Archive | July, 2014

are they “coloured” ?

27 Jul

The dialogue here is between a nurse and the chief doctor responsible for blood transfusions at the hospital in Slobozia, Romania.

T.C – We need blood for a 13 years old that suffered a surgical intervention. They opened her and her belly is full of blood.
Cristina Stoian (C.S) – so what ? No ( meaning don’t give it) , as they did not establish the level of hemoglobin. Talk to the relatives of the girls. Are they “coloured” ?
TC – Yes they are roma.
C.S- So they are coloured, they are coloured… She doesn’t need blood, let it go…when her hemoglobin is going under 7 then you can give her.

The normal hemoglobin value for a child the size and age of the Roma girl that needed blood is between 11.5 and 15.5.

Racism kills. It needs to be stopped. Everywhere. By all of us that are able to see it . And if we do more to stop it our governments and bureaucracies will maybe wake up and start do a lot more to educate our societies about how disgusting and dangerous racism is.

Cristina Stoian can be hardly considered a human being. But if you blame Romanians for what she did then you are just another dangerous racist.

The original text in Romanian can be found here :

The age of comfortability – or how did we move from watch-dogs to lap dogs

25 Jul

*This is an open letter/speech that I wrote a while ago for a meeting of senior leaders of Open Society Institute. It can easily apply also to the European Commission (especially DG Justice and Roma Unit) as I can  find the same type of examples involving EC leadership.

You know the successes.  Roma issues are discussed at the highest levels of the European policy. Thousands more Roma went through high education and hundreds that became successful due to OSI’s investments. There are massive global changes in policies and discourse that would have been impossible without the massive investment in Roma issues by the OSI.

You know the mistakes.

You know that most of the available experience and expertise is build at the elegant desks and in hotels and not in the field. You know that nepotism is rampant; that there are very little if any incentives for OSI to speak out against failed practices, corruption and comfortability within or of other intergovernmental institutions. You know about the families of professional Roma activists, about conservative boards that recycle the same people, about conformism and lip-service.

You know that OSI bred mostly “want to be” Roma dignitaries and failed catastrophically to involve successful Roma professionals in the movement. That political representation of Roma in most of the countries is abysmal. That caution and not courage leads your actions.

You know the corruption, the cowardice, the petty politics and the institutional hypocrisy.

You know the dangers of comfortability. You know that you surround yourselves with people that do not challenge you but make you feel good about ourselves.

You know the failures.

And what you and I do is we rationalize all wrongs in order to make ourselves look good. We ignore our formidable failures but we are awfully keen on crucifying anybody around us making the same or smaller mistakes.

You here are all smart enough to rationalize anything I am telling you the way you like it or the way you want to perceive me.

Some of you will ignore me, agree with me, disagree with me, hate me or like me. Most of it will be based on a false assumption as you think you know me despite of the fact you have no idea who am I or how I changed in the last years I did not take part in any OSI meetings.

You will find ways to dismiss anything that puts you on the hot seat and interpret things I say in a way to justify your assumptions, in a way to make you feel good.

I took part in a small meeting with the ex-president of OSI. He fell asleep during the talks and somehow everybody around pretended it did not happen. I was told a few years ago before a meeting with George Soros to make sure I agree with him as “we need to make the old man happy”. Everybody did despite the fact some of his ideas were obviously wrong. I tried to speak-up. I did not get the floor.

Regardless of what my opinions are here some facts:

Roma civil society is artificially created – a donors project run mainly by people that have very limited if any hands on experience working in Roma communities. You are a lot more likely to waste money to keep “friendly” and inefficient organisations afloat than to reform your approach.

Roma identity is an extremely fluid concept. There are many cases when OSI money incentives people to imagine a Roma identity that fits their dreams but not the realities. Some of these dreams are extremist, sometimes racist, homophobic or xenophobic. Most of them are in strident opposition to the basic principles of open societies and the very dear to George Soros theory of fallibility.

OSI is far more adept at cuddling than challenging intergovernmental organisations. A good number of people transition between EC, Council of Europe, UN, OSCE , World Bank and OSI. Sure thing you can rationalize this as being great. It is not. Most people hunt jobs and it is rare they will not trade in some of their convictions for comfort. There are indeed exceptions. Some very few ones. OSI overall failed to challenge the main intergovernmental institutions and starts more and more to look at yet another bureaucracy concerned about its own survival rather than changing or challenging the world. OSI is resembling a lot more a lap-dog than a watch-dog.

What should OSI do :

  1. Finance a completely independent watch-dog organization capable to keep Roma civil society, governments and intergovernmental institutions accountable.  Questioning the ways people in charge of Roma issues were employed, the way the money allocated for Roma issues were spent, the working plans and activities of EU Commissioners and other senior managers responsible on Roma issues can become a fantastic tool to pressure change. The ERRC should have done this but due to many reasons and institutional failures it has never been able to do it.
  1. Start a devil’s advocate institution within OSI willing and capable to challenge not only George Soros’s ideas but also senior leadership ideas, the conformity within the organization, the incentives for nepotism, corruption and complacency. Such an inside institution should be charged to ensuring that OSI is not yet another breeder of dignitaries and opportunistic politicians.
  1. Develop a real leadership school to stimulate people to do things not talk about things. Recruit people that inspire. Not people you “invested” in that are “comfortable” and “easy to work with”. Many of the leaders you created seem to be there just because George Soros or other influential people in OSI like them or think they can control them. Some others seem to be there because they talk well or because their skin color and features fits stereotypes about whom we Roma are.
  1. Publish a black book of Roma movement with at least one chapter about OSI. We need first to acknowledge the catastrophic failures in order to avoid repeating them.
  1. Identify niches and focus on them in order to avoid becoming yet another organisation bridging mainly uselessly and extremely expensively “stakeholders”.


