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Roma Movement Tests EU’s Open Borders

November 7, 2011

While the Eurozone trembles and teeters on the brink of chaos with the situation in Greece, another underlying issue continues to challenge the union.  As Roma populations move across EU borders, largely from east to west, some EU countries are challenging the concept of open borders.   Led by France and Italy, they are trying to prevent Roma from entering from other EU states, and once there, trying to force them out.  The  New York times piece below partly explains why this is happening:

Roma, On the Move, Tests Europe’s Open Borders

Since 1993, more and more countries have joined what was then called the European Economic Community.  This form of a common market ensures the free flow of factors of production, including labor.  In other words, workers should be able to move freely about the common market, seeking the best wages.  With the addition of Eastern European countries in recent years, the number of Roma flooding into Western Europe has grown dramatically.   The allure of working in the west is obvious:  significantly higher wages, even if working illegally, and the opportunity to draw on comparatively rich social welfare programs.

  • “There is not much for us in Romania,” she said recently, watching her husband sleep. “And now that we are in the European Union, we have the right to go to other countries. It is better there.”
  • “What you see here these days is terrible conditions,” said Nicolae Stoica, who runs Roma Access, an advocacy group. “They have no hope of getting jobs. If they get 20 euros a month from collecting scrap metal, that’s a lot. How can we tell them not to go to France and beg on the streets?”
  • Twenty-eight Roma residents from Barbulesti were recently expelled from France. Among them was Ionel Costache, 30, who said he would return to France in a week or two.  “My son, who had eye problems, he got a 7,000-euro operation there that he would never have gotten here. And when you don’t have work, you can still eat with their social assistance,” he said. “France is a much better place than Romania.”

France has gone so far as to put Roma on planes, at some considerable expense, and send them back to their home countries.  Some have called the action bigoted, and possibly illegal under EU rules.

Discussion questions:

1.  Is the French deportation of Roma people a justifiable policy?  Explain.

2.  To what degree is this policy a discriminatory one, singling out the Roma rather than other immigrant groups (Poles, Czechs, etc.)?

3.  How does this situation reveal a structural problem with the common market, in that taxes and services are on a national basis, but workers can move to any country?

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana Videanu permalink
    November 9, 2011 3:12 pm

    By definition discrimination is an act of restricting members of one group – in this case from Roma culture – from opportunities that are available to another group – everyone else around the world. The policy is thus discriminatory as it is, as the text says, “trying to prevent Roma from entering from other EU states, and once there, trying to force them out”. This also defies the purpose of a common market, as, by excluding Roma workers, they are also not allowing the free flow of one factor or production – labor. The European Union should therefore act accordingly and stop the forcing out of Roma people.

    • Matei L. permalink
      November 10, 2011 12:30 pm

      I agree that the French discrimination against the Roma population limits their opportunities that are available to everyone else around Europe. i just wanted to add that these measures also limit the possibilities of better wages and therefore a better lifestyle for the Roma people. Everyone in the EU should have equal opportunities no matter where they come from or how they look. i have just one question for you, how does this exclusion of Roma workers affect the labour market in France? what about the French social and political situations?

    • Fanni Csepeli permalink
      November 10, 2011 12:32 pm

      I agree with Diana’s comment. France demonstrates discrimination towards the Roma people by sending them back to their home countries. By doing so, it distracts one of the main purposes of a common market, which is the free flow of all four factors of production. The EU should make sure that the Romas are not discriminated, but they should also make sure that the immigrants would leave their countries with job opportunities. This way, both nations would benefit from the free flow of labour.

  2. Fanni Csepeli permalink
    November 9, 2011 3:31 pm

    In a common market goods and services are traded without tariffs. In addition, the factors of productions flow freely between the member countries. The Roma people’s situation shows the negative effects of the free flow of labour (in this case the Roma labour force) from other countries. The article highlights that Roma flooding has increased drastically ever since the Eastern European countries have joined the European Economic Community. The article describes that some Roma people (from Romania) move to France without having a job, because “begging on the street” is more worth it than working at a Romanian industry. The social public services offer a lot more in France due to its more improved economy. While the common market allows these immigrants to have better lives, they could decrease Romania’s efficiency, because available workforce is leaving the country. Also, it limits France’s efficiency because of the Romas who don’t work, but require the social public services. I believe that there is a strong discrimination demonstrated in this article, because France is sending exclusively Roma immigrants back, while there are many other immigrants in the country with different nationalities and they don’t have to worry.

