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East European Perspectives: February 6, 2002

6 February 2002, Volume 4, Number 3
Multiculturalism In Central Europe: Cultural Integration And Group Privacy (Part III)

By Gabriel Andreescu

3.2 Group Privacy And Integration In The Case Of The Roma
The size of Romania's Romany population is certainly much higher than data from the 1992 census would indicate (409,723). Romany associations usually cite a figure of between 1 million and 2.5 million. A study published in France for the French government also mentions 2.5 million Roma (Benattig, Brachet, 1998). The only figure backed by controlled sociological research is that of the Institute for the Study of the Quality of Life, putting the number at about 1.5 million Roma at the time of investigation (1988).

The current legislative system related to national minorities, based on special measures safeguarding community privacy, seems to be sufficient to cover the needs of Roma. The problems of this community are related on one hand to discrimination, and on the other hand to the community's emancipation through improved representation and greater participation in the sharing of resources. Both fighting discrimination and increasing representation for the benefit of participation in resource-sharing are essentially questions of integration.

It should be noted that the Romanian ethnic majority has never expressed any opposition to Romany privacy. On the contrary, Romanian nationalist forces seem to favor the least possible contact with Roma. Until 1996, there had been tens of cases of expulsion of Romany groups from the villages where they were living. Attitudes favoring segregation -- in schools, residential areas, etc. -- are also very common. This shows that as long as there is no symbolic competition with a minority, the latter's community privacy is welcomed rather than obstructed. There have never been voices fearing a possible "enclavization" of Roma, as was the case with Hungarians. The ultranationalistic forces, such as the chairman of the Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, have gone as far as demanding the internment of Roma to labor camps. In the case of the Roma, then, one faces precisely the reversed situation on refusing integration. It is the ethnic majority that displays opposition. However, pressure exercised by new Romany leaders (whether civic or political) -- and by domestic, pro-democratic, and international forces -- has brought about some improvement.

The post-1996 government ensured for the first time an institutional framework aimed at greater Romany participation. The Department for the Protection of National Minorities (DPMN) and 16 Romany non-governmental organizations (NGOs) acting as a Romany working group signed a partnership protocol to elaborate a national strategy for the protection of Roma, and for the implementation of a program aimed at improving the situation of this minority. A National Office for Roma, functioning within the DPMN, is responsible for establishing and maintaining relations with Romany organizations.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee on National Minorities was set up in August 1998. Its mission is to coordinate and unify state policies aimed at the protection of national minorities, support the DPMN, and devise the national strategy for the protection of national minorities, including one for Romany protection. Under the authority of the Inter-Ministerial Committee, an Inter-Ministerial Sub-Commitee for Roma was established as well, as a mixed body formed of governmental experts and independent experts nominated by Romany NGOs.

In order to grasp the general complexity of the Romany problem and of attempts to cope with it, one may well take the situation in education as a case study. "Only 50 percent of Roma children go to school on a regular basis,... they are not segregated in specialized establishments,... but the prevalence of anti-Roma feeling in schools, and particularly among many teachers, discourages parents from sending their children to school.... Eighty percent of the Roma have no vocational training" (Than rromano, 1999-2000, p. 43). According to 1996 data, of the 70,000 individuals deprived of education, the majority are Roma (Zoon, 2001).

As a result, the Ministry of National Education sought to promote positive discrimination policies and issued directives meant to create the framework for fighting illiteracy. The teaching of Romany in primary schools program began in a few schools in the 1992-93 school year. There are currently 200 Roma and non-Roma teachers (2000-01 school year) teaching Romany as a mother tongue to more than 10,000 students.

As far as the education of Roma is concerned, it should be mentioned that, each year, approximately 150 young Romany men and women benefit from affirmative measures enforced at several Romanian universities. The total figure amounts to approximately 600 Romany university students. But it took very long for legislation sanctioning racial and ethnic discrimination to be enacted (by way of a 2000 Governmental Ordinance), and a National Strategy for Roma was adopted by the Adrian Nastase cabinet only in 2001.

