ensuring funding for the organisation. It happens with other organisations and is a serious reason of frustration for many Roma activists.

 Indeed, all of us make mistakes. But if we do not acknowledge them there is no chance to amend them. I believe Eurochild has a very important role to play in Europe. We need to pressure both the EU institutions and member states to do a much better job when it comes to children wellbeing. Having “token” speakers such as Maroni to ensure “institutional support” is not the way to do it.

 I realise that the way I write doesn’t fit the “eurocratic” polite language and might be a bit out of the comfort zone of people that are used to eurotalk. But that doesn’t mean I will not try to do my best to help  Eurochild to achieve its goals in which indeed I believe.

 My very best wishes

Valeriu Nicolae
From: Jana Hainsworth <>
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 20:14:54 +0000
Subject: RE: Open letter to Eurochild regarding our efforts to promote the rights of Roma children

Dear colleagues,

Herewith a more considered response to your letter.  Apologies for the confusion over the speaker. Our situation is clarified below.

The Eurochild network promotes the rights and well-being of all children and young people in Europe.  We recognize Roma children and families experience daily violation of their rights.  We also recognize that without serious and committed intent to promote the rights of Roma children, we will perpetuate the cycle prejudice and poverty.    This message is clear in recent press releases and reports.

–          Our child rights manifesto to be launched tomorrow in the European Parliament Strasbourg (Universal Children’s Day – 20 November) makes a clear reference to promoting & protecting the rights of Roma children

–          Our recent Press Release and opinion piece learning from the Maria Rusev case

–          Last year’s report on implementation of the Roma inclusion strategies

–          A study on the situation of Roma children in Europe

–          Our Speak Up! project funded through the EU’s fundamental rights & citizenship programme on child participation involved Roma children & young people in Bulgaria, Hungary & Greece & traveller children in Ireland

The content of our annual conference was based on a programme advisory committee of several Italian organisations – members & non-members of Eurochild. We also had an open call for proposals for the workshops & forum of good practice.  It was unfortunate that we did not receive proposals from Roma organisations – and I’m sure this is in part due to our failure to reach out more effectively to them in the early stages of the event preparation.

The Regione Lombardia gave sponsorship to the event – hence the fact that Roberto Maroni was on the list of speakers for the official dinner.  Finally he did not attend, but was attended by the assessore for youth & sports – who unfortunately also comes from the Liga Norte party.   We in no way condone the position of the party – & in particular the position of Mr Maroni.  His presence was a token of their institutional support.

We are certainly very willing to explore how Eurochild can more effectively represent the interests of Roma children.   One way would be more participation of Roma organisations in membership of Eurochild – currently they only participate as members of members – for example within the National Network for Children in Bulgaria.   We would also be interested to further develop partnerships with Roma organisations particularly around children’s rights and children’s participation.

Looking forward to our on-going collaboration,


Jana Hainsworth – Secretary General

Open letter to Eurochild

13 Nov

Thank you, Eurochild.

On 9 June 2008, Italian media reported that a settlement of around 100 Romanian Roma in Catania, Sicily, had been attacked and burned to the ground. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni (today leader of the extremist party Lega Nord) reportedly downplayed the attacks, stating: “As for vigilante attacks on immigrants, that is what happens when Gypsies steal babies, or when Romanians commit sexual violence.”

On 25 June of the same year, Maroni announced the intention of the Italian government to conduct a “census” of all “nomads” in Italy.
On 28 June, Maroni revealed a plan for fingerprinting all Roma residents in camps, including children, insisting that this plan would solve problems of inadequate housing and rising crime rates in Italy.
The Italian government and Roberto Maroni were blasted for the idea of fingerprinting Roma children by UNICEF, the Council of Europe and the European Commission, and parallels were drawn with the census of the Jews conducted by Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1938.

