Category Archives: The Vulnerable: Ethnic Minorities, Indigenous Peoples and Women

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


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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REINICKE, W., 1998. Global Public Policy. Governing without Government?. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press

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L’Union européenne et les Rroms

L’Union européenne et les Rroms


 « Le problème tsigane n’est envisagé que sous un angle social et est amputé de toute sa dimension culturelle »[1]

Dès leur arrivée en Europe aux XIVème et XVème siècles de l’Inde du Nord,[2] les tsiganes ont surpris les érudits qui n’ont pas cessé de s’interroger sur leurs origines véritables. La langue parlée par ces peuples, quant à elle, a constitué un moyen de situer leurs origines. En effet, « la langue romani est une langue néo-indienne proche du sanscrit. […] c’est un moyen de communication […] pour un peuple sans territoire de référence».[3] Si historiquement la plus forte minorité a été présente dans les pays de l’Est, l’effondrement des régimes communistes favorise leur migration vers l’Europe de l’Ouest.[4] Ainsi, la question est de savoir comment protéger juridiquement les Rroms contre les discriminations auxquelles ils sont sujets, étant donné le fait que même dans les Etats de droit ils ne sont pas considérés comme des citoyens à part entière. Il n’y a aucun texte qui les définit en tant que minorité transnationale, ce qui se traduit par le fait que leur situation sur le plan juridique est laissée à l’arbitraire des Etats,[5] même si l’Union européenne a son mot à dire dans plusieurs domaines dont le logement ou l’éducation, ce qui se fait par le biais de structures à vocation européenne dont le but est de défendre les droits des Rroms.  

Chapitre I. Types et cadres de vie des Rroms dans les pays de l’Union européenne et les stratégies européennes qui visent à améliorer leur situation


1. Ségrégation spatiale

La politique du logement est moins développée que d’autres domaines qui se réfèrent à l’inclusion sociale, comme par exemple l’emploi. En effet, l’Union européenne ne dispose d’aucune Direction générale qui soit spécifiquement chargée de traiter les questions de politique de logement. De plus, il existe d’énormes obstacles à l’utilisation du Fonds européen de développement régional à des fins de logement.[6] Même si la Directive d’égalité raciale de l’Union européenne interdit la discrimination raciale dans le domaine du logement,  ce dernier reste la première représentation de la discrimination qu’ils doivent subir.[7] Ainsi, l’adoption d’un indicateur de logement dans les indicateurs d’exclusion sociale est en discussion afin d’améliorer le processus d’inclusion sociale.[8] Mais cet indicateur devrait être mis en place d’une manière différente d’un pays à l’autre, puisque si en France les Rroms sont nomades, en Roumanie ils sont plus sédentarisés. A présent, il y a un grand nombre de Rroms dans l’ensemble de l’Europe qui vivent dans un logement « de niveau médiocre voire extrêmement médiocre et souvent dans des ghettos insalubres ».[9]

Au sein des villes des Balkans, les mahalas roms datent du siècle dernier, sous l’administration turque, lorsqu’elles étaient organisées selon des critères religieux et ethniques. La vie dans les enclaves du centre-ville a été souvent menacée d’expulsion en raison des travaux de reconstruction et modernisation. Une deuxième catégorie d’établissements situés au cœur des villes est représentée par les taudis temporaires qui sont destinés à durer une ou deux saisons. Les logements pauvres disséminés, ainsi que les taudis en zone urbaine périphérique représentent deux autres types d’établissements dont la situation sociale est déplorable. Les ghettos, les immeubles dévastés et les logements rudimentaires dits « de fortune » sont des établissements récents qui accueillent la population rrom.[10] La ségrégation géographique est présente dans l’Europe de l’Ouest également, [11] mais ici un bon nombre de Rroms pensent que « le sol se dérobe sous [leurs] pieds » en raison d’évictions forcées. Ainsi se voient-ils contraints de camper sur des terrains sans autorisation. [12]

Dans cette situation difficile, les efforts entrepris par l’Union européenne en matière de logement restent assez théoriques puisque, comme nous allons le voir, leur application au niveau national n’est pas très pertinente, même si le problème du logement ne peut être résolu sans la participation des quatre acteurs : l’Etat, la municipalité, la communauté rrom locale et ses organisations communautaires, et les organisations non gouvernementales nationales et internationales concernées. [13] En effet, un consultant produisant une évaluation des approches du logement rrom a déclaré « La situation des Rroms en termes de logement n’est pas considérée comme faisant partie de la politique générale de logement mais plutôt comme un problème particulier et propre aux Rroms (…). [Les Rroms] obtiennent un logement social rrom et ceci bloque (…) toute intégration».[14]

