Brief overview of EU migration.

EU migration. A quick overview of the last few months.


I wish I could give you some very nice and peaceful news. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. As you all know, the world of migration is constantly being shacked up by right wing policies. It looks pretty grim…



Angela Merkel stated that multiculturalism did not work for Germany. According to her, immigrants should do more to integrate.



The past months have been very ‘culturally’ challenging for Nicolas Sarkozy. He had to deal with the expulsion of the Roma to Romania and Bulgaria, which does not resolve the problem, but only passes it on.


The French Parliament also banned the burqa, which would be related to a symbol of female oppression .


The Netherlands

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is famous for its anti-islamic orientation. It won 24 seats in Parliament, almost three times more than in 2006.



Sweden’s anti-immigration party has gained more seats in the Parliament. The party wants radical curbs on immigration.



The UK
The Coalition wants to reduce net migration, which is the number of people coming in the UK and the number of people leaving the UK.


Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK has warned that the UK immigration cap being proposed by the Coalition Government will seriously affect the recruitment of highly skilled staff to UK universities and in turn, the provision of courses for UK students. Overseas competitors are watching and will be ready to attract international staff and students deterred by negative perceptions of the UK visa system. Over 10% of academic staff at universities are non-EU nationals



A new law has been passed by the Parliament which would entitle the authorities to expel foreign criminals.





What should the aims of social security be ?

What should the aims of social security be ?

Reform of the social security and tax systems is at the heart of the Labour government’s aspirations to combat social exclusion, to eradicate child poverty, to increase employment rates among all people of wrking age, and to modernise the welfare state.

Policy reforms have been outlined in various Green and White Papers, programmes for specific groups claimants (New Deals), institutional changes (the creation of the Department of Work and Pensions), the introduction of tax credits to replace some social security benefits.

Millions of people are reliant upon social security benefits for all or part of their incomes.

–         Social security :

  • Ways people gain access to adequate income: assurance that you have a minimum income
  • We are providing a basic floor for everybody
  • System of  benefits and of taxes
  • Sources of immediate financial support provided by the state. The system of cash benefits administrated mainly by central government

–         Welfare:

  • The state providing supprt
  • The Tories aim for “welfare society”, not “welfare state”

–         Social security forms the largest single component of governement expenditure, providing a mechanism for the pursuit of both economic and social goals. The UK is a very unequal society, with high levels of poverty, and the social security system is a very important instrument for income redistribution. Aims of Social Security:

  • Insuring agains risks in life ( family breakdown )
  • Relieving poverty or low income
  • Redistributing resources across the lifecycle – horizontal redistribution: compensation for having a child from those who are childless
  • Redistributing resources from rich to poor – vertical redistribution
  • “Compensating” for some types of extra costs – some people have different needs (disability)
  • Providing financial support when “traditional” families break down (a unit-family)
  • Policy intervines in order to provide an outcome.
  • Maintain incentives for self-provision – you don’t want money to discurage people from having a job
  • Keep non-take-up low (inclusion and exclusion rules – you shuld be able to know when a parent is loan parent or not and you should not exclude people who need benefits)
  • Counteract fraud
  • Keep administrative costs low – it costs, to check that parents are loan or not
  • Poverty reduction
  • Promote opportunity and independence for all
  • Help individuals to achieve their potential through employment, to provide themselves, their children and their future retirement
  • Work with others to combat poverty, both of aspiration and outcome
  • Immediate goals: to replace earnings lost, to contribute to the cost of rising children, to meet the additional costs arising from disability)
  • Ultimate goals: to eliminate poverty, tu create a more equal society
  • 5 key objectives (2005)
    • Ensure the best start for all children and end child poverty by 2020 (4% spending)
    • Promote work as the best form of welfare for people working age, while protecting the position of those in great need ( 27% spending)
    • Combat poverty and promote security and independence in retirement for today’s and tomorrow’s pensioners (57% spending)
    • Improve rights and opportunities for disabled people in a fair and inclusive society ( 12%)
    • Ensure customers receive a high-quality customer service, including high levels of accuracy

The normative question of what policy goals should be rest in turn upon different ideologies of welfare

Contributory benefits:

–         These benefits are funded by contrbutions from workers, employers and the government, and cover interruptions or loss of earnings for specified reasons ( retirement, unemployment, sickeness, and for women widowhood) – they are related to your pas work history

–         Advantage: Encourage and reward paid work & non-stigmatising

–         Disadvantage: some groups are excluded / partially covered (many women were excluded if no partner)

–         Eg: Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Retirement Pension ( EARNINGS REPLACEMENT)

–         Social security expanditure 2001-2002: 48%

Means-tested benefits

–         Advantage: Funded by general taxation and are paid to people with low incomes, taking account of their particular circumstances and family situation (those in greatest need). These include benefits for people with no other sources of income as well as various other benefits intended to meet particular needs (housing costs) or circumstances  (low wages, large families) – if your income is up

–         Disadvantage: expensive to run ( adminustrative problem ) & low take-up & affects work incentives ( poverty trap) & they are stigmatising

–         Eg: Jobseeker’s Allowance (EARNINGS-REPLACEMENT), Income Support & Working Tax Credit (POVERTY ALLEVIATION) , Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefit (MEETING EXTRA COSTS)

–         Social security expanditure 2001-2002: 29%

Contingent benefits

–         Because of who you are

–         Advantage: cheap to run, non-stigmatising (you don’t claim them) , simple to understand, limited effect on work incentives

–         Disadvantage: not well-targetted & expensive

–         Eg: Industrial Injuries Benefit & Carer’s Allowance & Maternity Pay ( EARNINGS-REPLACEMENT), Child Benefit & Disability Living Allowance (MEETING EXTRA COSTS)

–         Social security expanditure 2001-2002: 22%

In addition to these three main types of benefit, there are also tax-based ( use the tax rather than benefits as the vehicle for making the income transfer) and occupational income transfers (paid by employers – occupational pensions scheme- but regulated by government); they also include some schemes that employers are obliged to provide, such as statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS (Public Accounts Committee (2006) Tackling the Complexity in the Benefit System: 36th report)

Some complexity in the benefits system results from seeking to meet the needs of people in a wide range of circumstances, in line with the Department’s policy objectives. This equilibrium has not yet been reached ->recommendations of a number of further actions to reverse the drift towards greater complexity.

Reducing complexity

1.  The Department intends to explore the scope for further benefit simplification, but not as a top-level objective. 2.  Actions being taken to tackle complexity point the way forward, but they are piecemeal and do not amount to a strategy. 3.  A simplification team is a step in the right direction and could act as a counterweight to growing complexity if it has sufficient influence. Managing complexity

4.  The Department cannot manage the complexity of the system without having skilled staff.

5.  Some customers do not get enough help to deal with the benefits system, especially where they need to know about more than one benefit.

6.  Insufficient work has been done to improve the standard of the Department’s written communication with customers.

Assessing complexity

7.  The Department is committed to reporting annually on progress in tackling complexity, but there are no ways of measuring it objectively.

8.  Currently, the scrutiny of new legislation does little to prevent increasing complexity, or to assess the wider consequences of new pieces of legislation on the system as a whole.

MILLAR, J.,  2004, Understanding Social Security, University of Bristol: Policy Press

Migration as discovery – a sociological approach

Migration as discovery – a sociological approach

The process of travelling is done through the medium of tourism and the more accurate exploration of the world. It takes place when we stop looking for life in the images of life, but we push it a step further and we dare to go beyond ordinary impression and ideas. We want to discover the art of living in a different place in its real form and meaning.

What forms does travelling take? What drives our desire to travel? The reason is twofold: the quest for self and the escape from the everyday reality and the curiosity one has about a different culture, civilisation, and country as a whole.

As Santayana argues, “[w]e need to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness”. This is to be done within the framework of the quest for self. Also, we start doing it the moment we realise that it is time to stop being spectators on the stage of life and we start to be actors. We have so many questions but so little answers… Migration can be an answer to all these.

Life is a theatre, but when we are running the theatre we are in a position of control. Travelling means mobility. Mobility means migration. It therefore implies discovery. Discovery of ourselves. Discovery of someone else and of something else.

Furthermore, “we travel to lose ourselves and then to find ourselves” (Iyer). We travel to learn how to open our hearts, how to become more tolerant and flexible. We often travel in search of a new ‘light’, a ‘light’ that ‘home’ does not host. And we travel in search of both self and anonymity in order to apprehend the later by finding the former. Travelling provides us with an opportunity to embrace a new lifestyle, as we often live, when travelling, within no context and without a past or future. Novelty-seeking behaviours live a life dominated by their desire to travel. And a good thing about travelling is that it is never-ending. Everything is exploration, discovery, everything is migration. And sometimes “to travel is better than to arrive” (Stevenson). It gives you what you need: autonomy and a bigger picture of the world.