February 2009 saw a repetition of earlier events when a number of violent incidents in Italy triggered a further outburst of racist and hate speech in the Italian media and from politicians targeting Romanians in general and Romanians of Roma origins specifically.

In recent weeks (October – November 2013) we have seen a number of scandals involving Roma children. In Greece and Ireland, children have been subjected to genetic testing simply because they look too fair-skinned to be Roma; this treatment reveals another more disturbing and long-held European prejudice; the idea that Roma steal children. Some of the worst policies against Roma children were implemented by the Italy and many Human Rights bodies found the situation in Roma camps to be despicable.

The European Union considers that Roma are the most discriminated-against ethnic minority in Europe. Both the European Commission and the Council of Europe have made clear the fact that Roma children are particularly vulnerable. On paper, Roma involvement in the European Union is high on the agendas of all institutions.

From 13 – 15 November 2013 Eurochild, the biggest European network dealing with children’s rights, will run a conference on child participation in Italy.  No Roma experts seem to have been invited and nothing in the conference agenda indicates that the conference will include discussion on Roma children.

Roberto Maroni is one of the invited speakers for this conference, and will likely take part in the closing panel.

Eurochild leadership has been involved in the activities of the European Roma Platform, suggesting that they are aware of the particular vulnerability of Roma children. European networks in general have played a significant and not always deserved role in most of the relevant Roma events in the past.

We, the undersigned, are deeply worried about these seemingly contradictory signals from Eurochild and what seem to be a practice for EU networks to ignore Roma expertise and Roma issues. We would like to know why the issue of Roma children has been neglected on this conference programme, and why Roberto Maroni was considered a suitable speaker. We recommend that the board of Eurochild raise the issues detailed here at their next board meeting. Until then we can just say:

Way to go, Eurochild!

Adam Ademi

Gwendolyn Albert

Agnes Daroczi

Costel Bercus

Nicoleta Bitu

Cristian Buceanu

Gelu Dumnica

Cristi Mihalache

Ciprian Necula

Mona Nicoara

Valeriu Nicolae

Ana Oprisan

Bela Racz

Nadir Redzepi

Hanzi Reese

Daniel La Para

Marius Taba

Cathryn Teasley

Zeljko Jovanovici

If you want to join us please send us a message at or send directly a message to the president of Eurochild at and their secretary general at

For more details please see the previous posting


About Euro-conferincing, children and promoting racists

12 Nov

Big, big, big European conference in Italy – yupiii !!!

It is about an important issue – child participation[1] . In all ghettoes full of children in Italy this is surely the most important thing next to riding unicorns and floating on the majestic, years-lasting holistic effects and rainbows produced by the EU conferences on the subject.

According to the background paper distributed by the organisers the achievements in this area (child participation) are breathtaking – a framework and a toolkit for consulting children are the first of them.

I can barely imagine the excitement of children living out of begging and garbage recycling as well as those trafficked into prostitution to use The Toolkit or The Framework. The impact on their lives – instant and priceless.

Second the thematic campaigning and lobbying which resulted in gold worth mighty recommendations feared by evil dragons, ice-queens and the orcs of Mordor alike. Those saintly recommendations make instantly social assistants that work with children within broken systems proud to be paid less than janitors and cleaning personal working for governments or inter-governmental organisations. They magically improve the horrific living conditions and psychological abuse that street children face everyday.

Third there are children ambassadors and children involved in EU conferences, events and research.  Yes, it is true that European funding on children has almost no impact whatsoever in the most vulnerable communities, that the child protection systems manage to produce youth that are at hundred times higher risks of long term unemployment and imprisonment. But holly cow did we manage to have children ambassadors !

We do not have a Commissioner with a clear portfolio on children, we have no EU mechanism that can implement the very good policy papers proposed by the EU bodies, the absorption of European Funds by member states with huge problems when it comes to child wellbeing remains abysmal. We have a dysfunctional Fundamental Rights Agency that produces useless papers on any possible topic in the EU and we will have yet another huge EU study that will be best-seller in EuroNarnia. Mapping law, policy and practice regarding child protection in all 28 member states – is the equivalent of Harry Potter in Brussels.