2 Stratégies européennes

Dans le cadre de l’initiative « Décennie d’inclusion des Rroms 2005-2015 » lancée par les gouvernements de la Macédoine, Bulgarie, Croatie, Hongrie, République tchèque, Roumanie, Sérbie-et-Monténégro et Slovaquie, l’idée principale est de « combler le fossé entre les Rroms et le reste de la population dans les pays concernés ».[15] Dans le domaine de l’habitat, cette stratégie européenne a plusieurs objectifs : le développement urbain des lieux peuplés par la communauté rrom et la légalisation de leurs maisons, ainsi que rendre la population rom et non seulement plus sensible aux problèmes de logement des Roms. Ainsi, à la fin de la Décennie, les Rroms devraient habiter dans des établissements urbains légaux. De plus, la stratégie veut mettre en place un réseau de publications qui réduirait les attitudes racistes envers cette minorité, ce qui leur faciliterait le chemin vers l’acquisition d’un logement. Sur cette plateforme, le rôle principal est joué par la municipalité. [16]

            Un autre outil dont dispose l’Union européenne afin d’améliorer l’habitat des Rroms est représenté par le programme Phare qui se traduit par le financement des activités qui amélioreraient les conditions de vie de la population rrom.[17] La Direction Générale « Elargissement » de la Commission Européenne se voit ainsi attribuer le rôle d’aider les pays candidats en leur offrant, depuis 1989, une aide technique et financière. Même si ces programmes visent à résoudre les problèmes économiques et sociaux des pays d’Europe centrale et orientale et ceci  par l’investissement de plus de 100 millions d’euros dans des projets ayant comme acteurs principaux les Rroms,[18] il est force de dire qu’en règle générale, ils se concentrent plus sur l’aspect éducationnel de cette minorité que sur l’habitat.  

            A l’heure d’aujourd’hui, le seul projet qui est entièrement dédié à l’habitat des Rroms au sein de l’Union européenne est « Comparative report on the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in the EU », par le Centre européen des droits des Rroms en partenariat avec Pavee Point Travellers Centre. Ce projet devrait fournir à l’Agence européenne des droits fondamentaux toutes les informations nécessaires afin d’aboutir à des conclusions précises pour les institutions européennes dans le but d’améliorer la situation des Rroms et gens du voyage. [19]

            Il est également important de mentionner le fait que les stratégies qui prennent en compte le nomadisme des gens du voyage, comme ils sont nommés la plupart du temps en France, sont peu nombreuses. Bien que le Parlement européen « se félicite de la construction dans l’UE d’infrastructures essentielles pour les Rroms nomades »,[20] il faudrait préciser que la plupart du temps ces plateformes prennent la forme de squats. La même résolution exige que les Etats membres « mettent un terme à la destruction des lieux d’habitation des Rroms sous prétexte de programmes de modernisation urbaine ». [21]

            Même si la population rrom dispose de quelques stratégies européennes qui visent à améliorer leurs conditions de vie, il faudrait mentionner le fait que celles-ci veulent loger le Rrom ou le Voyageur selon des normes « que l’on croit ou que l’on veut convenables pour tous »[22], qui ne représentent pas forcément  l’idéal.

Tout comme le logement, l’éducation est l’un des domaines-clés que les institutions et organisations européennes essayent d’améliorer.

Chapitre II. Les démarches de l’Union européenne dans un domaine dont la compétence est laissée à l’initiative des Etats : l’éducation


1. Données générales

Considérant les Rroms dans les secteurs clés, l’éducation est présentée comme « thématique de la plus grande importance ».[23] Ainsi, le premier exemple est la Résolution sur l’éducation des enfants dont les parents n’ont pas de domicile fixe, adoptée par le Parlement européen en 1984. [24] La Résolution indique qu’ « une étude approfondie des problèmes liés à l’enseignement des nomades s’impose, le leitmotiv devant être l’insertion progressive dans le monde scolaire, en évitant la ségrégation qui ne fait que perpétuer la bipolarisation entre la société nomade et la société sédentaire ». La moitié des Rroms/Tsiganes et Voyageurs d’Europe sont d’âge scolaire, mais lorsque le point a été fait, en 1998 pour 12 Etats, seulement 30% à 40% des enfants fréquentaient l’école régulièrement, alors que la moitié des enfants n’étaient jamais scolarisés. De plus, le taux d’analphabétisme chez les adultes dépassait souvent 50%, pour atteindre dans certains endroits 80% à près de 100%. La situation n’a presque pas évolué au fil des années,[25] et ceci à cause du fait que la scolarisation vient souvent après les pratiques économiques.[26]

