For the conference agenda and participants, please click here and here.
On April 8, 2013, I'm speaking at the conference "Realizing Roma Rights: Addressing Violence, Discrimination and Segregation in Europe", which brings together policymakers, academics, and activists from across Europe and the United States to address the inter-related themes of extremism, structural discrimination and youth disempowerment. The conference is jointly organized by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR).
For the conference agenda and participants, please click here and here.
The special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies on 'Romani mobilities' I edited with Nando Sigona (Oxford) has been published and is now available on Taylor & Francis Online. The contributors examine Romani mobilities in the context of contemporary European politics and policies on migration and ethnic minority protection. The articles are interconnected not only because they are centred on the Roma, but also because they are all focused in one way or another on the theme of mobilities. They examine the Roma’s movement across Europe, within and across the borders of the European Union: as ‘illegal’ migrants, and governmental efforts to restrict their mobility; as forced migrants escaping the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, stuck in IDP camps or forcibly returned; or as EU citizens within their country of residence and the EU space. But they also look at the Roma’s efforts to escape social exclusion and governmental attempts to break down the social barriers between them and other groups of citizens.
At the upcoming annual world convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities in NYC, I'll be presenting a paper entitled 'Governing Roma Inclusion: Can the EU be a catalyst for local social change?', which I co-authored with Eva Sobotka (EU Fundamental Rights Agency). The paper is part of a panel on 'European governance and the Roma'. Other members of this panel include Nando Sigona (University of Oxford), Laura Cashman (Canterbury Christ Church University), and André Liebich (Graduate Institute, Geneva). I will also take part in an ASN roundtable discussion on the role of blogging in social science. For those interested in all things Belgian: the conference will host an interesting panel on the ongoing political crisis in that country (with, among others, Ian Buruma and Dave Sinardet).
As usual the ASN convention takes place at the International Affairs building, Columbia University. Dates are: April 14-16.
The full programme of the conference can be downloaded from this link.
The commentary below first appeared in European Voice (2 September 2010).
The new politique sécuritaire introduced by the French government, which is essentially a crackdown on unemployed or non-legally employed Roma immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania, has been sharply criticised because of its dubious legal and moral grounds. The forced, or semi-forced, collective expulsion of EU citizens on the basis of their ethnic identification clearly contravenes EU laws and may even be a form of ethnic discrimination.
France's response has been defensive. President Nicolas Sarkozy has tried to reason his way out of the legal and moral accusations by moving the debate to what he sees as the policy's positive outcomes. The purpose of the campaign, so he claims, is to increase security by reducing crime rates, to discourage illegal migration and, even, to push countries such as Romania and Bulgaria to step up their efforts to integrate their own Roma populations. But on all these points his policy completely misses the mark.
Consider crime. Selecting the Roma for a highly publicised expulsion campaign is not a particularly effective way of preventing crime. Rather, it criminalises them: they are collectively being held responsible for one-off events not related to their collective position as immigrants. Sarkozy's policy plans were sparked, back in July, by riots that followed a shooting by police of a member of a family of French Travellers. But there is no link between the situation of these gens du voyage, who maintain an itinerant lifestyle, and the (non-itinerant) eastern European Roma, who are fleeing poverty at home and seeking opportunities abroad. The policy has constructed links between disparate groups and events, making every Roma and every Traveller now guilty by association. That does not increase feelings of security; it increases insecurity.
Does the campaign, then, perhaps discourage illegal immigration? Again no. The eastern European Roma will come back to France to seek jobs – just as other citizens from the new member states have travelled back and forth across the EU for the same reason. This is what the EU is all about: offering its citizens possibilities for socio-economic mobility beyond the borders of the nation-state. And Roma need exactly that: more opportunities for socio-economic mobility. There is no mystery as to what would stop illegal Roma migration: growing access to the labour market. Expulsion has the opposite effect. Some of the Roma expelled from France had modestly begun integrating into the labour market, albeit in irregular and temporary positions. The current policy does not provide incentives for those Roma to try to turn their irregular work into stable and official businesses. Previous mass expulsions of Roma (sadly, this has a long tradition) have shown that such policies only encourage Roma to revert to a trusted method: survival on the margins. And for the gens du voyage, the expulsion campaign does not, and cannot, have any effect. As citizens of France they cannot be sent away. The only way in which the French government can diminish the number of illicit encampments is to increase the number of authorised sites.
Finally, will the expulsion policy impel eastern European countries to take the plight of their Roma populations more seriously? French officials have now met their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts, but this late move seems nothing more than a weak response to growing international indignation.
Why this policy, then? Is Sarkozy trying to shore up his support on the right at a critical time for his presidency? And are the Roma just convenient, low-cost victims? As a political tactic, the policy might not be that successful either: it has not so much bolstered his approval ratings as created controversy and prompted adversaries such as the former prime minister Dominique de Villepin to claim that there is now a stain on the proud flag of republican France.
At the end of the day, this policy seems mostly inspired by Marx. I mean Groucho Marx. He once said: politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
On 14 and 15 January I'm participating in a conference on "Romani Mobilities in Europe: Multidisciplinary Perspectives", organized by the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. The programme can be found here. My paper is called "Between Europeanization and Discrimination: The Roma as a Special Focus of EU Policy". And this is the abstract:
Since the accession of ten post-communist countries to the European Union (EU), various EU institutions have expressed their concern about the precarious social position of the Roma in these new member states. The EU has singled out this group for extra attention. This strategy is based on the assumption that the Roma need support "from above" because they - in contrast to other minorities in this region - have no clear national lobby or external homeland to defend their interests. The EU is thus considered to be the Roma's best ally. This paper sets the benefits of such special EU concern against the problem of its politicization. The EU has managed the put the Roma on the political agenda by considering them a category of people who are exceptionally vulnerable and therefore in need of special attention; but this EU attention - although well intended and, in certain aspects, not unlikely to produce some positive effects - can have problematic unintended consequences once it becomes politicized in the domestic arenas of countries where politicians try to mobilize voters on an ethnic basis and seek to win the support of Euroskeptic citizens.
On July 6, 7 and 8, I'm giving three guest seminars at the Central European University in Budapest as part of the summer course on "Multi-disciplinary Approaches to Romany Studies - a Model for Europe". Below are the abstracts for the three sessions.