One good and necessary step forward

2 Aug

On the night of August 2, 1944 2898 Romani men, women, and children were gassed at Auschwitz as Soviet troops closed in. Preceding it in January 1940 over 200 Romani children were murdered in Buchenwald, Germany, used as research subjects for the efficiency of the crystals of Zyclon B Gas later employed in the gas chambers.

This is the beginning of an article I wrote exactly a decade ago. It is available here.

Some things remain valid. Some changed.  Most to the better.

In 2005 the European Parliament resolution on Holocaust did not even mentioned Roma.

On August 2, 2015 the European Commission came up with a very strong declaration in support of recognition of a European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day and in support of a Resolution of the European Parliament requesting such recognition. The entire declaration can be found here http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-15-5444_en.htm.

A decade ago this would have been unthinkable.

The Romanian prime-minister released also a message about the Roma Holocaust. It has been taken by most of the media outlets in Romania.

This might well be perceived by skeptics as nothing more than lip-service. It will be a mistake.  An institutional routine acknowledging the mass killings of Roma is a very serious step forward in ensuring the attention needed to Roma Genocide in the Romanian and European history.

It will be also a mistake to consider that this is enough. We do not manage yet even to stop the negative trend that see more and more Roma children falling into the exclusion trap. Nowadays most experts think that overall the Roma situation was significantly better during the communism. Educational achievements, illiteracy, housing , poverty and employment rates were much better 26 years ago.

We continue to use poorly European funds ; anti-Gypsyism as well as institutional racism remain problematic  all over Europe.

There are some good signals that things are improving. The declaration of the two Commissioners is one of them. The fact that this is possible means that there is some good support within the European Commission for Roma issues – something that was not the case a decade ago.

There are many bureaucrats that are or were in the Commission that made this possible. Their experience (good and bad) is important and needs to be better used regardless of egos ( personal and institutional).  Same is to be said about the Roma activists and experts in Roma issues. A decade of advocating better Roma policies lead many to burn-outs. Frustrations and personal feuds are nothing but an expected outcome of what has been often a serious struggle. Those and some other frictions hindered essential exchange of knowledge and much needed cooperation.

Pushing the right policies for Roma social inclusion is not an easy feat. Lip service, polite indifference or diplomatic niceties are not the way to achieve it.

Many of those involved in Roma issues are truly interested to find solutions. Bluntly discussing what the problems are/were with the purpose to find the solutions and not winning some pyric victories for the sake of our egos is the way ahead.

The Commission seemed to have managed just that. This time.

  1. Most of the individual’s flaws here are mine. They have been an unpleasant but necessary and hopefully useful discovery.

PPS.  The success of the European Parliament for the recognition of Roma Holocaust is due to the activity of a small group of Roma activists. The much regretted Nicolae Gheorghe and the previous and nowadays Roma MEPs are (arguably) the main responsible . Thanks !

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