We live in a knowledge-based society where information is the key to success. Travels can satisfy our curiosity by seeking knowledge for life from them. We seek in other cultures the past and their interpretation of the world. We reflect on past greatness. According to Nietzsche, tourism teaches us how our societies and identities have been formed by the past. We can therefore acquire a sense of continuity and belonging. Admiring old buildings and interacting with the locals is not limited to its material aspect. It goes far beyond it. It leads us back in the past and it makes us question the present and the evolution of life. A journey can therefore provide us with material and spiritual souvenirs. The experience we acquire during our mobility helps us gain an insider’s perspective by using the method of participation-observation. It may translate into a respect for diversity.

Travelling is therefore a complex process which can be achieved in an aim of self-discovery. We also can travel in search of something new, something different. We might travel because we are curious. Or maybe because we have it in our genes. But we all travel to find out why is it we are travelling.

WOMEN SEX TRAFFICKING – Evaluation of the problem



–         « The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use or force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation »

(UN Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish   Trafficking in Persons (2000)

The Protocol:

–         Defines trafficking as a crime against humanity

–         Acknowledges that men are also trafficked,but it emphasizes trafficking in women and children

–         Contains rights-based and protective social, economic, political and legal measures to prevent trafficking, protect, assist, return and reintegrate the victims, and to penalize trafficking

–         Calls for international cooperation to prevent and combat trafficking

The issue:

–         ≈ 500,000 – 2,000,000 trafficked persons per year. But –> no exact data available => implication: it is an underground problem difficult to tackle because not visible

–         127 countries of origin and 137 countries of destination for trafficking in human beings

¡     Countries of origin: C & S-E Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Asia, West Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean

¡     Countries of destination: W Europe, Asia, N America

¡     in 1997, the UN estimated that procurers, smugglers and corrupt public officials engaged in international trafficking in persons had a profit of $7 billion from their activities => more lucrative than the international trade in illicit weapons

–         ILO-IPEC estimate that 80,000 women & children – trafficked to Thailand for the sex trade since 1990

–         Trafficking for sexual purposes– contemporary form of exploitation

–         It is not new, but it is increasing because globalisation

–         The networks vary from small informal to highly organised crime syndicates

–         The networks opperate transnationally

–         They are either out of reach of the legal system or operate close with it by bribe

–         The networks opperate through kidnapping, fake adverts (Eg: domestic staff, dancers) or buying directly from family

Why does women trafficking occur?

Supply side

–         Poor socio-economic condition: lack of employment opportunities & unequal access to education, less access to information

–         Erosion of traditional family values -> the sale of women & community attitudes which tolerate violence against women

–         Weak law enforcement mechanisms


Demand side

–         Profitable sector: cheap labour and increasing number of clients

–         Devaluation of women rights

–         Low risk-high profit nature of trafficking encouraged by a lack of will on the part of enforcement agencies to prosecute traffickers

–         Development policies promoting tourism

How does UNIFEM address this issue?

–         It evaluates the policy from the perspective of the freedom of the victim

–         Objectives:

¡     To raise awareness & public consciousness

¡     To promote policies and programmes that transform ideas, perceptions, values that generates the demand

–         Organisation of workshops to discuss good practices between countries of origin and of destination

Why do policies fail?

–         Not enough research on « why » in order to tackle it in more depth

–         No multisectoral approach – need to empower women, to give them an alternative

–         Most of the initiatives focus on assistance and less on prevention

–         Output – UNIFEM has done advocacy. But the OUTCOME: very poor, no major changes

Migration and its effects on demographic and economic development in Central and Eastern Europe

Migration and its effects on demographic and economic development in Central and Eastern Europe

More and more countries are affected by migration. Often referred to as “the migration problem”, international migration is reshaping societies and politics. Great mobility of the people makes a country’s human capital stock volatile. This means that the globalisation of migration triggers demographic and economic consequences.

Firstly, emigration of low-skilled workers is likely to benefit the CEE countries by reducing underemployment and unemployment rates. This helps to raise labour force participation. Moreover, returning migrants often invest their money in retail and building-work firms. However, since they are net contributors to government budget, their departure increases the fiscal burden on those still in the country.

The flow of remittances sent to Romania exceeds twice the flow of foreign direct investment. With this money, families pay for everyday expenses, buy cars and build new houses. Remittances can therefore lift people out of poverty and increase the security of a decent livelihood. Remittances-receivers sometimes invest in communities, for example by putting elevators in buildings. Furthermore, when they are used to purchase goods, money sent from abroad benefit other people who are engaged in both production and selling chains. Nevertheless, remittances can create economic inequalities between remittances-receiving and non-receiving citizens. The latter can be socially isolated.

At a macro level, remittances can be a prime source of foreign exchange for sending countries. They take the form of investments that sustain home industry. They can also improve the financial sector and can trigger investment and provide leverage for sovereign loans. However, when remittances are spent in consumption, they can also create structural inflation by raising prices, especially in the housing market. This can lead to the so-called inflationist spiral.

Migration also results in the departure of a country’s brightest and highly skilled citizens. This deprives the state of revenue and prevents the countries of origin from gaining a return from publicly-funded education. Also, since human capital accumulation is the engine of economic development, brain drain considerably challenges a country’s economic growth. This triggers losses in productivity levels and GDP, but also in research and innovation. Indeed, the number of researchers from CEE countries has decreased. This undermines the economic growth of CEE countries, as skilled labour force is essential in attracting foreign direct investment and foreign companies. The lack of competition on the labour market negatively influences the evolution of productivity. Or, when they do relocate, since there is no competition, these companies pay low wages. Because of job shortages, CEE countries’ citizens are likely to take any precarious or under paid jobs. A more problematic aspect is when professionals from health and education leave. This can affect the supply, thus quality, of basic services.

Brain drain triggers negative demographic rates. Low fertility rates represent a challenge for CEE. The size of demographic losses caused by migration depends on how fast the progress of societies is achieved. Generally speaking, the only sustainable solution is the raise of worker productivity, which would reduce migration. There are some regions in CEE countries where only young children and elderly people live, because the working-aged population left the villages to work abroad. This can change sex ratio because transnationalism splits families. Often, the parents work abroad and the children are cared of by grand-parents.

Emigration from CEE countries to Western countries will decrease only if the gap between living standards will narrow down. The population of CEE countries is becoming smaller and older, which threatens countries’ ability to improve economically and socially. Given the migration of their citizens, CEE countries have to orientate towards countries from Middle East or China in order to fulfil their labour costs.

Policies should focus on both tackling labour market management which would limit skilled migration and on return schemes which would make it easier for returnees to find a job. Jobs and sustainable livelihoods should be created for citizens not to feel economically forced to migrate. CEE countries should invest in human capital, in high quality education for students not to leave to Western countries. Indeed, investments in human capital are often more stable and with a higher return than attracting foreign capital. This is however hard to calculate it in a public property system. Governments should increase the gain from remittances. Finally, the need of  transnational policies should be acknowledged. This would aid development in sending-countries and inclusion of migrants in host-countries.

Social Protection and Economic Security of North African Migrant Workers in France

Social Protection and Economic Security of North African Migrant Workers in France


Estimated at 214 million, migrants represent 3.1% of the world population. Migrants choose to go to other countries in order to provide their family with social and economic security who will benefit from remittances. However, the protection of migrant workers’ status and rights represents a major policy challenge (IOM 2010:33). The system of social security should provide them with a basic income in case of unemployment, illness and injury, retirement, invalidity and family responsibilities. “By providing health care, income security and social services, social security enhances productivity and contribute to the dignity and full realisation of the individual” (ILO 2009:58).

North-African workers in France are eligible for state-based social security. However, since it is linked to employment history, they can find themselves in a precarious status because of the discrimination they face in the labour market. The main question is whether the system of social protection is effective enough to provide them with security.

In order to answer this question, this paper will analyse the level of social protection North-African immigrants in France benefit from. It looks at the immigration history of Maghrebians in France in order to assess the degree of vulnerability they face considering the system of social protection. The second part of this paper considers the ineffectiveness of the French anti-discrimination legislation in order to make sense of the discrimination of North-Africans in the labour market. The lack of security from the country of origin can be followed by insecurity in the host country. In that respect it provides the example of Sans-Papiers by pointing to their desire to eliminate the insecurity they face. The third part of the essay is based on the relation between employment and security. If an individual lacks the seven forms of security identified by Standing he is part of the precariat.

Immigration in France

  1. Immigration

Until the 1970s, French labour immigration was under the control of the private sector, which recruited workforce in order to fill labour market gaps (Hollifield 1994). The process of decolonisation of Morocco and Tunisia and the independence of Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s marked the starting point of debates on immigration and nationality. The number of Algerians in France rose from 22,000 in 1946 to 1982 there were 805,000 (INSEE: 2010).

As Geddes (2008) argues, the French economy was being remodelled as a result of increasing unemployment of immigrants. However, given the fact that the majority of immigrants were young and fit they did not benefit from social security. They contributed to it without expecting anything in return. This is in contrast to the current situation which tends to regard the immigrants as taking advantage of the system of social protection.