Mais le Conseil de l’Europe a tout de même pris position et abordé une recommandation en 2002 qui a pour but l’ « amélioration de la situation des Rroms en Europe », ainsi que la mise en place « des actions positives et un traitement préférentiel […] dans le domaine de l’enseignement », et le fait de « prendre des mesures spécifiques et créer des institutions spéciales pour la protection de la langue, de la culture et des traditions et de l’identité rroms ». [27] De pair avec le Conseil de l’Europe, la Direction générale Education et Culture de l’Union européenne gère une grande variété de programmes dans le domaine de la formation et de la jeunesse qui visent à améliorer l’éducation et la formation des Rroms. Dans cette optique, dans le cadre du Programme d’action communautaire de l’Union européenne dans le domaine de l’éducation de 2000-2006 (Programme Youth),  l’éducation interculturelle est promue afin de lutter contre l’exclusion sociale et d’apporter un soutien aux groupes défavorisés.[28]  De plus, le Parlement européen en collaboration avec le Conseil de l’Union européenne ont abouti à plusieurs décisions établissant des programmes d’action communautaires en matière d’éducation pour les enfants rroms, dont Socrates et Comenius. [29]

Une autre démarche vise à gommer la ségrégation éducationnelle.[30] Les ministères de l’éducation nationale devraient viser à diriger la conception de politiques qui favoriseraient l’éducation intégrée des Rroms et qui aboutiraient à l’égalité raciale. En ce qui concerne le domaine de l’enseignement primaire et secondaire, la politique devrait comprendre principalement des éléments qui favorisent l’intégration des écoliers d’ethnie rrom, ainsi que de la lutte contre le racisme. Dans le domaine de l’éducation universitaire, il convient de préciser qu’un nombre d’Etats, dont la Roumanie, ont adopté des pratiques d’offre de bourse d’étude. Ces politiques devraient être reprises par les pays où elles n’ont pas encore été mises en place.

2. Stratégies européennes

Les principales stratégies européennes en matière d’éducation des Rroms sont, à présent, la « Décennie d’inclusion des Rroms 2005-2015 », le programme Phare et la Stratégie de Lisbonne qui risque d’entraîner des impacts négatifs sur l’éducation de la minorité rrom. En effet, le Conseil européen de Lisbonne a fixé plusieurs objectifs dans le domaine de l’éducation[31], qui, associés à l’absence actuelle de toute identification de la ségrégation raciale, pourraient donner lieu à des actions qui aggraveraient la situation des Rroms qui se trouvent en marge des systèmes éducationnels européens. En raison du nombre élevé d’indicateurs d’éducation centrés sur les matières associées à une éducation élitiste, lié à une absence d’indicateurs éducationnels décelant une ségrégation raciale, la Stratégie peut être privée des capacités d’atteindre les cibles visées. [32]

Le programme Phare, quant à lui, est principalement applicable à la Roumanie et la Bulgarie, et a pour but d’impliquer activement les Rroms à la mise en œuvre des projets dont ils seront les principaux bénéficiaires. L’objectif du programme Phare est d’introduire des éducateurs qui enseigneraient dans les groupes minoritaires en prêtant attention aux Rroms sujets à l’exclusion sociale. Cet objectif serait mis en place par le biais des conférences, discussions dans des ateliers thématiques avec des professionnels et des professeurs, échanges d’expériences avec des représentants des organisations non-gouvernementales rrom de la municipalité ainsi que du marché du travail. Idéalement, les participants devraient apprendre à connaître les problèmes essentiels de l’inclusion sociale et éducationnelle, ainsi que les efforts entrepris aux niveaux européen et national dans cette optique.[33]