Consequently, Romanian multiculturalism faced strong pressure to integrate the Romany minority. The issue of cultural privacy is hardly ever brought up, although it would not be totally irrelevant. (The tradition of Romany subgroups is to keep girls at home, refusing to send them to school, and to reject family planning). Due to the extreme division of the Romany community, its political power remains insignificant. Therefore, Romany integration is less a function of negotiations between the Romany community and the majority, and more a function of Romanian society's own democratic development. International pressure, Romanian civic organizations for the rights of minorities, and the acknowledgment by public authorities of the fact that overall development is not compatible with the underdevelopment of Roma were the main driving forces behind the progress thus far achieved toward greater Romany integration.

4. 'Polycultural' Societies
But what happens when some groups adamantly refuse integration? The typical case, selected by Will Kymlicka (1995) and others, is that of the Amish community in the United States.

In extreme cases, these groups' community privacy needs to be preserved. This raises the question of the existence or nonexistence of a hierarchy of rights. Professor Ronald Garet, for example, rejects any notion of a hierarchy of rights, stating that individuals, groups, and society all have equal ontological status. A hierarchy of rights, according to Garet, would not adhere to the principle of non-derivability, meaning that the subordination of one level to another would deny its intrinsic value (Garet, 1983). Therefore, the concept and attitude defined above as "multicultural" no longer applies in these circumstances. Here, group privacy amounts to an all-out refusal of integration. Societies facing such questions are no longer "multicultural" but "policultural." The polycultural society should be conceptualized in conjunction with the former (D 1) definition of multiculturalism.

Definition 2: A society is polycultural if a multitude of parallel cultures co-exist within it, the independence of which is acknowledged and accepted as such.

Obviously, in reality in many societies one often encounters mixed instances of both multi- and polyculturalism.

Canada and the United Sates offer classic examples of polyculturalism. In Romania, the issue has been approached only recently. Groups of emigrants sharing a polycultural outlook settled in Romania after 1990. Among them are the Kurds and the Arabs. Their objective is the highest possible degree of community privacy, while any need for integration is ignored. There are about 2,000 Kurds, most of whom enjoy the status of political refugees. In 2000, they demanded that their interests be taken into consideration, including the possible opportunity for their children to benefit from state-sponsored schools in their mother tongue.

The Arab community is primarily a business community of around 20,000 persons, about 5,000 of whom are Romanian citizens. As two-thirds of them are Muslims, the Arabs are promoting a strong Islamic trend. Until today, such cases have not been the subject of analyses, either theoretical or in terms of their practical consequences.

5. A Regional Issue: The Implications On Multiculturalism Of The Act On Hungarians Living In Neighboring Countries
Conceptual distinctions between multiculturalism and polyculturalism, or between integration and community privacy, assume that minorities and the majority shape their relations within the space of the nation, as that latter concept is currently understood in international law, i.e. a people that has concluded the process of self-determination (Andreescu, Weber, 1996). The concept of self-determination assumes that relations among ethnocultural groups making up the nation are determined within the political game of domestic actors. Further along this line, one should also mention the assumption that the domestic political space is sufficiently well "isolated" from external factors. Of course, this isolation is in reality never complete. The very existence of an international law on national minority rights is proof that the influence of the international community is recognized both de facto as well as de jure. However, international influence does not do away with the drawing of domestic borders.

What happens, however, when the very ability to define who the ethnopolitical actors are within a state's internal frontiers is disappearing? The question used to be regarded as purely theoretical; it ceased, however, to be so with the passing of the parliament in Budapest of the Act on Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries. The parliament legitimated the document by referring to the Hungarian state's responsibilities toward Hungarians living outside the borders, as set forth in Article (3), paragraph 6 of the Hungarian Constitution. Further reference was made to the aim of ensuring a special rapport between Hungarians living in neighboring countries and the Hungarian nation as a whole, to the promotion and preservation of the formers' well-being, and to safeguarding their national identity within their home country. The system proposed by the Hungarian authorities raises questions of principle and may have significant effects on the position of minorities in this region. So what is this system all about?

