“What used to be a discussion about minority inclusion turned to being one about core issues of European integration”, kirjoittavat Heidi Hautala ja Ville Ylikahri Roma and Traveller Inclusion in Europe. Green questions and answers -julkaisun esipuheessa. [:]
Despite being widely present in Europe for centuries, Roma and Traveller groups remain by and large on the fringe of European societies. This is true for Eastern as well as for Western Europe. While the number of Romani groups is
much higher in the Central and Eastern parts of our continent, the nature of the question of Roma inclusion does not differ as much. Regardless of their geographical location Roma groups are characterised by strikingly low education rates, high unemployment or precarious employment and reduced access to basic rights such as health care or decent housing. These issues are not new. On the contrary, all these questions have been dominating the Roma inclusion debates for many years. The novelty in the political debate around Roma issues comes from the change in focus. What used to be a discussion about minority inclusion turned to being one about core issues of European integration.
Günther Grass famously called the Roma “the only true Europeans”. And indeed, the problems Roma groups face are illustrative of Europe’s current crisis. In 2010, France and Italy’s expulsions of EU citizens of Roma origin from
their territories were the visible expression of a European citizenship concept void of both solidarity and shared responsibility. The weak answers of the European Commission to this infringement of freedom of movement were symptomatic of a Europe of parts rather than one of unity. Finally, the economic and financial crisis has hit the EU’s poorest citizens hardest and the European Roma were no exception. Economic austerity has since then reinforced the vicious circle of extreme poverty triggering marginalisation. Throughout the continent anti-Roma sentiments have surged.
The Finnish Green Cultural and Educational Centre Visio came up with the idea of publishing this book after a heated political debate in Finland. The Finnish Greens were the most vocal political group trying to find sustainable solutions for the problems Roma migrants face, while some others demanded evictions, deportations and begging bans. At the same time the Greens were aware that the problems of Roma migrants cannot be solved at the local or national levels alone. Nonetheless, they were lacking knowledge of what is being done in other European countries and cities. There was and there is a need for European level exchange. The Green European Foundation (GEF), therefore, gladly took on the proposal of Visio to produce this book as a part of these coordination and exchange efforts.
Our book is published only shortly after the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union launched the EU’s Roma Integration Framework in summer 2011. This European-level framework strategy aims at furthering inclusion of Roma people in European societies. It was generally welcomed as a step in the right direction, as it recognises that integration strategies need to be developed locally and have to be adapted to specific contexts. At the same time, however, there is an intrinsic weakness to this strategy. The same administrations that have been closing their eyes on extreme discrimination are the ones now responsible for devising strong inclusion strategies. This is why we also believed it to be an optimal timing to produce an overview of the situation of Roma and Travellers in Europe and to emphasize several promising initiatives on the issue from a Green point of view.
We are thus proud to publish this book that tries to tackle questions related to Roma inclusion from a local, national and European perspective. We hope it will be encouraging to read that there are good practices and solutions that make steps towards greater inclusion of Roma people in Europe. When we showcase those good practices we also point to those who have implemented them, in the hope to network these initiatives.
The political questions around Roma are diverse and complicated: we are dealing with questions of minorities, poverty, racism, of continued divisions between Eastern and Western Europe and of safeguarding core EU freedoms such as the freedom of movement. This book does not claim to have a “one fits all” answer to Roma inclusion issues. It does, however, put forward several successful examples of integration practices from the local to the European level, as the problems that different Roma minorities face in the EU are a perfect example of issues that need both local and European level solutions. If multiplied, small steps in a good direction could ultimately lead to a long lasting solution to the current problems. We hope you can take inspiration from these examples into your work!
Heidi Hautala and Ville Ylikahri
Kirjan voi ladata Green European Foundationin sivuilta.