MINELRES: EU Ambassador proposes forced education of Romani children

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu May 13 16:37:45 2004

Original sender: Roma Network <romale@zahav.net.il> 

Diplomatic licence for racism ?

“It may sound simplistic, but it is, I think in the root of the cause
that we have to strengthen the education and re-organise the educational
system in a way that we will have to start to, I’ll say it in quotation
marks, force Roma children to stay in boarding schools from Monday
morning until Friday afternoon, where they will be subjected to the
system of values which is dominant (“vigerend”) in our society.

Question: Do Roma accept that, taking their children away from their

Answer: “I don’t think that they will accept it so easily. And after all
we live here in a democracy, so I don’t think you can force it, but you
can try to let it evolve more smoothly through financial

“You can imagine that families get money - the amount will need to be
defined later - in order to make them sent their children to school. But
the generation that will be educated then and raised in the same time,
will fit better in the dominant society, they will be able to cooperate
truly productively to the growth of the economy.” 

This is almost surreal as these statements were made by the EU
Commission’s Ambassador to Slovakia Mr. Eric van der Linden during an

Advocating the forced separation of children from their parents in order
for them to be “educated” according to the ”system of values of the
dominant society” to whose wealth they should later contribute in a more
productive way is not a new idea. Policies of forced assimilation via
the separation of Romani children from their parents were practiced by
Empress Maria-Theresa from Austria and practiced in Switzerland until
the beginning of the 1970s. In the same way as the suggestion made by
the EU ambassador these policies aimed to eradicate Romani culture and

The “dominant societies” were also promoting at different times in their
history “values” which are on one hand the bases of their wealth, but on
the other hand of the deprivation and almost annihilation of other
societies and cultures such as those in Surinam and Indonesia, many in
Africa, but also in Europe.

Europe is still unable to deal with its colonial and genocidal past and
continues to imagine its history and prosperity as being glorious and
the result of its hard working population, whereas much of it was based
on the looting and often, with the same occasions, whipping out of
entire civilisations. Roma as the European latecomers have repeatedly
been the targets of such attempts and paternalistic talks about the need
to be “educated’ are considered “normal”.

There is much to be done within the Roma communities, but as the
Ambassador's blunt statements prove even more needs to be done at the
level of the "dominant" society. Diplomats are supposed to be the
masters of language and if this is the case, then is hard not to think
that the abject poverty of over the Roma - 80 per cent living below the
subsistence level in the CEE according to the UNDP - is if not wanted,
then at least accepted benevolently. Maybe, one day will be bad enough
to make bribed assimilation “affordable” for most of the Roma parents as
the Ambassadors wishes.

It is also hard not to imagine that the Slovak government was confident
that it would benefit of some complacency on the side of the EU
represented by Mr Van der Linden, when it turned police and army against
a desperate population of mainly Roma in February this year.

The European Commission has been talking much about equal opportunities
and inclusion, but these do not simply come with the removal of borders.
A removal of the EU Ambassador to Slovakia from his post, however, would
be much helpful and a clear sign, that the Commission is actually
committed to the values it is promoting outside the world.

Valeriu Nicolae
Deputy Director - ERIO 
17 Eduard Lacomble Bruxelles 

Fax : 0032 (0) 27333875
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