Humiliating institutions

The month of September was marred by a number of appalling incidents proving disgusting levels on anti-Gypsyism in Europe. We did report the incident that happened in Romania with tens of thousands yelling death to the Gypsies and a banner showing respect for a murderer that killed 24 Roma. ( see more at http://valeriucnicolae.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/the-ugly-game/ )

We reported it to the European Commission, to the Council of Europe, to Fundamental Rights Agency,  to the OSCE and all intergovernmental bodies that have significant budgets spent addressing Roma issues.  We reported similar or worst incidents in the past.

We also reported it to UEFA the Governing Body of the European Football. We talked to people in the highest positions at UEFA and at the Romanian Football Federation. They called us.

The strongest declaration against anti-Gypsyism yet to come in Romania from an influential institution came from the president of the Romanian Football Federation on September 27 less than 48 hours after the incident (http://www.frf.ro/sectiune/stiri/articol/comunicat-presa-0 ) . It had a huge impact in the Romanian media.

The strongest letter against anti-Gypsyism ever issued by a European Institutions followed it. It was UEFA that send it and not any of the intergovernmental institutions mentioned above. Michele Platini, UEFA’s president sent it on 4th of October before a European League game of Steaua Bucharest .(http://www.frf.ro/sites/default/files/letter.pdf )

It was posted on the Romanian Football Federation (RFF) the next day – again a very clear and blunt statement that RFF is very serious about eliminating racism on stadiums. It was the main subject of talk in the Romanian media for the day. It lead to hours of prime-time discussions on the subject and tens of articles in printed media.

All intergovernmental organisations mentioned here – European Commission, Council of Europe, Fundamental Rights Agency and OSCE consider that elimination of anti-Gypsyism is a priority. All of them complain about the lack of political will at the level of Member States.

A similar public letter as the one sent by Platini to Romanian Football Federation but this time sent by the leadership of those institutions to the Romanian Prime Minister should be all things considered an obvious step. It could have addressed the political will in Romania.

Such a letter should have asked the Prime Minister to have a clear and public stand against such incidents. As the letter of Platini shows such letters have the potential to produce a major impact in the Romanian society. And would cost almost nothing. A simple letter could have finally revenged  millions of Euros spent on irrelevant meetings and researches at the European level. The Romanian media is clearly positive about the need to eliminate such behavior on the stadiums, therefore, the Prime Minister would have had nothing to lose but possibly even gain popularity with such a statement.

The Commissioner responsible for Roma issues is also responsible for the anti-discrimination issues and justice. The Director in charge on anti-discrimination at the European Commission received our report. The Council of Europe has a High Representative on Roma issues. OSCE has a senior advisor for Roma and Sinti. The Fundamental Rights Agency spends lots of money on Roma reports and visits in the countries to talk about Roma issues.

So what could be the reasons that none of these institutions and people have done nothing up to this moment and missed, arguably ,one of the best opportunities they had to push the Romanian political leadership to make a public statement against racism.

Bureaucratic and political careers in all these institutions are not at all helped by courageous moves targeting change or reform. Diplomacy is often misunderstood for cowardice and the institutional logic within such bodies promotes submissiveness and a culture of zero criticism towards the leadership. Critical voices from within and outside are easily subdued. Expertise on Roma issues is almost inexistent or concentrated in positions with no decision making power whatsoever.

Roma issues are complex and to solve them Europe needs to make significant financial and political efforts. None of these efforts are popular nowadays.

Margalit in his argument for a Decent Society as opposed to the  Just Society  proposed by Rawls emphasized humiliation as a significant problem of state institutions when it comes to its vulnerable groups.

The reaction of the above mentioned intergovernmental institutions in this case compared with the reaction of UEFA could mean two things.

Either all these institutions are a good example of Margalit’s humiliating institutions or they struggle with cowardice and incompetence. An independent analysis of those institutions when it comes to Roma might prove significant structural racism. Many times in the past people in these institutions proved to be at least badly prepared to deal with Roma issues. It might be both issues are in fact a problem.

Nevertheless, serious reform is needed if Europe is serious about its commitment to advance the social inclusion of Roma.

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