  3. Matei L. permalink
    November 9, 2011 6:37 pm

    The decision to deport the Roma population from France is clearly a discriminatory one; they decided to single out a race based on skin color, customs, reputation and country of origin. It is stated that in a common market labor can move freely no matter how they look or act; therefor, the actions taken by the French can easily pass the thin border of racism. In modern society, singling out a number of people from a group of immigrants is certain to cause repercussions not only economical but also social and political as well.

    This situation has revealed a clear structural problem with the common market, tax. Romania has one of the highest VAT’s in europe at 24%. Over time, this high tax can drive Romanians to immigrate to countries with a lower VAT such as Spain (18% VAT) or France (19.65 VAT). One solution could be a common VAT throughout the EU in order to avoid immigration in a tax basis.

    • Vlad Radulescu permalink
      November 14, 2011 9:17 pm

      I agree with Matei in the sense that the Romanian government has done little in the past to initiate a set of solutions which might at least soften the impact of a ‘on the move’ population. There is little done to encourage the Roma to integrate in a society which does not really bother to pay attention. I do, however, believe that the Roma are no longer a Eastern European matter. All European countries have now become responsible with these people and should work collaboratively. I do not necessarily believe that a change of VAT would solve the problem, as it will never be solved all of a sudden, but I do think that ignorance will eventually make the situation worse. Not to mention the high birth rate among the Roma, which results in more uneducated EU citizens, then unemployed citizens, and finally a growing problem which creates more quarrel among trading partners.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    November 10, 2011 6:39 am

    The measures of France are very discriminatory. Instead of wasting money to send Romas back to their home countries (where they probably don’t stay for long anyway), the government could set up programs to educate and integrate the Roma immigrants, and instead of making it difficult for Romas to get working permits, they could offer support. This measure is probably more costly than sending the Romas back on planes, but on a long term it will actually solve the problem and the Roma will be able to contribute to the French GDP.

  5. Magdalena permalink
    November 10, 2011 6:40 am

    The measures of France are very discriminatory. Instead of wasting money to send Romas back to their home countries (where they probably don’t stay for long anyway), the government could set up programs to educate and integrate the Roma immigrants, and instead of making it difficult for Romas to get working permits, they could offer support. This measure is probably more costly than sending the Romas back on planes, but on a long term it will actually solve the problem and the Roma will be able to contribute to the French GDP.

    • Diana VIdeanu permalink
      November 10, 2011 12:38 pm

      I completely agree to Magdalena’s point of view. The goverments could spend their money on something else than just buying airplane tickets for people that would eventually come back. This is simply disrespectul to Romania and to the poeple themselves. More than that.. poeple around Europe are judging the entire population of Romania based on this problem and our reputation is going down… soon enough Romanian citizens will not be allowed to travel around countries like France or Italy that are discriminating.

  6. Darius Madadi permalink
    November 10, 2011 12:50 pm

    I believe that this is completly unacceptable. In my oppinion the French government should be able to take measures to encourage the Roma population in France to leave, such as paying them to leave. However i do not believe that they should have the permission to place them on planes and deport them. How does the French government manage to place the Roma people on the plane without their concent. I’m nearly sure that there are some human rights laws broken by the French in deporting the Roma, and i think the activities of the French should be frownd upon by other countries in the EU who have not taken such drastic measures against the Roma.

  7. Radu Timis permalink
    November 10, 2011 5:45 pm

    This is obviously a discrimnatory policy and should not be tolerated because it defies the common market purpose and in the same time is viewed negatively by many other states. The EU is trying to force the Roma people to leave because of the fact that most of them do not have a job, they prefer to beg and apply to the local social assistance which is indeed something unnacceptable and unfair for the French who may not be willing to pay from their own pockets to help these immigrants, and in the same time those who have jobs work illegaly and do not bring any benefit to the French goverment since their revenues aren’t taxed or taken any record of. The French government for example could have utilized the money spent on sending them away in special programs that could provide them with an education or integrate them in specific jobs, even if payed at a very low-level which would have still been better than working in Romania.

    • Darius Madadi permalink
      November 13, 2011 2:35 pm

      I agree with Radu, it is only logical that the French population who work and pay taxes would be upset that money that should be used to make their lives better are being used to fund both the extradition of the Roma back to Romania or that the money is being given to the Roma in the form of social services. Especially since the Roma do not tend to work, they are just leeching off the French government. However it is not normal for the French government to send them back to Romania, they have the right to stay in France and now human rights laws should be broken to keep them out of France. As Radu said it would have been much more efficient if the French government would have set up a program to help the Roma integrate into the country and find places to work.

