Exclusive Europe: Human Rights, Hypocrisy, and the Case of the Roma by Patrick Cottrell and Eleanor Evans
“If they return, I will burn their carts and make salami of their dogs” — Cristian Popescu, Bucharest’s 6th District Mayor’s Office, in reference to expulsion of the Roma.
The Romani people or “Roma” (who some refer to as “gypsies”) constitute one of the world’s most persecuted populations. Today, an estimated 10 to 12 million people are threatened by human rights violations, including in the most extreme cases: arson, mass-deportation, forced
sterilization, and murder.While one might expect such violations to occur in countries or regions with little rule of law and a lack of a constitution protecting basic rights of all human beings, the Roma reside in Europe, which supposedly sets the “gold standard” in advancing human rights norms.
The European Union has emerged in the post-Cold War era as arguably the world’s foremost promoter of universal human rights. The founding states of the European Union intended to bring about a “broader and deeper community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the foundations for institutions which will give direction to a destiny henceforward shared” (as cited in Creating European Citizens, pg. 11 of ECSC Treaty 1951). Its very foundation rests on values of “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, and respect for human rights,” which are reinforced by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.3 The EU links expansion decisions and trade agreements to human rights practices. The EU and its member states also account for a largest per capita share of human rights assistance in the world.4 Yet despite these landmark commitments to human rights norms, the Roma population, which has resided in Europe for centuries, continues to be systematically denied human rights protections.
In seeking to account for this apparent hypocrisy, this paper addresses three primary sets of questions that provide the organizational basis for what follows. First, what can we learn from existing scholarly treatments of the plight of the Roma and how might the work on political hypocrisy be leveraged to enhance our understanding of this seemingly intractable problem? While an insightful body of interdisciplinary literature exists on the Roma, relatively few studies conduct a theoretically driven inquiry aimed at identifying potentially generalizable explanations for the prolonged mistreatment of the Roma or other similarly affected populations.
Second, what are the origins of the Roma in Europe, how have efforts to protect their rights evolved over time, and most importantly, why does the problem continue to fester even after the post-war emphasis on human rights in the region? The Roma have long been perceived as a “problem” across Europe, which underpins a complex historically informed identity politics that remains today. Capitalizing on year-long fieldwork in Europe, we examine the critical political actors involved in efforts to address the plight of the Roma and apply the concept of hypocrisy to analyze why these efforts continue to fall … http://wpsa.research.pdx.edu/meet/2012/cottrellevans.pdf