  1. Immigration and vulnerability

According to a report issued by the French Office of National Statistics (INSEE 2005), the share of North-African immigrants has risen, averaging 30% of the total number of immigrants. Their wages are lower than the wages of French workers and they have approximately three times more children than the average French family. This means that they do not have the security of a home, as they have to rent most of the time. As the same study shows, only 35% own a house, compared to 57% of French people.

According to the same study by INSEE, North-Africans are three times more likely than French people to face unemployment. Algerians are the most discriminated against, followed by Moroccans and Tunisians. One out of five North-African immigrants aged 25-59 is unemployed. This could be explained by the fact that they tend to be in low-skilled employment which is more likely to experience economic concerns. The actual levels of unemployment have had a negative impact on the system of social protection, which is currently in deficit. The social protection system which was set up in 1954 was not intended to handle mass unemployment.

  1. French System of Social Protection

Building up on Esping-Andersen’s approach of welfare states according to the level of commodification of labour, the French state fits in the Conservative approach to social policy and welfare. The aim of the French social protection system is income maintenance (Palier 2000: 116). It is more than simple poverty alleviation which is found in the Anglo-Saxon system or universalistic distribution which is representative for the Northern Social-Democratic system. Since the entitlement depends on the contribution history paid by workers, most benefits are earnings-related.

The French welfare state is based on a set of non-state agencies. The Sécurité Sociale (Social Protection) is divided into four main sectors: healthcare and work accidents, old age and retirement, unemployment insurance and family (CNAV 2010). There is a compulsory scheme anyone must be affiliated to and a complementary one (mutuelle). The Bismarkian nature of the French welfare state has however been transformed into a state-run one by some structural changes. This reform relies mainly on a re-insertion policy (Revenu Minimum d’Insértion), which is a non-contributory means-tested scheme. It guarantees a minimum level of resources. In order to be eligible for this scheme, a non-French has to be in the possession of a carte de séjour and has to have lived in France for five years. An unemployed North-African who is not eligible for a unemployment benefit is therefore eligible for the RMI, which is of €460 a month (Rmi.Fr 2010). He is also eligible for housing benefits and health protection. He/she is exonerated from paying council tax and he/she can also be eligible for a reduction of the phone bill. However, economic insecurity appears if the North-African immigrant has not been in France for enough time.

North African immigrants therefore benefit from almost the same rights as French citizens. The exception is the five year rule concerning the legal residence. Moreover, there are also bilateral agreements between Northern Africa and the French government in order to coordinate the variety of social protection and provide the immigrants with social security (Securité Sociale: 2010). Many rights of the immigrants are coordinated by bilateral agreements which are, however, rarely applied (Dias 1995:19). Although North-African immigrants fulfil the basic social security principle which entitles them to access to basic needs like health, education, social protection etc., they seem to fail the work-related security principle. They face high rates of unemployment mainly because they face discrimination on the labour market.

Social Protection and Discrimination

  1. Anti-discrimination legislation

At the international level, the protection of interests of migrant workers is guaranteed by ILO Conventions and Recommendations. The key objective is to ensure non-discrimination and equality of treatment and opportunity between national and non-national workers (ILO 1995: 26). However these main standards are non-binding for the states.

At national level, the French constitution stipulates that France “is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic. It assures equality before the law to all citizens without distinction as to race or religion”. The Constitutional Court confirmed that constitutional rights and liberties apply to anyone who resides on the territory of the Republic (ILO 1995:27). Moreover, since 1972 penal code articles have been introduced that forbid discrimination in housing, employment and the furnishing of goods and services.

Nevertheless, the principle of equal treatment during employment is not fully covered by the Labour Code. Article L122-45 only refers to protection against discriminatory considerations made by the employer, but it does not stipulate the right to equal treatment and opportunity before or during the employment. Although North-African workers are covered by this legislation, they face discrimination when they seek employment.

  1. North-Africans and discrimination

The French labour market has not yet accepted the diversity that characterises France. In a report commissioned by the High Authority of Fight against Discrimination and Equality, Faouroux (2005:7) gives some examples of types of discrimination a North-African faces. In Paris, a Maghrebian is five times less likely to be called for a job interview. A job seeker of Maghrebian origin who has finished a Hons. University degree goes to three times less job interviews than French people. Another study made by Silberman et al. (2007) shows that within various groups of immigrants (from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe), the strongest contrast is between native French people and those from Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. While only 8% of the native French claim to have encountered discrimination problems on the labour market, an average of 40% of Maghrebians confess to have experienced it (ibid:18).

Despite the discrimination on the labour market that Maghrebians face, the organisations that should promote their rights and guarantee social inclusion mainly draft reports about the current situation, but they do not come with relevant solutions to this problem. The 2004 Report on Equality of Chances amongst all Origins proposed 20 social cohesion programmes, from which only the third part of the 20th programme directly tackled discrimination on the labour market. Although the programme “Fight against Discrimination” agrees that the enterprise is one of the most important vectors for the integration of a migrant, the only proposition it came up with was the creation of a Convention of Diversity, which encourages companies to hire immigrants, but its signature is not compulsory (Charte Diverisité.Fr). That anti-discrimination and social cohesion is not the main concern of the public policy is also shown by the Report on the National Strategies for the social protection and social inclusion 2008-2010, which does not tackle it.

Discrimination can be explained by the fact that negative scrutiny is more likely to be attached to immigrant groups, especially when prior colonial experiences provide a set of stereotypes . These prejudices have led to social unrest in shanty towns (banlieues) in November 2005, which called into question the French republican model of integration (Bazin 2006:16). The riots for equality and anti-discrimination were mainly led by second generation of Maghrebian immigrants who felt socially and economically insecure because they were discriminated against. Even if the system of social security is quite generous, one has to be employed in order to benefit from it. The only way for North-African workers to feel as close to ‘economically secure’ as possible is to work illegally, even if this is a way of providing them only with short-term economic security.

  1. The case of Sans-papiers

Many foreigners choose to enter France illegally, hoping for a better life in order to provide their families with economic security. Although in 2008 the State naturalised 107,000 people, from which half were from Maghreb (LeMonde 2010), it is difficult to become a ‘documented’ migrant because of the politicisation of the migratory process. Many immigrants from Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa found themselves in the status of Sans-Papiers in March 1996 after many years of working in France, because of legislative changes. This made the status of many long-term immigrants either uncertain or illegal. That led them to ask for a right to membership. By calling themselves Sans-Papiers, as opposed to ‘illegal immigrants’ which means illegitimacy, they adopt a new strategy which builds up on entitlement. Sans-Papiers suggests, as McNevin (2006) argues, an equal right of presence which is weakened by bureaucratic formalities.

In an era where the rates of unionisation were going down, the Sans-Papiers organised themselves locally in order to say ‘no’ to the French government which wanted to expel them. They combined individual voice with collective voice in order to become involved in citizenship strategies. As McNevin (2006:143) argues, the Sans-Papiers mobilised themselves in order to contest their status of outsider.

The choice of location of the French Federation of Construction for a ‘riot’ in October 2010 points to their role in filling labour shortages. They asked for regularisation of the workers who had signed contracts with agencies and wanted the companies to give them full-time permanent jobs (LeFigaro 2008). They rejected the insecurity of temporary labour and demanded recognition of their full status as insiders on the French labour market. Security is therefore linked to possession of two forms of identity: sense of occupation and dignified work (Standing 2010: Lecture1)

Even if many have been regularised (78,000 in 1997), many were sent back to their countries of origin. In 2009 about 29,000 foreigners with no documents were expelled, of which 1,552 were Algerians and 1,550 Moroccans (LeMonde: 2010). Even if not always successful, their struggle points to their desire to become regularised in order to experience economic security and full social protection, to enjoy positive liberty. In April 2010, the French minister of Immigration stated, however, that the Sans-Papiers who ask for regularisation of their situation will continue to be expelled. If not, this would encourage these networks into illegality (LeMonde 2010).

Work Insecurity and Precariat

  1. Employment, vector of security

Since employment is a source of stability, its effectiveness in guaranteeing social participation depends on the degree of protection of people against poverty (Gallie 2002: 99-101). Job and employment insecurity is therefore likely to reduce opportunities for social participation. As Gallie (2002: 10) argues, employment insecurity in France is especially amongst low skilled, who are the North-African immigrants. Moreover, those who have, what Favell (2008: 3) calls, “3D Jobs” (dull, dangerous and dirty), are more likely to experience deprivation in their work and personal lives, and they are less satisfied with their social life. Since most of the Maghrebians work in either temporary or low skilled jobs, their insecurity has a negative impact on their health. Stress, blood pressure levels, cardiovascular diseases are related to working under pressure. However, according to (Gallie 2002:104) this can be mediated by the degree of control that employees exercise over their task.