The act covers those persons of Hungarian nationality who are not Hungarian citizens and who reside in the Republic of Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, and Ukraine. Furthermore, it covers the spouse living together with the person identified as a member of the Magyar community, and the children of minor age being raised in the common household. The subjects of the act are entitled to certain forms of preferential treatment and certain kinds of assistance on the territory of the Republic of Hungary, as well as in their permanent place of residence in the above-mentioned countries, under conditions specified in the act.

Persons who wish to receive the preferential treatment and the benefits may request an "identification document" from a Hungarian public administrative organ, assigned by the "evaluating authority" of the government of Hungary. Spouses of non-Hungarian nationality and their children of minor age living in the same household are entitled to a Hungarian Dependent Identification Document. Applicants are required to have a recommendation issued by an organization representing the Hungarian communities in that particular neighboring state, which in turn has to be officially acknowledged by the government of the Republic of Hungary as a recommending organization.

In principle, a "recommending organization" must prove its ability to represent the Hungarian community living in a given country in its entirety. Consequently, the Hungarian state "establishes public law relations with the Hungarians living in neighboring countries" (Provincia, no. 5, 2001). These formal relations define the Hungarian nation in the terms desired by the Hungarian government -- that is, in ethnic terms.

The mechanism developed by the Hungarian government raises a series of problems. Is there always a unique representative organization of the Hungarian community in a particular country? Generally speaking, nothing precludes the existence of several organizations competing for the representation of a community. In this respect, Romania is an exception. In this country, minority organizations are perceived as being in charge of managing two rights enjoyed by the minorities: parliamentary representation and the administration of financial resources allocated by the state for the purpose of protection of minority identity. Yet even in Romania's case, the question remains whether Hungary could not, at a certain point in time, opt for working with another "representative" organization than the one "selected" through the electoral process. It is obvious that Hungary's right to select whatever organization it desires as a "recommending organization" may have a decisive impact upon the relationships among different Hungarian organizations in Romania. Generally speaking, the Act on Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries will be an instrument of influencing the options of the Hungarian minority, thus transforming identity loyalty into political loyalty.

To this, one should add the dangers posed by any collective right that is not subject to limitation when it comes into conflict with individual rights. The administration of the "Hungarian certificate" will be the selected organization's instrument of pressure on members of the Hungarian community. Furthermore, what could prevent the Hungary-based "evaluation authority" from issuing "Hungarian relative certificates" according to its own policy of encouraging the Hungarian identity of children? The evaluation authority could thus have a word to say on family life, for example by promoting language standards for family members. The law responds to the concerns of the Hungarian community, preoccupied by the predominance of Romanian-speaking children in families with one Hungarian spouse.

The above-mentioned issues must all be correlated to the core aspect, namely the act's "spirit" -- in the sense of its being a political project aimed at mobilizing the Hungarian nation. The current international system of national minority protection acknowledges the right to secure free relations between minority individuals from a certain country and their co-nationals overseas. This means that an ethnic dimension is added to the political core of modern international law. It thereby also renders legitimacy to identity loyalty. According to the logic of the current international system, a state's concern for the fate of minorities overseas translates into that state's right to support a fragile community. National feelings are put in the service of individuals -- the members of the minority -- and of the groups needing protection. National feelings are called upon in order to protect rather than mobilize. The existing international system benefits persons. It does not place individuals in the service of the "nation."

The Hungarian act introduces a totally different perspective. National spirit becomes the basis for mobilizing the interests of Hungarians across Central and Eastern Europe. The act makes the "Hungarian nation" in its ethnic sense a subject of international law, thus endangering the logic of constitutional patriotism in neighboring countries.

Under these circumstances, the "integration-community privacy" pair by means of which I sought to define multiculturalism must now read differently. The achievement by the Hungarian minority of its privacy in Romania is an expression of its desire to participate in the "privacy of the Hungarian ethnic nation" in its entirety. It is no longer relevant to talk about the "privacy of the Hungarian minorities in the region" in the sense outlined above.

ccordingly, the question of integrating the minority in the country where it resides will be approached differently as well. To a minority, integration is a precondition for achieving its interests. For that reason, under standard circumstances, integration presumes continuous negotiations between the minority and the majority as subjects that can be both separated and identified with precision. But once a minority steps into public law relations with the kin-state, in addition to public law relations with the state of which it is part, it can no longer be identified with precision by the ethnic majority and it cannot be separated from the nation with which it shares its ethnic identity "as a whole" -- as formulated in the Hungarian act. The minority will thus no longer negotiate with the majority as a well-delimited group, but as a part of the ethnic nation to which it belongs.

