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Bucharest blog is back: following Basescu's 'stealing' comments on Roma

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I was a writer for this Bucharest blog for a couple of months - at the end of 2007 - immediately afterwards I left for an Internship in Brussels, which overwhelmed my capcity to deliver. During the years that followed, I lost enthusiasm toward the power of the written word.

When reading this morning news (6 November) I came across an article about Romania's Head of StateTraian Băsescu - who declared on Wednesday in Ljubljana, that most Roma traditionally make a living out of their stealing. He presented it as a cultural trait of this ethnic group. I felt a sudden impulse to translate it and 'send it to CafeBabel', my old way of ringing an 'EU' bell, vis a vis political and social realities of my country.

Read the translation below, and let us know your thoughts.


Active Watch (Media Monitoring Agency) condemns Traian Băsescu's declarations with regard to the situation of nomad Roma and claims that the presidential public status obliges him to deliver an equidistant inclusive speech, which must support an official position of the Romanian authorities. Through statements of the type “many Roma, traditionally, make a living from their thefts” or “we have yet another problem that must be spoken out and which renders difficult the integration of nomad Roma – too few of them are willing to work”, the head of state fails in bringing consistency to the bilateral relations as well as in maintaining a tolerant social climate in Romania - shows a Friday release of Active Watch (Media Monitoring Agency).

“Traian Băsescu's public status obliges him to deliver an equidistant inclusive speech and which must support an official position of the Romanian authorities, dissociated from the convictions of the person Traian Băsescu who has the right to have, normally, any opinion, on any subject.” - claims the quoted source. Active Watch (Media Monitoring Agency), about president Basescu's discourse on the Roma minority: "it is framed by negative stereotypes and values personal experiences without considering any scientific studies, therefore not only is it inappropriate in our century, but extremely worrying given that it comes from the president of a state, who is delegated to represent the interests of all its citizens, Roma included."

Consequently, the division of citizens in “good ethnic groups” and “criminal ethnic groups” by the head of state in person, is qualified as “an irresponsible dangerous endeavour”, likely to legitimize racist and discriminatory attitudes throughout the whole Romanian society. Such approach blocks any chance of harmonization between the two cultures, deepening the social distance between Roma and non Roma, says the quoted source. After too many such deviations, Traian Băsescu reconfirms himself as a president who knocks down the bridge which He himself should build.

Other tens of NGOs, sociologists and writers condemned the statements of president Traian Băsescu towards Roma and asked the sanctioning of such discourse by the competent institutions, reccommending the parties to adopt a European document for a non racist society. According to the signatories of a collective document – among which The Centre for Juridical Resources, The Institute for Public Policies, The Social Democrat Association of Transylvanian Roma, The Florists' Association Bucharest, The Roma Journalists' Association – the president's statement is far from a novelty, and more of “just another episode of a permanent reality: the stigmatization of Roma by the high representatives of the Romanian state.”

The signatories of the document claimed that the “consistently supported statements of the president, in light of which Romanian Roma are nomads, lack truth”. Explicitly, they were forcedfully sedentarized during the communist regime, thus those who make use of their right to free movement within the EU don't lead a nomad, but a sedentary life. In this context, they asked for the sanctioning of the presindent's speech by competent authorities, including the political sanctioning of those persons who promote a denigrating and stigmatizing speech. Additionally, they advised the Romanian political parties to adopt the “Charter of European Political Parties for a non-racist Society”.

President Traian Băsescu declared on Wednesday, in Ljubljana, that the cultural objective of nomad Roma is to move freely from place to place, thus denying this right to them would equal the distruction of a cultural pillar – admitting that most of these “traditionally make a living out of their stealing.” “In spite of signals from some governments to potentially block Romania's accession to the Schengen space as a consequence of the Roma issue or other issues - e.g. the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification - we treat these statements as nothing more but statements which fail to comply with the mere Accession Treaty between EU and Romania”, declared Traian Băsescu when answering a question addressed by Slovenian journalists.

Geanina Gabriela Turcanu

Political Science MA CEU 2009, Project Assistant Vienna Faculty of Law