Most of the immigrants have only the basic cover of social security. In 1991, 78% of French people had both social security and mutuelle, compared to only 56% of non-French. As DIAS (1995) argued, it is because health care is not a priority for those who have various uncertainties like temporary jobs and poor housing, and who live with the fear that they will be sent back to the country of origin. The social and economic insecurity of North-African workers in France experience make them be part of the precariat.

  1. Precariat

Standing (2009: 102-115) differentiates between seven classes of people: the global elite, the salariat, the proficians, the core: a withering working class, the precariat, the unemployed and the detached. The precariat represent the ‘flexiworkers’. They are mainly workers in non-regular status and agency workers. They are the people who fill jobs gaps and are unsure of their occupation. They lack control and security over their jobs. Because of the fact they are not classified as employees, the precariat are denied legal protection.

The number of unemployed North-Africans is higher than the number of French citizens. Moreover, those who manage to get a job enter “3D jobs”, which means that their precarious wages do not allow them to cove the expenses of the mutuelle. In addition, if they have a job and they get social protection through various syndicalist conventions, when they are fired, they lose their entitlement to state-based social protection and they find themselves in a precarious position.

Their precarious status is emphasised by the fact that it is difficult to move from a temporary into a full-time permanent jobs. In addition, the lack of access to skills development and training puts them in a precarious trap (Standing 2009:112). Often, their jobs are considered as part-time even if they are full-time for the employer to avoid paying health benefits. When the employee retires, the salary from the pay sheet it taken into account, which leads to a smaller pension. Their precarious status does not come from employment insecurity but from the lack of an occupational identity. They experience, however, various types of labour insecurity.

  1. Labour insecurity of the precariat

Standing (2002: 37-69) refers to seven types of insecurity in the world of work which are due to the process of globalisation. They all affect the North-African workers who represent the precariat on the French labour-market. The first type of insecurity mentioned is labour market insecurity and it basically refers to work opportunities ensured by macro-economic policies. Market insecurity is therefore the unfulfilled commitment to full employment. The first ones to be affected are the North-Africans. They also lack employment security, which is the protection against unjustified dismissal or sudden loss of employment. However, since the French social protection is quite generous, if they have worked legally they can be eligible for unemployment benefits. They also lack job security, which is eroded because of the flexibility required. Indeed, since they are the “flexiworkers” of our times, they face a loss of the sense of occupation. They cannot get specialised skills, because they are expected to constantly change jobs.

Another type of security they lack is work security which relies on occupational health and safety, which has decreased because of the weakening of unionisation. This goes hand in hand with representation insecurity. Since there are no organisations able to protect the vulnerable, they cannot improve their status because they lack voice. The last type of insecurity, income security is perhaps the most important one, since it covers minimum wage, social protection to protect incomes, pensions etc. If the North-Africans are legally employed in a regular full-time job, they benefit from it. If not, which is often the case, they do not. It follows that labour insecurity in all its seven forms leads to low levels of social protection.


This paper has looked at the social protection which North-African immigrants benefit from in the French labour market. Even if a legal status guarantees them access to social protection, the fact that it is earnings-related makes it more difficult, as they cannot find work because of discrimination- related issues. This transforms them into vulnerable persons who lack both basic and economic security. They also lack the voice they would need to make things change. Moreover, even when they have it, as in the case of the Sans-Papiers, this does not always guarantee more security. The lack of basic security and economic security puts them into a precarious status.

To conclude, the French system of social protection guarantees North-African almost the same rights as a French citizen. However, because of discrimination on the labour market and in the social security system because of the RMI rule concerning five years of legal residence, they are not always beneficiaries. This problem could be resolved by introducing anonymous CVs or by imposing quotas for companies to hire North-African immigrants.


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BAZIN, L., 2006. The broken myth. Popular unrest and the ‘republican model of integration’. In Anthropology today, Vol. 22, No 2.

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Romania, Globalisation and the IMF

Globalisation is a contested concept. While it is argued that it refers to economic integration, the sceptics see it as rather limited because of the power of nation states and the distance between them. For a political economy perspective, I define globalisation as “international economic integration, where institutions such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), World Trade Organisation (WTO) etc. become more powerful building up what it is known as ‘global governance’”. The power of international institutions is therefore one of the main elements that contribute to the consolidation of globalisation.

IMF’s main task is to ensure that the international monetary system functions well by maintaining currency stability, thus preventing a new crisis.

It provides short-term financing in order to stabilise exchange rates which take the form of loans. When a country borrows money from IMF, it accepts that domestic economic policies are unsustainable due to a failure of the policy in managing resources or to changes in the international economy that affect the national economy. In order for a country to be eligible to take a loan, it has to agree to some conditionality requirements in which the country either has to cooperate with the Fund or has to develop a project for financial and fiscal stabilisation policies. Then, the country must introduce a stabilisation programme which results in compression of the economy.

Conditionality policies have been subject to criticism because of the austerity that they trigger. In Romania, the government announced in May 2010 that wages would be reduced by 25% and pensions and unemployment benefits by 15% in order to be eligible for a loan which has triggered social unrest.

What is left for Romania?

In a country where pensioners get around 90£/month, 15% less equals not enough money to survive. Yes, to survive. They need drugs, they need food, they need to pay monthly bills and accommodation. What with? Well… I do not know. And I am not expecting you to know either. My Romanian retired people do not either. They will find out, I guess… How? By getting sick more often, by becoming more sensitive, by gradually dying…

Why? Because of corruption. Yes, the IMF can be seen as a bad actor because of the social cost it triggers. But if Romania was doing well, if our politicians had behave well, Romanian would not have got here, to start with. How is it possible, in a country where a pension averages £90 a month, the so-called politicians earn thousands of pounds a month? Is there any justice, in this world? If it is, please, send some to my country.

I have send some emails to the EU entitled “Romania needs help”. Romania needs help on the long-run. Because of the actual levels of corruption, people will die. Because of our greedy politicians, who do not care about our population but about their pockets, people are dying….

So, I have sent these emails to the EU. I’ll probably get nothing back. No answer. No reaction.  But I have tried. And I will not give up. I will keep trying. Romania belongs to all its citizens: on its territory or ex-pats. Romania needs us. I wish we all tried. Until justice will reach our country.

END of a battle, but not of the war.

For more on the topic, follow

The Zapatistas and the Notion of ‘Power’. Contradictions and dilemmas.

The Zapatistas and the Notion of ‘Power’. Contradictions and dilemmas.


¡Ya basta! (Enough is enough!) is perhaps the best known cry of human justice in the “New Social Movements” (NSM) arena. As Escobar and Alvarez (1992:2 ) State, this way of organisation by the masses is a new form of doing politics. The Zapatistas is a movement of resistance to the neoliberal model of economic globalisation. On January 1, 1994, over 3,000 indigenous people started an armed uprising against the Mexican government. The rebellion coincided with the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an accord which meant that the indigenous people would loose their ancestral lands (ejidos). Their ability to contest the accepted way of doing politics (Stahler-Sholk et al. 2007:5) demonstrated their capacity to control the political system from below.

This essay focuses on the role of ‘power’ in the relation between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government. For the purpose of this essay, we will retain Hay (2002: 184)’s definition of ‘power’: “the ability of actors to ‘have an effect’ upon a context”. It represents any challenge to the mainstream values, which is the type of ‘power’ emodied by the Zapatistas over the Mexican State.

This paper looks at the relation of power between the Zapatistas Movement of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Mexican State. It analyses three contradictions within the Zapatistas movement which lead, in my view, to more than just loosening the power of the Mexican government. The EZLN gradually seizes the power of the State. I look at democracy versus anarchy within the Zapatistas movement by pointing at various challenges: theoretical and practical in “liberty, justice and democracy”, ‘people’s power’ and the lack of unity, and the struggle of democracy which leads to violence. I will then move on to the Zapatistas’ desire to change the world without taking power. This is achieved by analysing the notions of ‘counter-power’, dignity and hope and their limits. The third part focuses on autonomy versus inclusion; I argue that self-determination is not possible in a society. I question the notion of autonomy within the Zapatistas movement which means isolation rather than integration and I look at the limits of autonomy in two sectors: education and health.


a)      Theory and practice in ‘liberty, justice and democracy’

These concepts which are at the core of any political discourse (Khasnabish 2010:84) rest on the notion of power and resistance to the homogenisation promoted by both national imperialism and neo-liberalism. The Zapatistas’ struggle is for a reinterpretation of what these principles mean. Nash (1997:261) notes the Zapatistas’ interpretation of these concepts. Justice means “not to punish, but to give back to each what he or she deserves, and this is what the mirror gives back”. Liberty is “not that each one does what he or she wants, but to choose whatever road that the mirror wants in order to arrive at the true word”. Democracy requires “not all think the same, but that all thoughts or the majority of the thoughts seek and arrive at a good agreement”.

