Do I have to fight stereotypes in my country just because I am a Roma, and to fight stereotypes in Europe just because I am a Roma and come from the Balkans? In front of all these questions I feel as if I tilt at windmills!
Efforts for Roma integration in Europe proposed now as well as in the last several years are more or less similar to those proposed in the early 1990s when Roma people started to raise their voice to integrate in societies throughout Europe and the world. However, there are a very few effects from the previous efforts. Also, it lacks continuity of those reforms, platforms and initiatives that produced results and showed positive results and practices for better life of Roma.
Over the years I have thought about overcoming that. As a man who works in the field among the Roma community, I propose to do that by being honest to ourselves and thus, to others too. It is good to start by admitting that, unfortunately, the situation of Roma is still bad, mainly because, in the 21st century, Roma are expelled, discriminated, humiliated, targeted…
Each country has a progress and stagnation regarding Roma, each country has its practices and experience. Due to that, it is good to learn from the experience of all them for a Roma platform of solid foundations and to take concrete steps in near future. I say ‘in near future’ because our children and our children’s children can not wait any more. They can not bear the burden of negative generalisation of all Roma people as poor, uneducated, beggars living in streets, people of whom all caused by life in substandard human conditions are eager to leave, for instance, Macedonia?!
Due to those prejudices and stereotypes, the right of movement is banned to the majority of Roma in my country. Do I have to fight stereotypes in my country just because I am a Roma, and to fight stereotypes in Europe just because I am a Roma and come from the Balkans? In front of all these questions I feel as if I tilt at windmills!
To me, the Roma platform is the light at the end of this dark tunnel. The Roma platform is a good and constant political process that I do support as a representative of Roma National Centrum from Kumanovo and as a representative of European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERFT). It is a good position to change firstly the so called chip of prejudices and stereotypes towards Roma by many Europeans. The platform is a good compass where exactly to go and what exactly Roma do need.
Here, I will again remind to stereotypes, denying, generalisations … I have to express my culture, customs, tradition … my language so I can feel as a great Roma! To make all this possible, this platform, its creators and those implementing it must not forget the fact that I have the right to speak, read, other to talk to me, me talk to others in Romani language. Firstly I am a Roma, then Macedonian, then European, and then citizen of the Earth. Aren’t we supposed to stick to multi-culture and variety?
Thus, let’s not make the same mistake as early, let’s not offer, vote, accept and declaratively pass platforms, declarations and directions. It is necessary to start working in the field. A full transparency in processes is necessary, above all transparency of authorities implementing international conventions, transparency of those making budgets for actions of Roma (host and foreign organisations), as well as those creating the actions (civil society).
A full transparency will make easier the monitoring of the processes and easier to see mistakes. Also, it will be easier to correct. Thus, we will be able to point at bad practices, to see the main obstacle for true Roma integration in Europe. Also, it will be easier to reproach those who previously voted but undermine foundations of processes for better life of Roma. Simply, we will be able to look at each other and openly talk about all challenges ahead of us.
Why do I say this? Bureaucracy and too much bureaucratism has ‘eaten’ or started that to the processes and practices for better Roma integration in societies throughout Europe. Instead of that, I propose to put all efforts and finances towards Roma, to put them in practice, from Roma to Roma, in the field, for real problems. I do not want to be ungrateful to those managing the processes for Roma at administrative level in every government individually as well as in Europe. That is why I am going to say, it is fair to split efforts and finances on partner grounds, fifty – fifty, 50 percent for bureaucracy and other 50 in practice for Roma.
But, we must not forget that at the end of a day we understand the most important of all is the will for improvement and will to change for good, a will of all involved for easier and better Roma inclusion in societies throughout Europe. There is no political consensus for progress without will. And, how we are going to be listened and taken seriously if we do not have resources, are not unique and joined in our efforts, if we work for our own disadvantage, are not in European institutions, do not show examples from practice, do not offer solutions, do not lobby, do not invest in ourselves and others…
President of National Roma Centrum Kumanovo, the Republic of Macedonia