8 Jul

-Vrieţi mieniu compliet sau siimplu ?

E sfârşitul anilor ‘90 şi sunt în Chişinău. Hotel Codru. Frânt după o călătorie lungă. Cum nu am chef să mănânc în oraş răspund:

– Compliet.

– Şinzăsi de mărşi.

Mă gândesc că şinzăsi de mărşi pe zi o să susţină jumătate din economia legală a Chişinăului pe durata şederii mele acolo. Sunt frânt de oboseală şi vreau să dorm.Plătesc.

Primesc o cheie mare legată de o jumătate de kil de bronz. Mă bucur – nu de alta dar sala de sport nu au. Nici liftul nu merge şi stau la etajul 7. Oameni buni; probabil au văzut că sunt pasionat de work-out. Primesc şi două cutii: una lunguiaţă şi una rotundă ambele dintr-un carton urât pe care scrie ceva în rusă.

– Ce să fac cu cutiile ?

– Aista îi cutiie di nimişit gandaşii !

Îmi arată cutia lunguiaţă.

–   Ce e ?

Îmi răspunde vorbind tare cu pauze lungi intre cuvinte ca si cum aş fi poate surd si sigur tâmpit.

– Cutiiiiie diiii nimişîîîîîîtttttt gandaşiiii şie nu înţieliejeţi ?

– Şi asta ?

– Pientru mieniu compliet!

Tanti cu care vorbesc e cât apartamentul în care am crescut. Nu îndrăznesc să îi cer să îmi explice cum funcţionează cutia pentru animale sau cea pentru meniu complet.

Ajung în cameră. E minunată dacă îţi doreşti să experimentezi întoarcerea în timp sau dormitul în ceva care simulează cat mai bine grajdul de la Budrea. Deah – ţigan snob. Sunt in chestia care ar trebui sa fie baie când sună telefonul.

E doamna amabilă.

– Faşieţi triebuşioara mică sau triebuşioara mare ?

Mă gândesc că balena de la recepţie e mai tare ca mătusa-mea Geta singura din familie care citea viitorul. Îi răspund politicos – sunt adult şi nu sunt obişnuit să fac comunicate de presă când mă duc la budă. Închid telefonul. Sună din nou. Îl scot din priză. Sunt obosit şi stresat de triebuşioara mare.

Trec cinci- zece minute – bătăi la uşa. Mă gândesc că nu am văzut scripeţi şi nu îmi imaginez cum ar fi putut dihania să ajungă la etajul 7. Sunt linştit.

Deschid uşa şi îmi dau seama că vrăjitoarea nu a greşit prea tare când vorbea cu mine ca si cum aş fi fost tâmpit. Puştoaica blondă din faţă mea e evident “mieniul compliet”. Mă duc la recepţie şi cer meniu simplu. Dihania mă întreabă cu dispreţ dacă vreau altă “fătucă”. Nu vreau. Plătesc 15 mărşi şi sfârşesc dormind în maşină. Nici prezervativul bun pentru petice auto şi nici creionul di nimişit gandaşii nu au reuşit să sperie animalele care jur că erau fie spioni mai mici ai KGB -ului fie un neam uriaş radioactiv de libărci .

I, the idiot

3 Jul

It sounds better than I the robot. And needed a sweetener to go on and acknowledge that I was one.

The fact that I am stupefied with the way the leadership of DG Justice of European Commission has dealt with Roma issues is not something I tried to hide. That some of the unprepared speeches and most of the actions taken by ex Commissioner for justice Viviane Reding and Roma Unit show an embarrassing disregard for anti-Gypsyism is also something I am standing by. That too much EU funds are wasted on poorly thought conferences and inept projects and that consultation with Roma civil society is a joke; still good.

I also stand by the idea that the EU is the best thing that could happen to Eastern Europe and Roma. We badly need the EU but we need a much more efficient European Commission.

But I was wrong as I wrote in an article ( that “our success in nominating a French-educated Romanian Commissioner for Agriculture – Dacian Ciolos- did not translate into anything particularly beneficial for Romania… although it has been a great success for France, our main ally in getting that position. The British anger (France was accused of having two commissioners) proved well justified as Mr Ciolos has protected French interests exceptionally well. Romania received significant glory for holding such an important portfolio and little else.

I did choose and pick what I wanted to hear and did not care to go more in details. Did investigate it more and yes, I was an idiot. Mr. Ciolos, in fact, managed to push in some rather great ideas and a good number of experts on agriculture agree that he was a great Commissioner. Romania as well as a good number of European farmers had lots to gain due to his activity. Most of the experts I asked agree that we could have hardly had a better Romanian Commissioner .

It is not the first time I am an idiot. I did make many mistakes in the past and treated unfairly too many people. I am sure will make some more mistakes ,hopefully not the same ones . I hope I will  manage to keep close some of the amazing people I have the luck to know that are not shying away from telling me when I am wrong. And to continue thinking that I need to acknowledge when I am an idiot and apologize. Therefore – apologies Mr. Ciolos.

PS. I do not think Dacian Ciolos is reading my blog but it is a great chance people in the Roma Unit will send it to his cabinet :).