Moral rightness (justice) and the power to act according to one’s beliefs (liberty) promoted by the EZLN can be questioned. This was shown in the 1994 uprising, when, as Barmeyer (2008:514) notes, the indigenous people who did not agree with “the true word” promoted by the EZLN, were expelled from the EZLN army, and any land returned to them was ceased once more. In my view, this is not justice, but rather a form of neo-dictatorship, since only affiliation to EZLN guarantees the possession of an ejido .

The Zapatistas’ use ‘democracy’ to refer to parliamentary democracy which would rest on local and national elections, thus the end of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) (Cuninghame and Corona 1998:17). Even if the Zapatistas have not expressed their intention to participate in elections, this could be foreseen. Indeed, in order to make a change, democracy is not enough. Sharing the power is one step, but only detaining it entirely guarantees the possibility to change the world. Since the absence of indigenous’ people representation on the political scene will continue to be a limit of democracy (Harvey 2005: 238), the Zapatistas should probably try to reach a compromise with the Government in order to ameliorate their situation, instead of being radical and completely rejecting it.

b)      ‘People’s power’ but no unity

Zapatistas’ struggle aims “to widen, strengthen and deepen the space where people can exert their own power” (Esteva 1998:154), in a context where changing the world cannot be possible without relying on nation. As Marcos, the Zapatistas’ main spokesperson, stated, all Mexicans should participate in the creation of a more democratic, just and sovereign state (Harvey 2005:12). For the Zapatistas, democracy means ‘people’s power’, where the people govern their lives. Yet, some rules should be imposed. If each individual had a different understanding of what ‘democracy’ was, democracy would become anarchy. A framework of rules is therefore needed, but the actors who would impose them would be a government-like. The Zapatistas reject however the notion of ‘government’. ‘People’s power’ is therefore a loose concept, which leads to anarchy.

‘People’s power’ also involves unity, because power is amplified when many participants share their individual power, as in “United we stand and divided we fall” (Aesop: 6th century). United, people can achieve a goal. A “Divide and Conquer” strategy is often employed by a leader to rule over the masses. If divided, the community is easily controlled and the power of the leader is maintained because it is easier to deal with small concentrations of power.

The Zapatistas claim ‘people’s power’ which aims at ending the privileges of the upper class. They stand for the acceptance of the diversity of all peoples and cultures and their interaction in order to establish “the harmonious coexistence of all the ‘different’” (Esteva 1998:157). Coexistance is possible when all the people see themselves as equal, but ethnic groups distinguish themselves between Indians, caxlanes, gente de razón, ladinos etc. They refer to a different social status and systems of interpersonal relations (Tulchin 2003:119). The lack of unity is expressed by an indigenous man from San Emiliano who says “(…) We are not united anymore. In fact, we are divided (…)”(Barmeyer 2008:515).

Some communities were unwilling to be ruled by the EZLN, which at the beginning were seen as the ‘outsiders’ and chose to organise a local militia (Henck 2007:135). This is opposed to the ideal of ‘people’s power’, thus unity promoted by the Zapatistas. Moreover, this weakens the EZLN, since the military power became decentralised. Even if the aim of the EZLN is ‘unity in diversity’, the result is the opposite. The unified people becomes a multitude of individuals unwilling to be ruled by a centralised leadership (Harvey 2005: 13). Power is materialised as “the plurality of powers” (De Angelis 2000: 24). The Zapatistas’ revolution seems to divide both within (local) and outside (national).

c)      Radical Democracy

The Zapatistas promise a new form of democracy, which represents “democracy in its most essential form” (Esteva 1998:155). This ‘radical democracy’ therefore rejects ‘abstract democracy’ (Dinerstein 2009:20) since the latter is not not based on the human person as such, in his or her complexity (Zizek 2000:163). However, democracy as ‘people’s power’ is ambiguous. A central principle for the Zapatistas is ‘equality’, which is the main element for ‘radical democracy’. This is found in the concept “command obeying”, which means that those who lead should be subjected to the rule of the followers. The challenge raises from the use of the verb “to command”, which implies ‘authority’, and more precisely ‘authority over’ others. Thus actors become subjects to the rules of others and all people are not equal. Esteva (1998:157) argues “[p]eople are not homogeneous and even less equals. They are heterogeneous and different”.

‘Radical democracy’ aims at peace for the Chiapas community. Nevertheless, this ideal of peace has been broken. While calling for peace, they disturbed it. Even if the EZLN is an important vehicle for fostering and promoting the identity and the rights of indigenous people, many EZLN members left the organisation because it was undemocratic and unjust. Henck (2007: 144-168) reports that some believed that it was unjust for poor people to be made to buy arms. The inconsistency within the movement is most stark when it asked the Mexican government for a peaceful road to democracy (Hodges and Gandy 2002: 201), whilst refusing to disarm. The newspaper La Jornada (cited in Henck 2007:17) reported that in the period 1994 – 1997, there had been approximatively 300 killings during the cease-fires in the State of Chiapas. Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice, but the Zapatistas’ ‘radical’ way of defining ‘democracy’ seems to rest on an ‘all or nothing’ concept. From all this it follows that ideology and outcome with regards to democracy seem to contradict itself.

One question needs attention: could the Zapatistas have become an anti-statist movement if Mexico would not have experienced a process of democratization? Kirby (1997) thinks it could not have. After inquiring on the degree of democracy, I think rebellion is possible because democracy. However the idea of democracy promoted by the Zapatistas could lead to anarchy because they reject rules. This could seize the power of the Mexican State by not respecting its rules but imposing their owns. Their argument is, however, that they want to change the world without taking the power.


a)      Counter-Power

Changing the world is possible through reform of the state, but it tends to be a slow transition. The actors have to win elections and introduce change by parliamentary means. Society can thus be changed only by winning state power (Holloway 2005:11). The Zapatistas introduced a new mechanism. They do not aim to control the State. Yet, they want to change the society from below, to convert the actual world into a new one based on dignity and humanity. The notion of ‘counter-power’ or ‘anti-power’ is central to their approach. This refers to “a weakening of the process by which discontent is focused on the State” (Holloway 2005:20). Social discontent takes therefore the form of campaigns and collective actions promoted by the civil society, revolution is not a central concept. This is where theory and practice within the EZLN clash.

They are an authoritarian armed revolutionary movement which has an anarchical outcome. It is a movement that does not aim at taking the power of the State, yet they want to change the society through revolution. The aim of a revolution is, however, taking the power of the State (Holloway 2002:158). This is what makes Zapatismo a new form of resistance. It “does not fit into any previously established moulds of what revolution should be” (Holloway and Peláez 1998). This is probably the most important contradiction within the Zapatista movement. I believe that it is not possible to change the world without taking the power of the State. The Zapatistas, even if they reject the authority of the State act like a State themselves. Independence is also foreseeable because of the international solidarity they beneficiate of.

The rebellion of the Zapatistas focuses on the emancipation of a non-identity represented by the ordinary people, not on the emancipation of oppressed identities (women etc.) (Holloway 2005:156). Their struggle is the struggle for the indigenous land. As Haar (488-489) notes, by rewriting Mexico’s agrarian legislation in its Ley Revolutionaria Agraria (Revolutionary Agrarian Law) which entitles them to claim jurisdiction over all property in Mexico’s territory, the EZLN adopt a law-making capability. Furthermore, since the law had national applicability, “the EZLN challenged the executive prerogative of the the Mexican State: the exclusive capacity both to legislate in matters of land tenure and to carry out land reform” (ibid:489). This example shows that the EZLN claim the legitimacy and the capacity to govern even if the State had not delegated them the power. They are gradually appropriating functions of the State, which has lead to a change of the balance of powers. However, they consider themselves to be different from the State because they struggle in the name of dignity.

b)      Dignity and its limits

For the Zapatistas, dignity represents the refusal to be similar and accept humiliation and “disillusionment” (Holloway 2002:156). Even if the EZLN has been accused of manipulation of the indigenous people, it is commonly acknowledged that the rebellion is “the assertion of indigenous dignity” (Holloway 1998:161). Fighting for dignity means fighting for the nation, as opposed to the State.

Holloway (1998:168-169) suggests that the lack of clear definition of ‘dignity’ points to the fact that for the Zapatistas, this concept is understood as a category of struggle opposed to cowardice (Esteva 1998:172). The dilemma of this concept arises from the fact that although it is a struggle to be recognised and accepted, the Zapatistas want more than that. The Zapatistas want to reconstruct a world of dignity, but they see themselves as the ‘undignified’. However, it is impossible for a group that has been humiliated to reinvent a world based on dignity, since the only status they have known has been humiliation. Moreover, if dignity means to fight for what you are entitled to have, then the EZLN has not achieved it. This is shown by the fact that they dispossessed of land the families that had been resistant to them.

I agree with the EZLN’s interpretation of ‘dignity’ which rejects “a condition of exploitation and oppression” (De Angelis 2000:27) in order to fight for better living conditions. However, if I defined dignity as ‘doing what is morally correct’, I would disagree with some of the Zapatistas’ practices: they fight against globalisation, but they need the Internet in order to benefit from the international solidarity, they are against capitalism, but they sell Coca-Cola in the shops they run.