En ce qui concerne la « Décennie d’inclusion des Roms 2005-2015 », elle vise à renforcer les taux de présence des Rroms dans l’éducation préscolaire, primaire, secondaire et universitaire. Un autre objectif est la promotion des activités culturelles ayant à leur centre la communauté rrom. Dans le cadre de la Décennie, l’International Step by Step Association en partenariat avec le Ministère Roumain de l’Education, Recherche et Innovation, ont organisé le 14 Octobre 2009 une table ronde ayant pour titre « Investing in Early Childhood : The Most Effective Use of a Nation’s Resources », avec comme invités des pays de l’Europe de l’Est. [34] L’objectif principal de cette conférence est de présenter les objectifs dans l’éducation des Rroms pour le XXIème siècle.[35]

Un autre instrument très pertinent au niveau européen est le Roma Education Fund Scholarship Program qui offre des bourses d’études au niveau universitaire aux étudiants d’ethnie rrom. L’argent provient, en majeure partie, de la part de Remembrance, Responsability and Future Foundation. Les Rroms éligibles à une bourse d’étude doivent être citoyens de l’un des pays qui font partie du programme[36] et doivent avoir été acceptés dans une université publique dans leur pays de résidence. Le nombre des bourses s’élève à 700 dans les domaines des sciences sociales, commerce et sciences et technologies.[37]

De plus, le Comité syndical européen de l’éducation s’est fixé pour but de contribuer à l’amélioration de la qualité de l’éducation des enfants rroms en Europe centrale et orientale, afin de rendre la société européenne plus respectueuse envers les minorités. Le projet « Développer une éducation de qualité non discriminatoire pour les enfants rroms » a pour objectif l’intégration des enfants rroms dans l’enseignement primaire et secondaire, notamment en Bulgarie, Hongrie et Slovaquie. De plus, le projet plaide en faveur d’une amélioration des compétences et capacités des éducateurs à enseigner pour des groupes multiculturels. [38]

Dans le cadre d’une Union européenne élargie, les institutions européennes devraient réexaminer les politiques qui portent sur l’éducation des Rroms, en tenant en particulier compte de la nécessité de mesures pour combattre la discrimination et la ségrégation. Etant donné le fait que le Fonds social européen sert au cofinancement d’initiatives éducationnelles au sein des Etats membres, les lignes directrices du FSE pourraient insister sur la nécessité de considérer encore plus la question de l’éducation des Rroms.  

Dans le climat actuel, la société civile ainsi que les organisations rroms ont le devoir de s’assurer d’une part que les droits de l’homme à l’égard de la population rrom soient respectés et d’autre part que les projets soient menés à bien.

Chapitre III. Le pouvoir politique de la minorité rom et sa représentation au sein de la société civile européenne


1. Organisations visant à défendre les droits des Rroms

D’après J-L. Quermonne, la société civile représente « l’ensemble des rapports interindividuels, des structures familiales, sociales, économiques, culturelles, religieuses, qui se déploient dans une société donnée, en dehors du cadre et de l’intervention de l’Etat ». [39] La société civile est donc une entité formée par des associations et différentes organisations qui militent en faveur d’un certain aspect de la société, lorsque l’Etat s’en désengage.

Dans une optique de mobilisation quant à la nécessité de développer un partenariat avec les institutions européennes, plusieurs organisations d’importance européenne voient le jour. Ainsi, est lancée l’idée du Parlement européen des Rroms (EUROM) en 1990, par l’organisation Rom & Cinti Union, qui aurait le rôle de représenter cette minorité et d’organiser des élections au niveau européen, ainsi que de développer des contacts avec les institutions européennes. En 1991, lorsque l’Union romani internationale en tant qu’ONG a présenté une délégation à la réunion d’experts sur les minorités nationales de l’Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE),  il a été décidé que le Comité européen de l’Union romani devrait être fondé afin de participer aux programmes et projets d’intérêt majeur pour la communauté tsigane. [40]

Au niveau européen, l’organisation juridique internationale d’intérêt publique European Roma Rights Centre joue un rôle important dans la lutte contre le racisme envers les Rroms. L’ERRC a un statut consultatif auprès du Conseil de l’Europe et auprès du Conseil Economique et Social des Nations Unies et coopère avec la Fédération d’Helsinki pour les droits de l’homme.

A l’heure d’aujourd’hui, la « Décennie d’inclusion des Rroms 2005-2015 » représente le cadre de travail quant à l’inclusion des Rroms pour les gouvernements nationaux ainsi que la société civile rrom des pays participants. La Décennie prend la forme d’une Méthode Ouverte de Coordination, mécanisme-type  pour l’échange.

