Mr Nicolae, what is happening in France?
On July 28, French president Nicholas Sarkozy announced a series of measures to deal with Roma communities in France. These include plans to shut down around 300 illegal camps, expulsion from the country of all Roma from Romania and Bulgaria who have committed public offences, an exchange of policemen between France and Romania, and targeted checks by the fiscal authorities of Roma possessing expensive SUVs.
Two days later, in a declaration about Roma, Sarkozy said he wants to revoke the French citizenship of immigrants with French passports who endanger the life of police officers.
For the last days Roma started to be sent on planes back to Romania. Most were ineptly “bribed” with 300 EUR not to return – a measure which makes no sense considering that most of those Roma likewise some high French officials will promise whatever it takes to make use of the available opportunities . Collection of biometric data which to stop Roma from returning to France is both expensive and irrelevant.
In what way do the measures against Roma communities affect human rights and legality?
Targeting only Roma or migrants (from Romania, Bulgaria or anywhere else) to be expelled for committing public offences cannot be seen as anything but racism. If these policies were applied to French citizens alike, in cases of bribery, nepotism, corruption, financial mischief, embezzlement (fancier words describing thievery and other public offences) a good part of the French political class would have to be expelled, or have their citizenship revoked.
If we believe the French press on the Bettencourt scandal(it looks like the French president received larger than legal amounts of money for his campaign), even the president himself might be sent back to Hungary or Greece. Former junior ministers from his cabinet, one of whom flew to Martinique on a charter jet for just over 116.000 EUR, and another who bought over 12.000 EUR worth of cigars, all paid from public money, might be forced also to immigrate if the French government were to treat all criminals equally.
If the fiscal authorities were to check the way French politicians and wealthy citizens (for example, bankers) have amassed their fortunes and (when it applies) SUVs, again, some expulsions might be in order. It is well known that many French companies have paid enormous bribes in dealings in Africa and developing countries, often to the extreme detriment of residents there. These few examples suggest that the French state and fiscal authorities could gain thousands times more by focusing on French citizens rather than migrants.
What is the attitude of the French Ministers in this whole affair?
Some French officials have been often accused of arrogance and paternalism and sometimes of neo-colonialism and racism. French Minister for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche has been very vocal for the last year on the issue of Roma, especially Romanian Roma. Lellouche has a talent for putting his foot in his mouth and being abrasive. He is best known for calling the British PM “pathetic and autistic”. He has also accused David Cameron of trying to “castrate” Europe. He aggravated both American and Turkish governments due to his inability to control his aggressive verbosity. Some of his speeches in Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia seem to indicate he might have preserved some of the French arrogance and paternalism well documented in dealings with Tunisia (the minister was born in Tunisia during the French rule) and other ex-French colonies.
A number of diplomats complained in private about shocking behavior of Mr. Lellouche talks towards female colleagues.
When it comes to Roma, his speeches either border on racism or remind of bullying French colonial attitudes as he orders around weaker EU member states or countries in the EU accession process such as Macedonia and Turkey.
During the last week of July, France, through Pierre Lellouche, has pressured (a euphemism) the Romanian government to name a secretary of state responsible for Roma issues. This is indeed a needed measure but only if done properly. The Romanian Prime Minister Boc probably forgetting he is the prime minister of an EU country and not the governor of an ex-French colony rushed and named Mr Mocanu for this position. Mr Mocanu is completely unknown to the Romanian political class, as well as to the Romanian civil society and Roma communities. He has never published anything related to Roma has no known experience in dealing with Roma issues. He has no legitimacy whatsoever to be in charge of Roma issues and most probably no motivation.
In your opinion, what is the major failure from governments towards the Roma communities?
Since the beginnings of 1990s, Romanian Roma have travelled (mostly temporarily) to France. Measures to deal with their migration adopted by the French governments were rarely sufficient and most of the time inadequate. French governments have never employed an expert on Roma issues and have proved completely uninterested in supporting the creation of such expertise at the level of the EU. Roma have been the topic only of empty and often bombastic speeches which either aim to prove that France is promoting equality and human rights, or try to justify or promote blatant racist policies whenever the right wing of extreme political class needs a diversion or a scapegoat.
Major problems do exist with ghettos (illegal settlements) in France, as in Italy, and as we must expect to see sooner or later in other EU countries. These are the result of over 20 years of failed policies at both national and European levels. The increase in the number of Roma leaving Romania and other East European countries for make-shift ghettos around European cities is a direct consequence of a disastrous lack of coherent long-term strategies and funds targeting the social inclusion of Roma both at the national or EU levels. If measures are not taken those number will just increase.
Lellouche, the European Commission and most governments do not have the experience or skills to be able to understand the complex mechanisms which trigger Roma to move to ghettos in other countries. Expertise on these issues is badly lacking and therefore efforts at policy are either limited or catastrophic. Both national governments and the European Commission are dramatically understaffed and unprepared to solve the problems. Some money are spent but there is no vision or strategy which to make the expenditure pay off. Problems of begging and prostitution (two of Lellouche’s favorite words when it comes to Roma) should be solved more easily and cheaply by targeting those French citizens including politicians who finance them. But that might prove highly unpopular, especially with the right wing electorate.
A game of “ping pong” between European Union bodies and Member States on the responsibility for social inclusion of Roma has led to the existing situation. It is not historically unique: Italians, Irish, southern French, Polish, Spanish,Asian and Jewish immigrants who left their countries for the US at the turn of the last century were considered by the American elites as inferior, prone to criminality and prostitution. Some were forced to return. However, the horrendous crimes in Europe during the time of Nazism led to the strong rebuttal of racist theories.
The father of the theory of biological racism and the idea of an Aryan master race, Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, was a well respected member of the French elite in his time. Mr Lellouche and other French politicians may wish to consider that following his line of thought, and expressing similar ideas, is considered a public offence in many countries, and they may one day be the ones to risk expulsion.
What about Italy in particular?
As expected, some extremist Italian ministers also started to make lots of noise requesting sending back of undesirables. Both France and Italy are keen in presenting Roma issues as a huge security threat. We are talking about France – the EU country with the biggest riots in the last period – less than 5 years ago -over 200 million Euros lost , close to 3000 cars burned, almost 3000 people arrested, 126 policemen and firemen injured, 127 cities affected - and all these due to a complete failure of social inclusion of the poorest French citizens and Italy – the country with the biggest criminal network in the world – the Mafia with estimated business of 130 billion euros out of which 59 billion euros from drug trafficking and 5.8 billion euros from selling arms. It sounds like a terrible joke but politicians seems to be completely immune to hypocrisy and very happy to use racism as a way to gain votes.