Only one idea seems to be clear in this concept: the fact that dignity is a rebellion against the ideology promoted by the State, because its legitimacy is being questioned. In that respect, the struggle for dignity becomes a struggle for legitimacy. And since the Mexican government would not change its definition of dignity, the only solution seems to be to overthrow it. The Zapatistas can therefore only hope that as time passes, their dream to make the world anew, will become reality. Hope represents the third dimension of power within the Zapatista movement.

c)      Hope

Only one thing is certain within the Zapatistas movement: its uncertainty. We know nothing about the “arrival at the promised land, nor any certainty about what this promised land might look like” (Holloway 1998:184). This is because Zapatismo is not a coherent ideology that rests on rules (Khasnabish 2010:83). This is embodied by the principle “walking questioning” which explains the lack of a fixed strategy by the absence of a fixed meaning or truth. Flexibility allows the realisation of goals, but one has to know what the aim is.

Hope is the ability to imagine a new political space where ordinary people will trust each other (Esteva 1998:174). This is a to be understood as a spiritual interpretation of power, as it relies on the power of each individual to imagine such a community. It will be a structure which will still oppose the State and will try to make the impossible possible. However, this utopian idea cannot be implemented while the State is sovereign. Even if the Mexican government allows the Zapatistas to organise themselves in autonomous communities, it does so because this does not affect it.


a)      Self-determination & Impossibilities of the autonomy

In January 1994 the EZLN occupied seven counties of Chiapas, Southeast Mexico, marking the process of territorial autonomy. As Holloway (2005:217) argues, self-determination is the alternative when revolutionary groups do not want control of the State. But social and individual self-determination cannot exist in a capitalist society because capitalism is the negation of self-determination. The way we act blends together with other actors’ self-determination.

Here arises a dilemma within the Zapatistas movement: are they brave or coward for wanting self-determination? In a society one has to adapt and change, to make compromises, in order to coexist with other members. This is, in my view, a sign of braveness. I consider the alternative – isolation because the world is unjust – a sign of weakness because it is easier to live on your own than to interact with others. This stands in contrast with their notion of dignity, which relies on braveness. Since self-determination is a movement against society, it goes in the opposite direction. Although Zapatistas’ self-determination is understood as a reaction to neoliberalism and indigenous peoples’ rights, they seem to want a change which only takes into consideration their desires. They do not compromise, they want to impose their ideology.

The Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which Mexico signed, recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination (Style 2000:265). However, the Mexican State declared illegal the autonomous municipalities. This is due to the fact that the ILO Convention is not binding, and the nation-State cannot agree with a new indigenous way of doing politics which would be an attack to its sovereignty. Self-determination could be seen as an attempt to seize the State power, because as a simple process of decentralization it would be “a specific order of government, constituting the system of vertical power of the State” (Díaz cited in Burbach 2001:163), which would lead to the subsumption of the indigenous peoples within the State order (Esteva 1998:165).

b)      Autonomy – between inclusion and exclusion

The Zapatistas rising for autonomy builds on their refusal to acknowledge a type of autonomy which is incorporated into an institutional framework which uses empowerment and participation in policy-making processes. They rather provide autonomously the community with policy from below in various areas of welfare: education, health, justice, legislative agricultural matters and facilitation of the formulation of work cooperatives (Dinerstein 2009:15). Since they construct a new legitimacy based on their comprehension of the law, the practice of the autonomy leads to a clash between legitimate and legal. The conflict with the Mexican government arises from the fact that Zapatistas’ understanding of legal and legitimate is incompatible with the State’s. That is the major issue that prevents peace between the EZLN and the Mexican government. The Zapatistas come with a new understanding of the world order with new definitions, and they expect the State to agree with this ‘newness’. This is impossible because the State would lose its sovereignty.

The creation of new political bodies – five Caracoles (Snails) and Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Council, as opposed to the ‘bad’ government) – took place as a reaction to the unfulfilled promises of the 1996 San Andreas Accords between EZLN and the Mexican government. The agreements were supposed to grant constitutional recognition of the indigenous peoples’ rights to autonomy, self-government and collective production (Dinerstein 2009:12). The State refused to put into practice the agreements because it would have weaken its sovereignty. However, the EZLN created new political structures without permission from the State (autonomía sin permiso) (Haar 2005:489). This shows that the model of the State as a site of power has been adopted in the creation of local governance.

The Zapatistas interpretation of autonomy implies the right to self-organisation and self-government according to their needs, customs and practices (Cuningame and Corona 1998:17) as a way to be part of the State through the slogan autonomía es integración (autonomy means integration) (Gallaher and Froehling 2002:82). They argue that they can only be part of the functioning of the State and of the nation if they can exist autonomously within it. But what does integration mean? I interpret ‘integration’ to mean equal opportunities to all the individuals of a society. Therefore, the host society should act as a ‘sponge’ with a big absorption capacity and admit and incorporate the ‘foreigners’ within its structures. ‘Foreigners’ will therefore have the social opportunities to develop their human capital. But this can only be possible if both parties have the desire to blend, to become one. Autonomy can therefore not mean integration, rather isolation.

Their argument is that they do not want to dismiss the Mexican government from indigenous territories, they only want to be able to interact with it on equal footing (Gallaher and Froehling 2002:93). This raises two dilemmas: how long would the EZLN accept the State being involved in indigenous affairs for and why should a rebellious minority have the same rights as a peaceful majority? We do not know.

Autonomy in the Zapatistas understanding of the term, is a form of ‘dissent’ and it represents a marker of a political identity (Harvey:2005). Although its utopian connotation would be in the advantage of the community, it faces various challenges due to the interpretation ‘autonomy means integration’. Also, the Zapatistas face the challenge of providing the community with land and social programmes (Stahler-Sholk 2007:51-52). In that respect, autonomy remains, as Bohn et al. (2010:27) argue, a hope. A hope which has, however, been translated into facts mainly in the areas of education and health.

c)      Education and Health

The EZLN decided to reject any subsidies, coming from the government on the assumption that it was being done in an attempt to win over the indigenous people. Even if the indigenous communities did not agree with the EZLN’s order to reject government aid (Barmeyer 2008:511-513), nothing changed. This stands in contradiction to the definition of democracy the Zapatistas believe in, which rests on ‘everything for the people to have a better life’.

Within the Zapatista community, education is reliant on community teachers who are between fourteen and seventeen years old. Although this brings into question the quality of the education, Baronnet (2008:118) argues that this could be interpreted as a project of empowerment of the rural youth. The main problems of the system of education are the lack of sustainability, as it relies on international sustainability and untrained teachers. Also, as Dinerstein (2009:16) notes, the lack of official recognition of this educational project is a significant issue, as it leads to further discrimination on the labour market.

The Zapatistas educational project focuses on the integration of educational services and community life “with the objective to develop a participative educational system in line with the ongoing autonomy process” (Barmeyer 2008:519). Moreover, everything that is not considered as appropriate for indigenous pupils is not taught. What is appropriate? If it is only what the EZLN thinks is good for the indigenous population to know, this is in contrast with the principle of democracy.

In the area of health, each ‘snail’ has a health system which is closely coordinated with the other systems. The La Guadalupana clinic from Oventic focuses on health and preventive medicine. However, malnourishment affects 76% of the population (Pickard cited in Dinerstein 2009) and many children die of curable diseases such as diarrhoea. The aim of the Zapatistas’ health system is to recover and promote old medical practices, herbs and massages. However, as Dinerstein (2009:16) points out, the three main problems are: the lack of volunteers and the dependence on charity, financial shortages which trigger a lack of medicines and technology and cultural issues which make the promotion of family planning difficult.

Even if the quality of autonomous educational and health projects is questionable, these are vehicles of autonomy expressed by the Zapatistas. Although they reject the State, they act like one. Autonomous education and heath represent more than undermining the State power. It is taking its legitimacy within a territory.


This paper has argued that by its attempts to create a State within a State, the final aim of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is to take over the Mexican State. The Zapatistas’ ‘power’ can be represented by their desire of freedom which is translated into autonomy. However, the possession of power triggers more power.

The paper has pointed to various contradictions within the movement that translate into dilemmas. At the core of the EZLN there is a type of democracy that takes the form of anarchy. It is based on different interpretations of ‘liberty, justice and democracy’. I have shown that ‘people’s power’ and ‘radical democracy’ are rather loose concepts.

The second part has shown the dilemmas and contradictions within the notion of power. It analysed the notion of counter-power and ‘dignity’ in order to make sense of the Zapatistas’ desire to change the world without taking power. The only constant and certain notion within the Zapatistas movement is therefore ‘hope’, which points to the progressist character of the Zapatistas movement.

In the third part, autonomy has been analysed. It has been argued that self-determination is not possible in a capitalist world. The type of autonomy the Zapatistas embody means exclusion and not integration. By doing so, and by running their own systems of education and health they not only undermine the power of the Mexican State, but they seize it. Since changing the world is not possible while the Mexican government is still at power, the Zapatistas aim at exercising power over the State.