En parallèle avec la Décennie, le Forum Européen pour les Rroms et Gens du voyage (FERV) représente les communautés rroms d’Europe ayant pour objectif principal la création d’une assemblée consultative qui aiderait cette minorité à mieux s’exprimer au niveau européen, de « donner la parole aux Rroms ». [41] Enregistré en tant qu’association sous la loi française, le FERV reçoit de l’assistance financière et a un accès privilégié aux différents organes du Conseil de l’Europe qui s’occupent des questions relatives aux Rroms et aux gens du voyage. L’idée derrière ce Forum est de représenter une plateforme internationale qui devrait entretenir des liens étroits avec le Conseil de l’Europe afin de donner aux Rroms la possibilité de participer aux prises de décision sur les questions les concernant. Ainsi, la création de ce forum représente une innovation quant à la possibilité des organisations rroms nationales et européennes ainsi que des fédérations nationales de pouvoir discuter des problèmes communs. [42] Toujours dans le milieu associatif, le Bureau européen d’information des Rroms (ERIO) a le rôle de promouvoir les discussions politiques et publiques sur les questions rroms. [43]

2. Le « pouvoir tsigane » (J-P Liégeois)

La plateforme européenne des Rroms est donc bien représentée par beaucoup d’organisations, associations ou institutions[44] dont le but est d’arrêter la discrimination raciale.

Le développement des organisations rroms doit être vu dans un contexte de désemparement suite aux politiques menées au cours des siècles. Les organisations font valoir l’existence des valeurs véhiculées par la culture. D’après J-P Liégeois, « l’apparition de ce pouvoir tsigane […] évite que les pouvoirs publics n’agissent sans concertation, même si dans leurs paroles apparaît la reconnaissance d’un pluralisme culturel, évite ainsi que le pluriel ne se conjugue encore au singulier ».[45] Ainsi, il conclu que « le tsiganisme, comme acte politique manifesté ouvre […] la voie vers la tsiganité comme identité proclamée et assumée, et permet […] de se démarquer de la tsiganerie issue des préjugés et stéréotypes manipulés, qui sert jusqu’à présent de référence essentielle pour les populations et les institutions en face desquelles se trouve le Rrom.»

Au niveau étatique, la présence des organisations rroms est perturbante puisque à partir du  moment où l’on ne prend pas en compte l’existence d’une culture, il est déstabilisant de voir des organismes se lever pour la défendre. Ainsi, cette négation prend une ampleur qui se manifeste dans deux directions. D’une part, les caractéristiques culturelles de base et les dynamismes de la culture sont minimisés et dans ce contexte l’aspect politique de l’organisation de la société et des organisations qui représentent la minorité ne sont pas pris en compte, ce qui entraîne la mise en place d’une activité politique gênante. D’une autre part, les organisations sont souvent présentées comme le résultat de quelques activistes déculturés et sont ainsi considérées comme « des saltimbanques de la politiques, comme des histrions parmi les dossiers ».[46] Selon J-P Liégeois, les organisations les plus importantes en nombre de membres peuvent être les moins appréciées en raison de la force et de la détermination qu’elles représentent ». Dans ce contexte, il est possible que les pouvoirs publics développent plus de liens et de dialogue avec les petites structures qui pourraient avoir les mêmes opinions qu’eux. Il arrive maintenant de plus en plus que les pouvoirs publics utilisent la compétence des organisations et leur demandent des avis ou des rapports.[47] Les organisations politiques rroms, comme partenaires et groupes de pression, sont souvent loin de l’organisation sociale traditionnelle rrom, étant souvent fonctionnellement orientées vers « l’extérieur ». Mais leur rôle est celui de faire valoir la nécessité d’une concertation et d’un développement social communautaire, afin de s’assurer que les droits des Rroms/Tsiganes sont respectés.[48] Cette responsabilité est d’autant plus importante que les communautés des Rroms ne luttent pas pour l’indépendance d’un Etat territorial, mais pour le droit de voir les pensées et les dynamismes culturels respectés. En effet, le cinquième congrès de l’Union romani internationale de 2000 a proclamé l’existence d’une nation rrom, définie comme une nation sans Etat. [49] Les frontières de la nation n’ont ainsi qu’une existence sociale et psychologique, mais l’absence de territoire de référence et de protection représente un grand handicap politique.