I know many ghettoes around Europe. There are thousands of children that are forced into begging, theft, garbage recycling and prostitution every day.

Millions of children in Europe live in abject poverty and are at huge risk to become yet another generation lost. There is a tiny fraction (if any) of European money that is used to solve efficiently the situation of children in ghettoes. We continue to waste money on justifying window dressing measures and blablas that help nobody but the egos and careers of people that live in their EuroNarnian bubble.

Sure thing there will be hundreds of ways to justify yet another waste of European money during yet another big conference.  There are many people than need to justify their careers by defending yet another impotent talk-shop. A great opportunity to strengthen once more a culture of lip service and conformity.

A classical example of good practice.

Child participation is indeed a positive and needed thing but compared with the serious issues around child wellbeing it is like we would believe that the nexus of problems regarding the worst ghettoes is the lack of bicycles and green technologies available there.

Organise such conferences in some of the many ghettoes built in Italy by inept and racist public officials (there are enough around Milano). Involve the children there.  In that way some of the “experts” will see and learn for the first time about the realities on the ground and the media attention will force the public administrations into a reaction. It will cost much less to organize it and will have a strong effect.

That is what the EU and activism on children rights should be about – spending public money efficiently and exposing the worst in order to solve the issues. It should be about courage and innovation. Talking and producing papers about the need to find a spine and creative approaches doesn’t qualify; neither does finding silly excuses for continuing with a system that helps nobody that indeed need help.


Among the speakers there is nobody I recognize with hands-on experience on Roma. It happens that Roma children are considered to be the most vulnerable children by the EU.

Roberto Maroni – is a speaker ( third to the end). He is the racist Italian minister that promoted the forced fingerprinting of Roma children a few years ago – measure that forced the European Commission to threatened Italy with infringement procedures.

[1] meaning mainly we get children to talk at EU conferences and take in account their opinions in EU researches and we act as this is the discovery of the century

Bureaucracies and the (Roma) civil society

11 Nov

How the EC, CoE, OSCE, UN and FRA could help was a question I heard many times. Most often nobody cared about the answers.

I argue here that these organisations are involuntarily but surely destroying the chance of a healthy development of Roma civil society. I also argue  that this trend could be reversed.

In the last years a significant part if not the overwhelming majority of public money spent on Roma issues has been distributed by the European Commission or governments towards other big, expensive bureaucracies such as UNICEF, UNDP, WORLD BANK, COUNCIL OF EUROPE, OSCE, Fundamental Rights Agency etc.

As all the above mentioned bureaucracies have a strident problem when it comes to both inside expertise on Roma and institutional racism (Roma are nowhere to be found in the management structures in any of these institutions) .All the mentioned institutions had to contract other organisations with expertise and/or experts within their own organisations to deal with their Roma projects.

Many times there was yet another sub-contracting and sometimes some more as the Roma organisations capable to implement the projects at the grassroots do not have the skills and connections to be able to access or administer the massive grants governments and the European Union are used to work with. In some cases there are 5 to 6 levels of sub-contractors until the final implementer is reached.

This common practice has an overall terrible effect on the entire Roma social inclusion process. Here the reasons.

A good part of the initial (sometimes the majority of) money is lost in the administration of these expensive bureaucracies and of the sub-contractors. That significantly reduces the impact the money can have at the grassroots level where the interventions are needed (often less than 10% of the money reach the target communities).

The blame for squandered funds will most usually fall on the last implementer – the Roma organisations. As the wellbeing and fortune of most of the visible Roma and non Roma leaders depend on good relationships with all the above mentioned institutions there will rarely be any strong criticism of these institutions and impossible to have a unified critical position against these practices.

