The Roma issue in Europe is complicated and very sensitive to all involved. Lately, those in richer parts of Europe, such as France and Italy, are turning what is fundamentally a social problem into a rhetoric that is increasingly becoming all about criminality and domestic security.
It is no surprise that this is making the news at a time when Sarkozy and Berlusconi’s supports are at all-time lows. Those countries are mired in a plethora of economic and social problems, least of which has anything to do with Roma.
But as any visitors to those countries well know, the roaming Roma are the ones that can potentially escalate your leisurely strolls in the windy streets and busy subways of Paris and Rome from one of annoyance, to paranoia and fear. And any long-term residents of the countries know about the unsightly camps, poverty, abuse, and organized crimes that plague those communities.
Compare the issue of Roma immigration and integration, which has been a thorn in Europe’s eye for over 600 years, to ongoing discussions over Muslim immigration and integration Western Europe, which when you think about it, only surfaced no more than half a century ago, then the magnitude of the Roma problem looks really deep-rooted.
This is not the first time France has attempted to expel Roma from its borders. But what is different now, are the bad examples the likes of France and Italy are setting Eastern Europe, where most of the Roma come from. It is hard to maintain a position of moral superiority and lecture the new member state of the EU on human rights and due processes, when a founding member of the EU literally ships out an unwanted group of minorities, back to a country where they are even more despised and discriminated against – rightly or wrongly, has a lot to do with where you live and how you see the problem, but that’s for another day.
Back to France and the present time. The question is amplified, because the construct and aspirations of the European Union ensure that such so-called “domestic affairs” are no longer domestic, but have consequences far beyond its borders. The implications of Sarkozy’s calculated political machinations are now weighed with either worries or jubilation by government ministers and right-winged nationalists, in places like Sofia and Bucharest. But that’s hardly Sarkozy’s problems at this very moment.