Dans le climat actuel de discrimination quant à la minorité rrom, l’Union européenne essaye de trouver des solutions à plusieurs domaines-clés[50] dont on a retenu l’habitat et l’éducation. L’habitat, car la ségrégation géo-spatiale se traduit d’une manière différente selon le nomadisme ou le sédentarisme de la minorité rrom ; l’éducation puisqu’elle représente l’acteur le plus important dans un éventuel changement de la condition rrom. Les politiques visant ces deux domaines sont mis en application d’une part par les institutions européennes et d’une autre part par les organisations, associations ou différentes structures à vocation européenne ou nationale.

Si au niveau européen il y a beaucoup de mouvement en ce qui concerne le statut de la minorité rrom, il reste à voir si les politiques nationales françaises et roumaines suivent à la lettre les recommandations de l’Union européenne.

Depuis le 1er Janvier 2007, les Roumains peuvent circuler librement pendant une durée de trois mois dans l’Union européenne. Au-delà, ils doivent exercer les métiers qui leurs sont ouverts, autrement ils deviennent illégaux. Mais en dépit de ce statut, à la veille de son entrée dans l’UE, Nicolas Sarkozy a lancé une circulaire sur « les modalités d’admission au séjour et d’éloignement des Roumains et des Bulgares ». [51] Cependant, les autorités françaises ont trouvé une autre modalité pour continuer les expulsions des Rroms de nationalité roumaine et bulgare, en qualifiant ces actions de « retours humanitaires ». Ainsi, trois mille personnes ont été reconduites à la frontière au cours de l’année 2007.  Ces actions représentent le point de départ de la question qui est au cœur de cette analyse : La Roumanie est en Europe, mais ses citoyens d’origine rrom également ? [52] La chute du mur de Berlin a ainsi crée une atmosphère anti-rrom : à l’Est on ne veut pas les avoir en tant que voisins, et à l’Ouest on ne veut pas les voir arriver. [53]

[1] PONS E., Les tsiganes en Roumanie : des citoyens à part entière, Paris, Editions l’harmattan, 1995, p. 51 

[2] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, Strasbourg, Editions du Conseil de l’Eurrope, 2007, p. 17

[3] ASSEO H., Les Tsiganes Une destinée européenne, France, Découvertes Gallimard, 2008, p.114

[4] MARCHAND A., La protection des droits des Tsiganes dans l’Europe d’aujourd’hui, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001, p. 32-34

[5] AUZIAS C., Les Tsiganes ou le destin sauvage des Roms de l’Est, Paris, Editions Michalon, 1995, p. 81-83

[6] Commission européenne Direction générale de Emploi et des Affaires sociales, « La Situation des Roms  dans une Union européenne élargie », ISBN 92-894-8187-0, Belgium, Commission européenne, 2004, p. 32

[7] HALASZ K., The Situation of Roma in Europe. ENAR Shadow Report 2007, Bruxelles, European Network Against Racism, 2007, p. 13-15.

[8] Commission européenne Direction générale de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, « La Situation des Roms  dans une Union européenne élargie », op. cit., p.32

[9] ibidem p. 30

[10] DELEPINE S., Habitat et logement des Roms en Europe centrale et orientale. Constats et propositions. UMR ESO 6590, Strasbourg, Conseil de l’Europe, 2006, p. 7-11

[11] LYNCH C., Racism in Europe. ENAR shadow report 2006. Bruxelles, European Network Against Racism, 2006, p.12

[12] MARCHAND A., La protection des droits des Tsiganes dans l’Europe d’aujourd’hui, op. cit. p. 31

[13] CNUEH, 1992 : Global Strategy for the Shelter to the Year 2000 – Improving Shelter – Actions by Non-Governmental Organizations, Nairobi, CNUEH, pp. 1-5

[14] Evaluation d’expert par M. Laco Oravec dans le cadre du projet de l’ERRC/Milan Simecka Foundation/COHRE portant sur les droits au logement des Rom de Slovaquie.

