Honourable speakers, lady and gentlemen
I believe we need to change the way we collectively think about the Roma before doing anything else. Since 1984 the European Commission insists that educating Roma is the most important thing. It is indeed very important but what is more important in my opinion is to educate ourselves, the majority populations and the Roma communities that we, together have a responsibility to act as responsible citizens.
The way we thought up to this point is to put it bluntly that we need to fix the Roma. That Roma are deviant and need to be fixed is what we hear from extremists but also what it seem we assume at the EU level considering the measures we took up to this moment. I had the pleasure to work together with some brilliant Roma and to spend time with lots of Roma people from the communities in Romania. There is no need for a fix – there is no difference – we are all the same. What we need to fix indeed is the way we look at the social inclusion problems.
We need to focus our education towards responsible citizenship. Anti-Gypsysim is considered a problem by a small number of academics, human rights activists and some specialized bodies which are hardly influential within their own intergovernmental institutions. Racism against Roma it is not a deviation from what is considered normality in Europe but is rather the accepted normality. Sarkozy, Lellouche, Fratini , Basescu, Meciar are just some of the numerous top European politicians to have used anti-Gypsyism as a way to boost their popularity. Opinion polls and research focused on racism in mass media prove without doubt that anti-Gypsyism is by far much more cherished than fought against in the EU.
This needs to stop. We need to educate Europe that racism is shameful and inacceptable. We can not have functional social inclusion as long as the overwhelming majority of people will refuse a Roma in their family just because he or she is Roma. And this requires serious educational measures.
We need to educate ourselves to change things when they are obviously going wrong even if that goes against our own comfort. It is obvious that the Social Inclusion of Roma doesn’t work the way we are trying it at this moment.
We had lots of great speeches at the EU level but the fact remains that there are no Roma or Roma experts close to the decision makers. The presence of Roma in EU institutions is abysmal as it is their presence in the political parties across Europe. We do not have strong expert bodies matched by similar strong mechanisms to tackle the very complex problems of including what is in reality the most despised ethnic community in Europe.
How can we change this ? Simply – through, education – we all need to be thought the basis of active citizenship.
Despite clear improvements related to the participation of NGOs, Roma experts and other stakeholders the contribution of local administrations to these processes remains weak in my opinion. The absorption of Structural Funds, accordingly, remains much under the possibilities and in Romania is rather abysmal. In my talks with other Romanian mayors there is little if any awareness about possibilities offered by Structural Funds. Actions taken at the local level remain piece-meal and with a rather reduced impact.
Recently in the European Parliament Marian Vanghelie the Mayor of Sector 5 of Bucharest where we have the larges urban Roma community in Europe proposed to the Commission to have an advisory Committee of EU Mayors for Social Inclusion of Roma which to bring in the much needed expertise of those at the grassroots level.
Distinguished President and Raporteour – I hope you will also help this initiative through the channels you have. National MPs as myself that represent regions where significant Roma communities live need in my opinion to be more involved in the EU relevant discussions and I thank you for inviting me here today.
As I said at the beginning of my speech – Social Inclusion is done together.
Roma communities need to be helped to understand that we all have to be responsible citizens. That our countries need active people in order to improve situation and not passively wait authoritarian populist politicians to solve everything for them. Child trafficking , forced prostitution, criminality are all our problems and we need together to find solutions to solve them. But the main problem in my opinion remains that we are educated to see each other in terms of race and not in terms of citizens. And here I think we need to accept that our mistake was and remains that we try just to fix the Roma while we keep ignoring how much we need education to be effective in changing the way we look at each other.
I represent a part of Sector 5 of Bucharest in the Romanian Parliament. It is not an easy job for a young woman politician and there are lots of things which I learn everyday. One of the most important lesson I learned in the last years is that a functional democracy is one in which everybody assumes its rights and responsibilities as citizens. Stimulate this through education, awareness raising campaigns, projects, conferences and all the other instruments the EU has at its disposal and I am convinced we will be able to close the gap between rhetoric and reality.
Thank you for your attention
OANA NICULESCU MIZIL’s Blog
Hearing on Education and Training: tools for Roma integration- EUROPEAN ECONOMIC and SOCIAL COMMITTEE, Bruxelles