No reason to celebrate
The European Commission’s (EC) measures to address Roma exclusion are failing. Most of the European public money targeting Roma social inclusion is wasted on irrelevant meetings and unsustainable projects. Member States continue to treat Roma, at best, as a burden on the welfare system, and at worst, as genetically deficient sub-humans programmeed to become criminals.
The level of structural racism within the EC is appalling. The manner in which the EC and Member States deal with Roma inclusion is both irresponsible and arrogant. Most of the main intergovernmental (IGOs) and international non-governmental (INGOs) organisations that are vocal on Roma issues are not doing much better.
Speeches on Roma inclusion come across as hypocritical, considering that Roma continue to be overwhelmingly absent from decision-making positions. It seems that incentives to stimulate responsibility and active citizenship of Roma are just figures of speech.
Roma civil society is a mess: its main characteristics appear to be dependency on European Structural Funds, incompetency, ethnic radicalism, lip-service, cowardice, corruption, nepotism, and dreams of power and dignitary honours.
Roma ghettoes on the outskirts of major Western European cities are multiplying, while grassroots work in the Roma communities remains unusual, increasingly difficult and discouraged by inept funding design.
Dependency on receiving funding from IGOs and maintaining connections keep the most important organisations working on Roma social inclusion silent, diplomatic, or at best, ambiguous about what is really needed.
What are the essential needs? Here is a short list:
1. A basic standard, to which the EC and IGOs working on Roma issues must adhere. This standard must be public and should address the existing lack of expertise, coherence, institutional strategy, structural racism and lack of accountability of those institutions.
2. A yearly working plan for the EC and IGOs, with clear indicators, making possible the evaluation and monitoring of their activities (similar to what these organisations require from civil society).
3. Functional mechanisms to replace the dysfunctional existing informal mechanisms such as the Roma Unit, the EU Roma Platform, and MGs-Rom. We also need an urgent plan to reform European funding targeting Roma social inclusion, in order to halt the rapid dissolution of Roma civil society.
4. An independent evaluation of EC and IGO activities on Roma issues, including evaluation of the Commissioner in charge of Roma issues, Vice-President Reding, and the Roma Unit. INGOs and Roma NGOs should also be subject to independent evaluations.
We are failing. Acknowledgment is not enough. Many people in decision-making positions should quit, or be fired. Pompous, empty words of self-congratulation on International Roma Day do not help. Independent evaluations do.
There is no reason to celebrate – it should be a good time to request change. And what we need is simple for now – just gather signatures supporting reform.
If you support this please do send me your name and position at [email protected] . If we are enough the Commission will have to reply.