This phenomenon is of course not entirely novel. It is a common practice that the "kin-state" interferes in order to obtain adequate status for the minority in question. A classic example in this respect is the special status obtained in the Italian province of Trentino-Aldige by German-speaking persons, following Austria's direct intervention. However, establishing public law relations between Hungary and Hungarians living in neighboring countries turns an informal tradition into a formal one and generates new consequences. Is the "Status Law" not an implicit invitation to neighboring countries to think and define in ethnic terms their own negotiating positions, with the Magyar communities perceiving themselves as part of the "Hungarian nation" in the ethnic sense of the word? If so, what happens then to the neutrality of the state as arbiter? Do not those who argue -- with convincing arguments -- that the state's neutrality is anyhow only an illusion thereby implicitly deny that neutrality should be a norm of international law? The Act on Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries changes the perspective from which the balance between minorities and majorities has hitherto been viewed. Integration and the community privacy, as the poles of reference of multiculturalism, are no longer relevant. The idea of multiculturalism itself is rendered inoperable.

The consequences of the Act on Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries on regional relations and on the life of communities in the region are difficult to foresee. How will these entities -- nations-states and ethnic nations -- interact in the future? Under the current circumstances, there are good reasons to be rather skeptical about this innovation.

6. The Implications Of Europe's Federalization
The potential dangers of the "Hungarian model" could be overcome if the region became integrated in a European Union moving toward federalization. If the sovereign nation-states no longer "administer" individual rights and freedoms (including the status of European citizenship and the principle of equality among citizens, which will fall under federal jurisdiction), the borders of the federate states will no longer be relevant to ethnocultural distinctions. The "peoples" in the initial meaning of the term, that of ethnocultural communities, will no longer be separated by borders into majorities and minorities. Of course, the multicultural communities of Federal Europe within the borders of federate states will administer their life according to specific prerogatives (according to the principle of subsidiarity). However, when a local majority (at the level of a federate state or administrative unit) tries to get an advantage at the expense of other communities (minority groups within the borders of the federate state or administrative unit), justice will be managed at a federal level. At this level, the bias characteristic of nation-states is, in principle, not possible. The choice of adjudicators at a federal level will no longer be the expression of national will.

In this respect, the concept of "national minority" will slowly lose its relevance along with the concept of "national majority" ceasing for all practical purposes to be operational within a federalized Europe. Measures of nondiscrimination and affirmation will, of course, remain necessary instruments for securing de facto equality for various categories of persons. However, they will be mostly motivated by socio-economic dimensions, rather than by the imbalance of power among ethnocultural groups seeing themselves in competition. In turn, the "ethnic nation" desired by Hungarians -- and in fact supported all through the region, also by Romanians -- could develop without the frustration and confusion that seems to have already been created by the Act On Hungarians Living in Neighboring Countries.

7. Conclusions
This paper defined and developed three distinct concepts for the purpose of producing a comprehensive approach to ethnocultural diversity and related issues: multiculturalism as a functional norm; group privacy; and polycultural society. Romania is an example of a multicultural society, with nascent elements of polyculturalism, where the issues of minority integration and community privacy are approached differently, on a case-by-case basis. The two major challenges faced by Romanian multiculturalism are the situation of the Hungarian minority and the Romany problem. In the past 11 years, both communities witnessed a clear evolution in the realm of integration and community privacy. The concepts used in this study lead to the conclusion that one has witnessed in Romania definite progress in implementing "multicultural standards" but, at the same time, that the task of a comprehensive solution to the manifold interethnic relations issues still lies ahead.

(The author, a dissident under the Ceausescu regime, is now director of the Romanian Review for Human Rights.)

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