  8. Bana permalink
    November 10, 2011 8:19 pm

    In a common market goods and services are traded without tariffs. In addition, the factors of productions flow freely between the member countries. The Roma people’s situation shows the negative effects of the free flow of labour (in this case the Roma labour force) from other countries. The article highlights that Roma flooding has increased drastically ever since the Eastern European countries have joined the European Economic Community. The article describes that some Roma people (from Romania) move to France without having a job, because “begging on the street” is more worth it than working at a Romanian industry. The social public services offer a lot more in France due to its more improved economy. While the common market allows these immigrants to have better lives, they could decrease Romania’s efficiency, because available workforce is leaving the country. Also, it limits France’s efficiency because of the Romas who don’t work, but require the social public services. I believe that there is a strong discrimination demonstrated in this article, because France is sending exclusively Roma immigrants back, while there are many other immigrants in the country with different nationalities and they don’t have to worry

  9. Bana permalink
    November 10, 2011 8:41 pm

    I agree with the comments posted above. Though, we have to keep in mind that unfortunately, the Roma are also discriminated in Romania as they are not offered the chance to work or raise money for their families. This encourages the Roma to flee the country to look for better opportunities. The European Union as a common market opens up doors for free flow of factors of production; one of the components being labor and also goods and services are traded without any tariffs. The French and the Italians were one of the first nations that took part in establishing the EU. The French government let image control their thoughts. The dark skinned and diverse cultured ethnic group triggered the French to discriminate the Roma population within France. The French have this idea that the Roma do not want to work but it is for that reason they left Romania. The French government should channel their attention on ways to improve this situation by possibly offering the Roma jobs that necessitate little skill or by implementing an educational system within their community. Personally, I also believe that the French government should change the thoughts of the French population (even though it may be difficult) by making the people of France understand that the Roma have the right to integrate within their country.

  10. Andrei Avram permalink
    November 10, 2011 9:31 pm

    French discrimination against Roma is clearly not a politically justifiable policy. Under the rules and regulations of a common market like the EU, all citizens should have the right to move around freely in search for better wages. Though the Roma are spread around EU countries they are still part of the Union. The signaling out of Roma is based on the stereotypical view of this group of people. This view presents the Roma as dirty, lazy and as having criminal intent. Clearly this is not true for all members of the Roma population. The laws of the Common Market are also broken as the Roma’s(part of the labor market) are not allowed to travel freely in search for higher wages.

    As several people pointed out the stereotypical view on the Roma population is making other countries adopt a hostile attitude towards Romania. Many people often confuse and associate Romanian’s with Roma’s. While the two are closely linked in ancestry, they are not entirely the same. The hostility felt against the Roma is thus projected on the Romanian’s as well;to an alarmingly dangerous level.

  11. Mike G. permalink
    November 11, 2011 6:44 am

    The French deportation of the Roma is justifiable. It is true that the European Economic Community is a common market which should let the exchange of labor force free. But in this situation, there isn’t a discussion about labor. It’s also true that some of the Roma are working legally, but the great majority of them works illegally, or don’t work at all, they beg and steal. French jails are full of Roma people, who are mostly Romanian or Bulgarian citizens. They say they don’t have work, and live off social benefits. France should not be responsible for the welfare of foreigners. There is unemployment among the French people, as the Roma work illegally for much lower prices, leaving the legal workers out of jobs. The degree is not discriminatory, as Polish and Czech people go to the West to actually work legally. The crime rate among them is very low, they don’t cause problems, and they are a benefit for the society. This reveals the fact that there are major problems with the common market, as any workers can move to any country within the common market, but they take advantage of the services offered by other countries, and they have to pay the taxes that other countries have, which they sometimes choose to avoid, by working illegally.

  12. Efim Leonov permalink
    November 14, 2011 9:45 am

    The deportation of the Roma from France is ethically not a justifiable policy. The rules of eurozone include the Common Market agreements which dictate that the flow of factors of productions i.e: land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship is free. This therefore signifies that technically, Roma population is able to travel freely form Romania to France without being discriminated. However, the factors can be managed by the union countries and if the France so desires, it can negotiate the aspects of the agreement of the common market. To this extent, the policy can be justified however a very discriminatory one. France didn’t take into account the fact that the Roma population can actually help to boost their domestic economy with cheap labor, especially when the immigrants are speaking nicely of France and are willing to put their effort into being a part of the French society and its economy. The only problem that is seen with the common market is the fact that taxes are on a national basis whereas the flow of factors of production is free. It may be one of the reason for migration. Romania’s VTA is much higher than that of France, it is around 24% in comparison to France’s 19%. The lower tax pressure increases the level of disposable incomes of the Roma population. The next step in economic integration (Monitary Union) would eliminate this problem due to a common currency and common IR.

