April 4, 2014 – Traian Basescu – Romanian president and Olguta Vasilescu – the mayor of Craiova (one of the biggest city in Romania) are two of the main speakers of the European Roma Summit.
February 10, 2014 – Romanian President Traian Basescu is fined by the Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) for racism against Roma. His declaration:” most of the Roma nomads live traditionally of what they steal” makes him the first EU president fined for racism.
In 2007 the president received an advertisement from the NCCD for calling a journalist “stinky Gypsy woman”.
On May 19, 2003 -same Traian Basescu at that moment the Mayor of Bucharest said :
[Gypsies] are nomads and nobody can do anything about them…they will bring their horses into the flats and there any attempt to civilize them ends…we should build special camps and keep them outside our cities.
Olguta Vasilescu – is the founding member of the extremist party Romania Mare. She was the leader of the youth movement of Romania Mare and the spoke person of the party. Romania Mare was known for the rabid anti-Roma, anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitism of its leadership. Cornel Vadim Tudor then the leader of the party called for:
„isolating Gypsy criminals in special colonies” in order to „stop the transformation of Romania into a Gypsy camp.”
In 2011 while in the Romanian Senate she strongly supported a legislative project meant to replace the term Roma with the pejorative gypsy “tigan” in Romania.
From 2012 she is the mayor of Craiova. She is responsible for a number of forced evictions of Roma. Numerous occurrences of open anti-Gypsyism can be found in her past.
The NCCD refused to have a position on the declarations of Basescu . Sued by a Roma watch –dog NGO- Romani Criss – the NCCD was forced to fine the president. The NCCD is strongly controlled by the Romanian political class and reluctant to address blatant hate speech against Roma by major Romanian politicians.
Courageous watch-dog organisations are struggling or disappearing due to poor funding and policies of the European Commission (EC). Inviting Basescu and Vasilescu for the Roma Summit is a proof of ineptitude and utter disregard for the work of watch-dog NGOs. Legitimizing racists and xenophobes while disregarding the work of watch-dog NGOs and critical voices of the civil society is a sad reality for years now. The Roma summit was just another proof.
The reign of Commissioner Reding over the Roma issues is almost over. Some important progress was made mostly against the senior management due to the stubbornness and professionalism of some of the EC bureaucrats. Some left fed- up with Reding and others – a few are still there doing whatever possible to help. The incredibly arrogant and self-involved Reding has some merits as she managed to push the European Council in directions few thought were possible.
The Commission struggles with structural racism against Roma and a huge lack of expertise when it comes to Roma issues. The participation of Roma in the work of the EC is a joke and most of the EU funds are wasted. Governments approach towards the social inclusion of Roma remains mainly motivated by anti-Gypsyism. The lack of responsible policies and actions towards the Roma integration within the EU Member States and local administrations remains appalling.
The Roma civil society is a mess and watch-dog NGOs are dying. The Roma ghettoes are exploding and inter-ethnic tensions are on the rise.
The new Commission can do lots. Not only it can avoid the monumental blunders of the last years but could change dramatically to the better the existing situation. With the right expertise and incentives things can move forward rather fast. Courage is also needed and eliminating anti-Gypsyism needs to become the main priority for the DG Justice. At the end of the day addressing anti-Gypsyism should be the main job of the DG Justice as it has no jurisdiction whatsoever on what Commissioner Reding likes to talk most about – education, health, employment and housing.
* I wrote this article as a comment to a number of people that did not understand why I thought the Roma Summit was a waste of public funds and a blunder…