What’s left of Government commitments to Roma inclusion if Mayors completely ignore them?
In 2001 Romania proudly presented the European Commission with a Governmental Decision and a 10-year action plan to improve the situation of Roma in the country. Recently, Romania sent Brussels a new Governmental decision on the Roma inclusion for 2012-2020. These decisions define objectives, actions, master plans and structures starting from inter-ministerial level up until the municipality level. Excellent news, you might think!
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Roma of Baia Mare were recently forcibly evicted to a run-down chemical plant, where many fell ill. It’s no secret that in Romania Roma are often forcibly relocated to the periphery, to rubbish dumps, industrial areas or even sewage plants. According to a report produced by the European Roma Rights Centre, in Romania 75% of Roma don’t have the infrastructure for gas, 72% don’t have infrastructure for toilet facilities and 73% don’t have infrastructure for drinking water.
Eleven years ago the Government committed to solve the issues related to Roma housing at a national level, including renovating existing housing and its surroundings. Can the Government let us know how much has changed in the meantime? We highly doubt it! The European Commission has consistently criticised Romanian Governments, for its lack of substance, finance and political will in tackling Roma issues. Well, with the new strategy, the Government committed itself again to build housing for Roma, temporary shelters, programs with national and European funds for providing minimum housing standards.
The Government has asked local municipalities to identify problems, needs and projects to implement these strategies. Certainly, the municipalities offered “solutions”: the idea of the wall to separate Roma communities was implemented years ago in Brasov and Covasna County. Moving the Roma to rubbish dumps, water plants or industrial areas has been a strategy in place in Cluj, Tulcea, Harghita, Botosani, Zalau, Neamt and many other towns. The problem with these kinds of solutions is that the real urgent problems of Roma communities are swept under the carpet. How can Roma children get a good education if they are moved to the edge of town? How can Romani adults find a job if they are forced to live on a rubbish dump? Sadly, the Romanian government has always preferred the complicity of silence.
European funds are at Romania’s disposal, including funds for community-led local development and integrated territorial investments in housing. But the problem is that Romania does not absorb European funds. To do this, Romania would have to submit projects promoting desegregation, to facilitate local integrated housing and measures not leading to discrimination. Unfortunately, this option is too complicated, so the commitments made in Brussels are lost in governmental strategies that only exist on paper and are completely unknown at the local level. With such a disconnect between the central and the local level, why should we be surprised that the only solution is to hide Roma behind a wall, in a rubbish dump or in former industrial buildings? All these ‘solutions’ are deceptive illusions. Separating an individual or community solely on the basis of their social condition and ethnicity doesn’t lead to any progress at all. It just leads to dehumanising us. Don’t we really want an inclusive society?