  13. Vlad Radulescu permalink
    November 14, 2011 9:03 pm

    Without surfing too deeply into mathematics, I believe the Roma issue which still haunts the gates of European nations is another observation of the Game Theory. In other words, if we consider the Roma as a negative externality, at least viewed so by some of the most influential players within the EU (France), we can judge that moving this externality from one door to another means that you carry it with you on and on, without actually solving it. Eventually, it gets worse. The Roma are still there, and are very unlikely to vanish if the French are so gentle as to even provide a free 3 hour plane trip from ‘paradise’ to the ‘inferno’ (Romania) without slamming the door shut at the arrival. Whether we like it or not, the Roma are EU citizens, and have the right to be respected and judged as any other. I do not necessairly believe that this is a structural problem, because the point of opening the borders, like any other good or service, is to allocate scarce resources in the most effective way. Theoretically, a high-tech Romanian genius might not only be better off, but also help humanity more by moving to a country which provides better equipment, say Germany. While the question of cultural preservation for that individual might be open to discussion, the Roma do not have that issue. Ironically, they are much more profitable to be integrated in a long term (but not in the short term). This is why I believe that passing the bad from one player to another is a malfunctioning domino effect of more protectionism towards a potentially profitable foreign low-wage working class. It is easy to point fingers as to who threw the ball and broke the window, but much harder to assume the responsibility and buy a new glass. This is why the Game Theory points out that the way the Roma are being handled at this moment is, sadly, the worst decision to be possibly made.

  14. November 15, 2011 9:19 am

    Personally, after being familiar with the Roma issue for so many years, I no longer mind the French deportation of Roma people. What the French government is doing is not only acceptable, but completely understandable. One government should not be legally obliged to offer welfare to an illegal people, simply because they do not like their living conditions in their home country. However, I believe that the French and Romanian government should discuss this issue together and settle for a compromise, as, unless this happens, the policy can be considered a discriminatory one. The main cause of the Roma immigration is clearly the joblessness that they face in Romania. However, it is noteworthy that unemployment is a problem in all Romania and the only reason why the Roma people have less jobs than Romanians is that the Roma people are less educated. I believe that this situation reveals a problem with the world’s economic structure, as taxes and services should be universal in order to make emigration an easier process.

  15. Akshay permalink
    November 16, 2011 9:16 pm

    This is quite a clear example of how economic integration does not always work, or rather is not always considered a good thing. In this case, the concept of the common market is put to the test: the Roma population of Romania, essentially part of the labor force, should ideally be able to flow freely through EU borders as the common market opens up easy access to land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship; however it is clearly shown that this is not the case. The French government is essentially trying to close doors to the flood of the Roma population entering. Be it a discriminatory problem or not, it does suggest that a sense of nationalism may stand in the way of a true common market. In this case, although there are also Czechs and Poles in France freely, they are not kicked out. The reason behind this may as well be that the French can easily go work in the CR or Poland and that too happily, however doing so Romania all though possible, would not be ideal, clearly shown by the fact that the Roma population is leaving Romania due to discrimination and on top of that impoverished conditions compared to the CR and Poland for example; the French may just feel that Romania is dumping unwanted labor at their doorstep and nobody from France would want to ‘return the favor’.

  16. Nele Schuldt permalink
    November 17, 2011 10:19 am

    The roma population has its root of the problem from being a ‘foreigner’ in any country. Their nomad lifestyle and the hatred towards this minority have caused Roma to be unwelcome in every country. Romanians strongly separate themselves from the Roma, wheres Roma in countries such as France and Italy are complete foreigners. However due to the European Union free trade, movement across borders becomes easier. Yet Roma get expelled and deported- sent back to a country that is also reluctant to deal with a full integration problem. The joining of Romania and other Eastern European countries have enabled Roma to move freely amongst other European member countries, thus becoming a labor force that flows easily from one country to another. To some extent, it is discriminatory that France kicks Roma out, yet the illegal aspect of workers understandably needs measures to prevent that. The average French tax payer is obviously unwilling to pay for an illegal immigrant that benefits greatly from better health care. However the open border rule needs to be respected by all and that includes letting Roma move around freely. My personal belief is that this issue will never be solved unless both sides become more cooperative in that education is enforced amongst Roma and discriminatory views are revalued amongst European countries.

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