To conclude, even if their intention is not to seize the power of the State, they have to do it in order to make a change, because the Mexican State would not surrender its sovereignty. Maybe the Zapatistas should aim to find a compromise with the Mexican government. If they wanted peace and democracy within their territories, the best attitude to adopt would probably be to accept a balance of powers, where the Mexican State has its power as well. Full power is not possible while the Mexican government still exists. Power cannot be sustainable unless the movement has enough partisans. On the other hand, the Mexican State should have more agencies that represent it in order for its power to be consolidated and not undermined or seized by the Zapatistas.


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Given the involvement of various international institutions like the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) and the access to political coordination of various suprastate, transnational, national and substate bodies, the balance of powers has changed from a state-centred perspective, to a “multilayered, multidimensional and multi-actor” governance (Held, 2004:79). The sovereignty of the nation-state is constantly shaped.

The EU has evolved in only 50 years from an intergovernmental to a supranational institution (Zweifel, 2006:131). Its power in tailoring the policies of member-states has therefore increased. One of the areas it deals with is the protection of the Roma minority. This essay looks at the EU and the protection of the Roma. It assesses the extent to which the notion of ‘international policy’ can be applied. For the purpose of this essay, ‘international policy’ is defined as ‘a programme or set of measures that are imposed from above (the EU) and affect the national policy-making’.

This paper considers the impact of the EU policies in France, where the Roma are seen as foreigners and Romania, where they represent a minority. It starts by evaluating the problems faced by the Roma. It then moves on to the most important actors at international, national, local and individual level in the field of Roma protection and their interests. Since the aim of the paper is to assess the EU Roma protection policy, the focus is on policy process. In that respect, EU legislation framework and the application of EU programmes in Romania and France will be analysed in two areas: education and housing, as they are the areas where segregation of the Roma is the most visible. The last subsections discuss the paradox of the Roma protection: even if there is much done at EU level, their status has not been improved. Finally the paper gives some recommendations which aim to improve the situation of the Roma. The conclusion assesses the effectiveness of the EU policy in addressing the Roma minority.


“FREDO: You know MAM used to tease me; she’d say, uh – “You don’t belong to me; you were left on the doorstep by gypsies”. Sometimes I think it’s true.

MICHAEL: “You’re no Gypsy, Fredo” (The Godfather 1974).

The Roma represent the biggest ethnic minority in Europe. Estimated at 10-12 million people, (Bancroft 2001:146), they are equal to the population of a medium EU member state, like Belgium. Although they are “a people of Europe” (Fraser 2007:1), the Roma often face a harsh reality. They are often seen as “a disturbing and weird foreigner” (Vivente 2004:31). The quote from The Godfather shows how the Gypsies are seen in Europe: outside society and challenging the European social order. Moreover, even if the EU recognises them as a minority, in Romania this applies, whereas in France they are either foreigners or travellers (gens du voyage).

The Gypsies arrived in Europe from North India between the 14th and 15th century (Liegeois 2007:51), when they settled in Eastern Europe and became slaves. After the collapse of Communism, they emigrated to Western Europe. A second stage in their migration was represented by the joining of the EU by Eastern European countries, which entitled them to free movement.

Even if they have been part of Europe for centuries, Roma people have always faced social exclusion, prejudice and discrimination. They still experience poor quality of life, low life expectancy, high unemployment and low income (Council of the EU 2009:1). Discrimination and racism are therefore the main points of the Roma reality. According to a survey carried by EU Action for the Roma, half of the Roma questioned declared that they had been discriminated against at least once in the previous year. Moreover, the survey also shows that 69% of the Roma questioned consider that immigrant or ethnic background represent the main source of discrimination (EU Action for the Roma 2009:1-2). This shows that the current legislation either is not applied or it does not match the needs of the vulnerable. Their socio-economic conditions are therefore generally worse than those of other ethnic groups or immigrants (UNDP 2010) mainly because they are not politically organised (Spirinova and Budd 2008:82).


In the process of globalisation, global governance refers to an embedding of various organisations at international, national and local levels. If in the past the state was at the centre of the decision-making, at present it is an actor of the above-mentioned system. It shares its political, economic and social power with various structures (Pierre and Peters, 2000:79-80).

a)      Organisations that operate at international level

At the international level, there are various actors which deal with the protection of the Roma.  The EU institutions (EU Commission, Council of Europe, the European Social Fund, EU Regional Fund) have the responsibility to improve the social inclusion of Roma. The UN, mainly through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helps Roma families to move to new apartments or private houses (UN 2007).). The European Roma Parliament represents the minority at European level and it also creates partnerships with EU institutions. The European Roma Rights Centre and the European Roma Information Centre are other organisations which represent Roma’s interests.

b)      National governments

Despite the presence of various actors at international level which promote the cause of the Roma, the nation-state remains at the core of political and economic power and the main geographical entity for decisions to take place; they have no authority above them (Reinicke, 1998:58). The state is the “undisputed locus of power” (Pierre and Peters, 2000:81) and its power is absolute. In Romania the state is therefore the main actor which could improve the situation of the Roma. In France, since they are not recognised as a minority, the state does not interfere. In France the state is the main actor in restricting the rights of the Roma.

c)      Local organisations

The civil society plays an important role in lobbying for the protection of the Roma. Moreover, the Romanian National Agency for the Roma is a governmental structure which represents the Roma at national level However, they have not achieved an improvment in the situtation of the Roma. In France, however, the National Agency for Social Cohesion and Equality of Opportunities (LACSE) has been involved in the education of Roma youth.

The National Federation of Associations for the Gypsies and Travellers (FNASAT) has been involved transnationally in the implementation in 2006 of a project which aimed at training 11 Roma educational coaches and promoting Romani literature in Romania (Interactiuni etnice 2009). Also, the church acts locally and provides the Roma minority with food or clothes.

The media is a major player in the discrimination of the Roma as it tends to focus on the actions of the Roma in the communities they live in. Titles like “Why do Roma sell their children?” (Realitatea TV 2009) ) are therefore on the agenda of newspapers or TV shows.

d)      Individual level

The last two actors are the Roma minority who are discriminated against by the majority. Discrimination is often based on negative perceptions of the Roma and a tendency to reduce the minority to those individuals who comit reprehensible acts.


The rights of minorities are tackled in two ways by the EU through documents on non-discrimination and the democratic norms promoted through the expansion process (Spirinova and Budd 2008:85), which are part of the legislative framework. In practice, the EU programmes aim to improve their situation.

a)      legislative framework

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (article 21) states that discrimination based on various factors, including “membership to a national minority” is prohibited (Spirinova and Budd 2008:83). The newest intervention of the EU was the policy communication on the Roma in Europe from April 2010 (EU 2010), which defines the main challenges of the integration of the Roma and develops a programme to make policies for inclusion effective. It calls for more effective coordination among European, national and international stakeholders and the Roma communties. In that respect, the EU acts like a platform which incentivises the states to cooperate with each other. This does not undermine the power of the state, as it is free to join the platform or not. The communication also focuses on more effective use of the EU structural funds to support Roma inclusion and the development of desagregation policies mainly in education and housing (European Commission, 2010). Nevertheless, given the fact that minority rights are not part of the EU acquis, the EU does not substantively influence the nation-states, which remain at the core of political power for decisions to take place; they have no authority above them in this matter (Reinicke, 1998:58).

Secondly, the democratic norms promoted through the expansion process call for non-discrimination and the protection of minorities. In 1993, the Council of Europe specified that the countries which were to join the EU should guarantee protection of minorities (Spirinova and Budd 2008:90).  By adopting the EU anti-discrimination laws, accessing countries had their sovereignty undermined. Here, the institutionalist view prevails, according to which the nation state is losing control over its policy-making. The main characteristic of the institutionalist view is centralisation. It can shape the political context of nation-states through forums. The EU can be seen as a “pooling vehicle” (Abbott and Snidal, 1998:13) which improves the process of decision-making.

The main instruments of the EU for combating the discrimination of the Roma are non-binding pieces of legislation. However by making the respect of the legislation an entry requirement in the EU, the EU has pushed the countries to adopt its policies (Spirinova and Budd 2008:84). Another way of influencing the domestic decision-making is through programmes and funding.

b)      EU programmes on education and their application at national level

Through funding and various programmes that focus mainly on education but less on housing, the EU influences the policy making of member states. The application of programmes at national level is, however, a contested topic. While Ram (2003) shows that EU conditionality has had impact on the development of minority protection policies in Czech Republic and Romania, Vermeersch (2003) does not think that policies have an impact.

v     EU programmes on education

Even if half of the Roma are of schooling age, only 30 – 40% attend school. Moreover, adult illiteracy rates are very high, averaging 50%, even 80% or 100% in some areas (Liegeois 2007: 154).