In the rare case these bureaucracies will employ Roma experts those experts will be recruited from NGOs that have the needed experience.  The best available experts are few and usually leaders of strong NGOs. Most of them are already involved in different other consultancies and became used with being in the spotlights and prefer a representative/dignitary role than an expert role.

Some of these people could become good technocrats and medium level managers in these institutions but there are simply not enough incentives for these people to go for the usually short- medium term contracts within these bureaucracies.

In most of the cases people that end up being employed for these contracts are people that are already working in NGOs but with limited expertise. They will either leave the NGO they are working for or significantly reduce their activities within the organization.

Most of them will end up being a rather poor professional bureaucrat as they are not used to the institutional culture and in many cases they do not have the needed skills to be successful in a big bureaucracy.

The more experienced bureaucrats in the system will disregard them and their advice will end up being mostly ignored. They will make significantly more money sometimes 5 to 10 times more than they could make working at the grassroots. Returning to the grassroots work will not be considered desirable.

The NGOs will face significant problems as other people will start looking for fat contracts with the big bureaucracies. Frustration will increase and motivation to work at the grassroots will decrease constantly as more of these fat contracts will become available.

The end result is the disappearance of small and medium sized NGOs working at the grassroots. We will see a few very strong NGOs capable to contract directly or be the first sub-contractor of public funds lead by a few people that will concentrate in their hands important resources and will have access to all of the most important events organized on Roma issues. The pool of people and therefore of ideas will become increasingly smaller as the elites will try to preserve their status.

Nepotism, corruption, radicalism or conformity and lip service are or will be logical end results among leadership of the Roma civil society.

The solutions to reverse this trend are simple.

Bureaucracies need to work on a human resources strategy to attract good Roma experts with spines in positions of medium and senior management. It has been done before and there is good progress when it comes to presence of women in management.

Give up on the idea of short and medium term projects and work much more seriously on designing medium to long term institutional funding lines for NGOs meant to stimulate work at the grassroots.

Why working on Roma issues at a senior management level is a dangerous job

8 Nov

“People who fail to learn from their mistakes tend to fall again and again for the wrong partner, continue to work in jobs that are unsuitable for them and suffer recurrent ailments without questioning the root cause.”

Reading about the inability to learn from mistakes after struggling to finish another mind-numbing OSCE report hypocritically dedicated to Nicolae Gheorghe.

Low level of dopamine due to a gene that is present in around 30% of us; and a damaged frontal cortex seem to be the main explanations coming from neuroscientists to justify this particular inability.

It must be that these 30% have some other special gene that makes them much more likely to end up in high level positions in governments or in senior and medium level management in international intergovernmental organisations.

Another explanation is that getting to these positions automatically damages their brain – and that will justify most of the insane salaries, benefits these people have.

Considering the laughable experience for the job of most of the senior management people that work on Roma issues, the frequency they manage to put their feet in their mouths, the appalling way they choose their “partners” to work with, one has to wonder if there is a prerequisite to have a damaged frontal cortex as the simple lack of dopamine could not explain it.

Almost everybody (experts and the above mentioned senior managers) agrees that we Roma face the worst ethnic discrimination in Europe – comparable levels of prejudice like those faced by blacks in the Southern States of the US in the 1950-ties.

Experts also overwhelmingly agree that we are wasting money on things that can not have any positive effect or that are in fact making the situation worse.

In the meantime there are only positive practices, visible progress and other similar expressions to be found in the reports of activities of all major intergovernmental institutions dealing with Roma. Same when it comes to national governments.

If this is not idiocy or management inflicted delusion then just seriously damaged frontal cortexes might explain the discrepancy. Either way senior management jobs on Roma issues have very high risks.

PS. Indeed there is also a positive practice as strong institutional racism does prevent most of us Roma not to risk a damaged frontal cortex or our proverbial happiness ( low level of dopamine are associated to unhappiness, depression …) – those senior management jobs about us are not for us.