Changing the perspective towards Roma in Europe - Discover the InviCitRom project - MCAA Magazine News January 2021
Julija Sardelic has been working on the InviCitRom project, which aims to propose an innovative perspective on Roma as European citizens.
Julija, in her own words
I am a Slovenian and Croatian citizen. While finishing up my PhD in political sociology (how the position of Romani minorities changes after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia) at the University of Ljubljana, I started my first research position at the University of Edinburgh. It was with the ERCfunded research project CITSEE (Europeanisation of Citizenship in the Successor states of the former Yugoslavia) led by Professor Jo Shaw.
This is when I became interested in citizenship studies on how the position of Roma as citizens changed after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
After completing my PhD, I embarked on my first postdoctoral position in 2014, as a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, under the supervision of Professor Rainer Bauböck. Afterwards, I was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Law and Social Justice at the University of Liverpool.
In 2017, I started my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship (IF) Postdoctoral Fellowship under the supervision of Professor Peter Vermeersch at LINES (Leuven International and European Studies, University of Leuven, Belgium).
Before starting my academic career, I worked with Romani communities for 10 years in Southeast Europe, as a human rights activist.
Today, I am Lecturer in Political Science at Te Herenga Waka ‒ Victoria University of Wellington.
In the European Union documents, Roma are described as the largest ethnic minority. Asked about the situation of Romani people, Julija Sardelic explained how their human rights are being violated in numerous EU countries. “This phenomenon carries on in post-socialist countries, where the greatest number of Romani minorities live, but also in Member States, such as France, where Romani EU citizens have been expelled,” she said.
DISCRIMINATION AND POVERTY
Looking back, Julija says the results achieved by the previous European Commission’s framework to inclusion of Roma were not as positive as expected, as many of the policies looked at Roma as a ‘problematic’ minority rather than fellow citizens in Europe that should have the same human rights protection and adequate standard of living that most people have in the European Union. “According to some reports, it brought mixed results in best cases, for example in the field of education, where new practices for inclusion of Romani children have been adopted, while at the same time segregated education for Romani children persists around Europe,” she said.
Moreover, Julija highlighted the increase in racism against Roma and the deterioration of social conditions. “We have witnessed more extreme white supremacist violence against Roma and worse condition when it comes, for example, to housing and access to healthcare. Moreover, the far-right racist rhetoric became more normalised also by the most prominent politicians in the EU.”
What’s more, numerous Roma live in extreme poverty in several EU Member States. “Many Roma face conditions that would be unimaginable to the average EU citizen, like not having access to clean drinking water and sanitation. This is extremely problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a number of NGOs such as the European Roma Rights Centre has warned,” explains Julija. She referred to an article issued by the European Roma Rights Centre and to an article she published on the Discover Society website.
A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE
Addressing this situation, the InviCitRom project proposes an innovative approach. “The InviCitRom project suggests a change of perspective on Roma in Europe. Instead of treating the position of Roma as a marginalised minority that does not seem to fit or as an exception, the InviCitRom project reversed the question to ask what the position of Roma tells us about citizenship formation in Europe,” explained Julija.
From 2017 to 2019, the project investigated different dimensions of citizenship (rights, dimensions, belongings) in order to show that Roma are not an exception. Julija added: “The aim of the project was to analyse the position of Roma as a position of citizenship, and also to question if citizenship can be considered as truly inclusive, if it perpetuates marginalisation of a certain group of citizens.”
Having analysed diverse socio-legal analysis of laws (laws related to minorities in all the EU member states), policy documents and after having conducted interviews (in Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, for example) Julija came to the conclusion that Roma have been visible in Europe as a minority, but invisible as citizens.
In her forthcoming book (which is one of the main outcomes of the InviCitRom project) The Fringes of Citizenship: Romani Minorities in Europe, Julija highlights a paradox: “While Roma are unique as a minority in Europe, I have shown in my book that they have been treated like many other marginalised citizens around the globe. Roma have been positioned on the fringes of citizenship,” she adds.
Policy recommendations for the EU Member States and the European Commission are proposed in the book.
The first recommendation states that the EU Member States should focus on Roma as citizens, rather than as an exceptional ‘problematic’ minority. When drafting broader citizenship policies and legislation, institutions should always take into account whether or not these policies have a potential of excluding a group of citizens.
Secondly, the policies and legislation shouldn’t exclude citizens from equal citizenship: the fringes of citizenship are created through invisible edges, and addressing those fringes addresses therefore exclusion.
It can be hoped that these recommendations will contribute to help Member States to implement the new action plan in favour of Roma people for the coming ten years.
MCAA Editorial Team