Journalist Georgi Gotev: No European solution to Roma issue, the EU evades it27 August 2010 | 22:27 | FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mr. Gotev, in one of your reports you say that France’s Roma expulsion will shake the EU foundations. Why do you think so? Can the Union’s institutions oppose France in any way, provided that it is one of the six founding member states?
Georgi Gotev: The European Union is experiencing a moral crisis. On the one hand, there is populism, because a majority of French people support the Roma expulsion and the dismantling of the Roma camps, but on the other hand there stand the elite of France and the European countries, who are appalled by the wavering and encroachment on the foundations of democracy. Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi are indeed in one camp, but this only makes the situation more worrying. It is hard for the European Commission to play the role of an arbiter, because if two of the EU’s founding member states grow negative against it, it will be possible to say that the EU will never be what it has been up to now.
FOCUS: What was and what should have been, according to you, the Bulgarian government’s reaction to the deportation of the Bulgarian Roma?
Georgi Gotev: Bulgaria looks as if butter would not melt in its mouth. We behave as if the events do not concern us. Tactically speaking, this might be a right move, because Paris has stopped mentioning Bulgaria and is criticizing only Romania. However, the problems with the Roma are rooted in their countries of origin. It was not something good that made the Roma seek their living somewhere else. It is not only the Roma who are leaving Bulgaria. The country’s poor governance, which is a sign of its entire transition period, leads to a situation in which Bulgaria seems to be the only country, I find it hard to add Romania, in which the condition of most of the people deteriorated after the EU accession, instead of sharply improving. This is what the European Union is concerned about, because it does not herald anything good for the Union’s future enlargement. The enlargement, which is the EU’s most successful policy ever, might be frozen due to the bad example we are setting. That’s why it seems to me Bulgaria’s pretending that butter would not melt in its mouth is immoral.
FOCUS: Has Romania responded more adequately?
Georgi Gotev: Yes, it has. Romania’s position, which points to the weaknesses in Paris’s moves, for example the mass expulsion and police state, is more worthy and European. It is true that mainly Romanian Roma create problems in the western countries.
FOCUS: What conclusions could you draw about the EU’s development?
Georgi Gotev: The EU is coming back from an August recess happy that a crisis, like the war in Georgia two year ago, did not break out, that the global economic crisis is withdrawing and that the euro is stabilizing. It seems this time the dangers for the EU are not outside, but inside. But I think these demons are the most dangerous.
FOCUS: Still do you think it is right to correlate Roma and large crime?
Georgi Gotev: I do not agree with the question. It should be – are the Roma right to believe that they have the right to steal, because they are hungry. Because this is the philosophy of this nation, whom we do not know well. What we regard as immoral or forbidden is not immoral or forbidden for them, because of cultural aspects that have developed for centuries. If the crisis worsens, many Roma will start stealing because they believe this is right. I know Roma who work and earn satisfactory incomes. My family has a house in the town of Pravets and my neighbors are such people. It does not even cross their mind to steal something. They have been in western countries, they have worked, saved some money, learnt many things, most of all how to work dutifully and skillfully, but now they are construction workers here. They do not want to go abroad to earn their living; they feel better in Bulgaria. I do not think they feel discriminated here.
FOCUS: Will the Roma crisis raise the issue of their integration in the EU – to allocate more funds?
Georgi Gotev: There is no European solution to the Roma issue, the EU evades it. They say they do not have experts – they justify themselves so that they do not make any commitments. Frankly or unfrankly, Brussels wants the Roma issue to be solved in their native countries. Otherwise they would have bought them modern caravans with European money, but this is a joke, of course. But Bulgaria and Romania will be pressurized to show that most of the cohesion funds are spent on the improvement of the Roma’s life. No doubt Bulgaria will be forced to fix up its Roma better, with European money and money from the national budget. In principle, I oppose positive discrimination, as well as any form of discrimination, because I know that many Bulgarians are in a hard condition too and the antagonism will only sharpen. I would advise directing the fund to the people in need, not only to the Roma in general, because fixing up the Roma you will again make ghettoes, even though they are comparatively luxurious. However, will Brussels understand us? We will have to explain profoundly.
FOCUS: How does EurActiv cover the “Roma epic”?
Georgi Gotev: As thoroughly as possible, with the positions of all sides concerned, thanks to our editor’s office in Brussels and partners in Paris, Bucharest and Sofia. The founder of the media and its main shareholder is a Frenchman, who might have voted for Sarkozy, but he has given us absolute journalistic freedom on this and other issues. I personally do not miss an EC briefing. I might have bored the spokespersons with my questions…But there hardy are any Bulgarian journalists due to the leaves and I kind of replace them.
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