[15] Commission européenne Direction générale de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, Egalité et non-discrimination Rapport annuel 2005, Bruxelles, Commission européenne, p.28

[16]Adresse URL :, dernière date de consultation: 20 mai 2009

[17] European Union, Support for Roma communities in central and Eastern Europe, Bruxelles, Union européenne, p. 6

[18] DELEPINE S., Habitat et logement des Roms en Europe centrale et orientale. Constats et propositions, op.cit. p.11

[19] European Agency for Fundamental Rights, FRA Comparative Reprt on the Housing Conditions of Roma and Travellers in EU Member States, Budapest, European Roma Rights Centre

[20] La Résolution du Parlement européen sur une stratégie européenne à l’égard des Roms, 2008, adresse URL, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[21] Commission européenne Direction générale de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, Egalité et non-discrimination Rapport annuel 2005, op.cit.

[22] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 154

[23] Compte-rendu de l’audition du 29 mai 1991 à Bruxelles sur la situation des Tsiganes et Voyageurs dans la Communauté européenne, Commission des Communautés européennes, 1er juillet 1991, en : Interface, N°7, août 1992, p.15

[24] MARCHAND A., La protection des droits des Tsiganes dans l’Europe d’aujourd’hui, op. cit., p.119

[25] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 171

[26] Commission européenne Direction générale de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, Egalité et non-discrimination Rapport annuel 2005, op.cit., p.173

[27] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 185

[28] Commission européenne Direction générale de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, « La Situation des Roms  dans une Union européenne élargie », op. cit., p. 26

[29] DANBAKLI M., Textes des institutions internationales concernant les Tsiganes, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001, p. 24-25

[30] HALASZ K., The Situation of Roma in Europe. ENAR Shadow Report 2007, op.cit., p.15

[31] Un taux moyen de l’UE ne dépassant pas 10% d’abandons scolaires précoces devrait être atteint, au moins 85% des jeunes âgés de 22 ans dans l’UE devrait arriver au terme du cycle d’enseignement secondaire supérieur, le nombre total des diplômés en sciences devrait augmenter d’au moins 15%, le pourcentage des jeunes  âgés de 15 ans à faible niveau d’alphabétisation devrait baisser de 20% au moins par rapport aux chiffres enregistrés en 2000 à cet égard, le niveau moyen pour L’Union européenne de participation à l’Education tout au long de la vie devrait représenter au moins 12,5% de la population adulte active (groupe d’âge des 25-64 ans) La Situation des Roms  dans une Union européenne élargie » rédigé par la Commission européenne op.cit., p. 21

[32] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 171

[33] Adresse URL, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[34] Adresse URL:, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[35] Adresse URL :, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[36] Albanie, Bosnie-Herzégovine, Bulgarie, Croatie, République tchèque, Hongrie, Kosovo, Macédonie, Monténégro, Roumanie, Slovaquie, Turquie

[37] Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[38] Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[39] Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[40] LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 220-221

[41] Mme Tarja Halonen dans son discours à l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe

[42] Adresse URL :, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[43] Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[44] Les plus importantes sont : OSCE ODIHR, Agence des droits fondamentauc de l’Union européenne, Commission européeene, Conseil de l’Europe, Parlement européen, European Roma Rights Center, Open Society Institute, le Bureau européen d’information pour les Roms, la RomNews Society ; Radio Prague, World Bank, ECMI, Centro Studi Migrazioni, Patrin, Roma Wemen’s initiatives, Social Cultural Foundatin of Rroma « Ion Cioaba », Romani Criss, Fonds pour l’Education des Roms. Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[45] J P LIEGEOIS J.-P., Roms en Europe, op.cit., p. 228

[46] Mme Tarja Halonen dans son discours à l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe

[47] L’accueil par l’ONU de l’Union tsigane internationale en 1979, par l’octroi d’un statut consultatif. Adresse URL :, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[48] Adresse URL : , dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009

[49] BOEV Y., Chapitre L’Union européenne et les Tsiganes : la logique d’un double standard » en DROBENKO B. Territoires et minorités : la situation des gens du voyage, Limoges, Presses Universitaires de Limoges, 2004, p. 73

[50] Emploi, habitat, éducation, santé. LYNCH C., Racism in Europe. ENAR shadow report 2006 , op.cit., p.1

[51] Circulaire qui a été en partie annulée par le Conseil d’Etat, le 19 mai 2008

[52] La Roumanie et la Bulgarie sont en Europe…leurs citoyens également ; Le Conseil d’Etat annule en partie la circulaire sur les Roumains et les Bulgares. Adresse URL : ;, dernière date de consultation 20 Mai 2009

[53] Adresse URL :, dernière date de consultation : 20 Mai 2009