Roma Expulsion: European double standards
6 September 2010
The French Roma-repatriation crusade is going down rather differently in the two countries directly concerned, Romania and Bulgaria. The Bucharest-based paper Adevărul recalls that “till recently, Westerners would lecture us on how to treat Gypsies – whether it was a matter of terminology (say Roma, not Gypsy!) or legislation.” But after 2003, when “they, too, got invaded, they melodramatically changed their tune, taking drastic steps that Bucharest, Bratislava, Budapest, Sofia, Zagreb and Belgrade would not have dared to take. Is this sheer hypocrisy? At any rate, the West has now taught us quite a lesson!”
Evenimentul Zilei feels “no-one should be expelled just for being a member of the Roma minority”, whilst Adevărul, in another editorial, bemoans that “France’s example has fuelled racist attitudes in Europe”. The Romanian daily reminds readers that “the Communists tried to control the Roma by building homes for them – in which they were more inclined to keep their horses, as they preferred to sleep under the open sky. Now the French want to send them back to houses they don’t have, owing to their nomadic way of life, and that is what is so outrageous about what France and Europe are doing: trying to change the mindset of an ethnic group living in the modern world according to laws that are frozen in the past. Rational France can do better than that.”
No thanks, France
In Bulgaria, the authorities have been trying since late July to “put the whole matter back into proportion”, even, according to some observers, to “minimise” the significance of these “repatriations”. Their position is facilitated by the near absence of any reaction by official representatives of the country’s Roma community. Prime minister Boïko Borissov himself, as quoted in opposition daily Sega, argues that “at any rate, each of these people bears individual responsibility for what happens to him: there are no mass expulsions”. And in Dnevnik, foreign minister Nikolaï Mladenov insists that the controversy is, above all, “a French domestic affair”.
Most of the Bulgarian press, on the other hand, feel this is a matter that concerns all of Europe, but on which opinions diverge along the East-West divide. Tabloids like Trud and 24 Chasa are amazed at the European Commission’s “comprehension” for the French anti-Roma crusade and wonder whether Brussels would show such leniency if it were Sofia going after the Roma. “If Europe means double standards, count us out. No thanks, France,” their editorialists intone, taking their cue from Trud, while in Sega columnist Svetoslav Terziev accuses France of “organising the biggest official deportation since the end of World War II”. “Dear France,” writes Sega editorialist Boïko Lambovski, “we who bring up the rear of the EU expect you, Europe’s locomotive and the fatherland of human rights, to set an example for us in matters of humanism and integration. But what you are now doing is anything but that.”