The most important EU programmes that tackle education are the Phare programmes and the Roma Decade 2005-2015. They are a main tool in shaping national policies, as EU money comes with EU directives on how to spend it. The Phare funds support school infrastructure, pre-school facilities and materials and training of teachers in order to provide in long run full integration of Roma in schools (European Commission 2007:5-6). This is to be achieved through workshops between Roma-led NGOs and EU representatives. The programme aims to introduce support for the Roma children who do not speak the national language. It also focuses on mentoring the Roma families about the importance of education because since most of adult Romas did not go to school, they do not consider it important and they do not send their children to school.

The Roma Decade 2005-2015 aims to improve the attendence of Roma at all levels of schooling by encouraging the Roma children to go to school and by preserving their cultural heritage (Roma Decade 2005). Moreover, since most of the Roma children do not go to school because they are discriminated against, the Roma Decade aims to develop inclusive education by eliminating segregared classrooms and schools.

v     Education of the Roma in Romania and France

In Romania, the funding from the Phare programmes was invested in creating bilingual textbooks in Romanian and Romani. Scholarships have been offered to the Roma in order to attract them into education (Sarau 2008:172-173). Moreover, the cultural heritage has been tackled by the training of 70 teaching assistants of Roma ethnicity (Phare 2002). This has had a positive impact on the Roma community, as the teaching assistants, convinced by the importance education has in the social development of the Roma, were motivated to help the community they are part of. In the Romanian case the EU has therefore managed to introduce changes in the situation of the Roma.

In France, given the fact that the Roma are nomadic and not perceived as a minority, there is no national policy which would aim at their education. Moreover, the EU programmes are not put into practice in France because it is not seen as one of the countries which hosts the Roma.

c)      EU programmes on housing and their application at national level

v     EU programmes on housing

Geographical segregation is the main obstacle to Roma inclusion. Given the fact that within the EU there is no General Directorate in charge of housing, this area is less developed than education. Another major obstacle in the Roma housing policy is the fact that the Roma are either nomadic (France) or sedentarised (Romania). The main questions is how a housing policy can be drafted when culturally, the Roma are a nomadic people. They need freedom and space. The problem is that the society tries to domesticate them to fit in the mould and become ‘civilised’, while their culture builds up on this difference.

In the field of housing, the Roma Decade 2005-2015 has two main goals: urban development of the areas where the Roma live and sensibilisation of the non-Roma about the segregation that the Roma face. This is to be achieved by legalising the houses the Roma often live illegally in and by reducing racist attitudes towards them, which would facilitate the opportunity to rent or buy a house (Roma Decade, 2005).

The Phare programmes offer money to the countries the Roma live in in order to improve their livelihoods (EU 2009:6). Although these programmes aim to resolve social and ecnomic problems of Eastern and Central European countries by investing more than €100m in various projects, they mainly focus on education and not on housing (FRA 2008).

v     Housing of the Roma in Romania and France

In Romania, the Phare programmes have had a positive impact on the situation of the Roma, who usually live in poor housing. Various social buildings have been built with the help of NGOs and volunteers (Romanian Government, 2003).

Within the Roma Decade 2005-2015, the Romanian Ministery of Housing has started in May 2009 a project which aims at building 200 flats for the Roma. However, the main problem represented by Roma housing programmes is that they perpetuate segregation, by isolating the Roma from the rest of the society. Moreover, it is not known what it has been achieved so far as there is no follow up.

In France, the access to accomodation is difficult because of the inadaptation of the legislation to their lifestyle. Neither the Roma Decade nor the Phare funds address the Roma living in France. Local Councils are the main actors in providing the nomadic Roma with open spaces where they can park their vans and settle. In the case of France, the EU fits in he realist theory, which presents international organisations as reflecting national interests and the balance of power (Mearsheimer, 1994:7). Thus, EU does not affect the nation-states, which remain at the core of political and economic power and the main geographical entity for decisions to take place.

In sum, the impact of the EU legislation and programmes is evident in Romania mainly through the Phare funds and Roma Decade. In France, however, because of the non-recognition of the Roma as a minority, EU policies do not apply. In that respect, international policy only applies in Romania, where the EU uses special funds and programmes to influence or change the policy in order to promote non-discrimination. This shows that international policy is possible when the nation state allows it.

The degree to which international policy is applied depends on the degree to which states choose to renounce parts of their sovereignty. In that respect, Spirinova and Budd (2008: 82) argue that “minority protection is something the EU has preached rather than practiced”, as it is not part of the EU acquis. Indeed, as Guglielmeo and Waters (2005:764) stress, a coherent minority protection policy could contribute to social cohesion.

d)      Why is it not working?

Given the multitude of programmes and actors involved in order to provide the Roma minority with better livelihoods, the main question is “What is going wrong since there is no major improvement of their situation?”. The first problem is the policy-making process. The social reality of the Roma does not correspond to what is “normal” for the rest of the society. In the policy-making, it is assumed that the Roma should be able to live in conventional accommodation. However, their preference to live in open-air places is not taken into account. The Phare programmes fail to give a clear definition of what “inclusion” means and how it can be achieved (Guglielmeo and Waters 2005:772).

Another type of problems refers to policy implementation. The EU provides the nation states with funds which should be more effectively used. This should be monitored and annual reports should be released in order to make sense of the use of the EU money. More transparency and follow up are therefore the key concepts which could trigger better use of the funds and therefore an improvement in the Roma situation. Indeed, in real life the Roma still face discrimination because there is “insufficient political will” at national level (Woodcock 2007:505.)

It follows that the lack of centralisation of the Roma demands leads to policies that are not tailored to their lifestyle. Since they lack empowerment, they cannot become integrated because they feel discriminated against. Since they do not integrate, they are discriminated against. It is a vicious circle.

e)      Recommendations

A first step in the empowerment of the Roma is their recognition as a minority. In the case of Romania, EU programmes and funds are addressing, at least in theory, the needy. France is not considered as needing and benefiting from such programmes because it is not a country which officially hosts Roma. In addition, the policies should focus on increasing interaction between the Roma and the non-Roma. This could be achieved through workshops which should start at kindergarten. In addition, anti-discrimination classes should be mandatory in the curriculum.

The programmes which aim to improve the situation of the Roma should be implemented in collaboration with them. However, 100% Roma presence is not the best option because decisions should be made by both majority and minority, as they are both involved in the process of inclusion of the Roma.

In order for the Roma to integrate into society, they should live in the same areas as the non-Roma. However, given the fact that they cannot always afford it, the EU in collaboration with governments should provide subsidised accomodation. Moreover, in order to interact with their non-peers, there should not be too many Roma families in the same building or area. However, the notion of ‘integration’ is problematic when referring to nomadic Roma. In that respect the policies should tackle transnational migration, not integration.


This essay has discussed the impact of the EU policy that tackles the Roma minority, with examples from Romania and France. In Romania EU policies target the Roma because the government has recognised them as a minority; in France no EU programme is applied. It follows that in Romania one could talk about international policy, whereas in France not.

Compared to Romania, where both the state and the EU are involved in the improvement of Roma livelihoods, in France, because of their non-recognition as a minority, the principal actor is represented by the civil society, which appears to be absent from the Romanian scene. However, even if in Romania, the EU legislation is not binding, in order to join the EU, Romania had to adapt its anti-discrimination legislation to EU requirements.

To conclude, globalisation and the network of political actors have changed the power of the state over its decision-making, its sovereignty and autonomy being reduced. However, even if globalisation has affected domestic politics, there is a need for deeper and wider cooperation and coordination (Woods, 2004:26). Pierre and Peters (2000:83-87) describe this phenomenon as a “moving up” towards international organisations which have taken over policy-making areas.


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The Day the Immigrants Left

Is immigration a problem? Ah well… it could be argued both sides. The political economy of migration is a tricky one. However my view is that migrants can represent a problem for low-skilled native citizens who can see their jobs ‘stolen’ by happy-with-low-wages migrants. But these migrants contribute to the economy of the host country. They buy clothes, they pay taxes, they send their children to school… They do inject money in the economy of the host country. High skilled native citizens tend to be more tolerant towards imigrants, because they have nothing to fear. They have the security of a job, they have skills and they have a ‘voice’.

This being said, a friend of mine gave me a CD the other day on which he had recorded a BBC show called “The Day the Immigrants Left”. It was basically the story of some low-skilled Brits who were coplaining that the only reason why they were unemployed was because “these Eastern Europeans steal our jobs”. The journalist convinced some English employees to let some Brits to work for a couple of days. What happened? Some of the unemployed Brits did not show up at the meeting point, others just gave up because the job it was too dull and difficult.

What is the lesson? Some of the migrants who work in West do those jobs that a native would not do because it is to dull, tideous and difficult…

What’s next? I don’t know. But I hope that  (free) movement of persons will trigger tolerance. Acceptance of those immigrants who do not have a choice in their home countries and they only want to work hard in order to afford a decent life. That’s all they ask… a DECENT life, not even a GOOD life.