No accountability: The case of the Roma social inclusion in Europe


Valeriu Nicolae in Eurozine (Photo: Steve Evans. Source: Flickr):

For most politicians and bureaucrats, the social inclusion of Roma is a terrifying and complex issue impossible to solve during a typical five-year term in office. After a sporadic few years of small efforts here and there, and decades of very strong but mainly empty rhetoric, Roma remain the most discriminated-against ethnic group in Europe and the most underrepresented within decision-making structures. Due to a chronic lack of expertise among senior management at the level of national government and inter-governmental institutions, tackling the situation of Roma is seen as a professional quagmire. It is very difficult to envision how the incentives required for conventional political parties to tackle this issue – such as opportunities for fast, impressive results, or electoral gains – could become available.

Paying lip service, preserving the status quo and avoiding controversy are, from a pragmatic point of view, the best career moves for many of the decision-makers involved. For the past two decades, most of the new appointments in high positions dealing with Roma have led to long periods of inaction, sometimes followed by the reinvention, rediscovery and repetition of previous measures. It is not rare for catastrophic approaches disguised as positive practices in sycophantic reports to make their way back on to the table of the new Roma tsars. This points toward the existence of structural racism within those institutions and the very poor standards of professionalism required for occupying these positions.

Accountability for failures or lack of progress in addressing Roma social inclusion is exceptionally rare for many reasons. Whether due to disinterest, or professional inability on the part of member states and inter-governmental institutions, the kinds of systems that can hold people and institutions accountable simply do not exist. Those in charge develop instead the ability to shift or avoid responsibility. Poor civic and political involvement of Roma within European societies results in the inability of Roma to exert sufficient, or any, political or social pressure to make structures and people accountable.

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