Basescu denounces Roma bill

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Címkék:  roma, basescu, Tigani
 14th of December 2010   Source: ft.com

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Traian Basescu, the Romanian president, has denounced a bill before the country’s parliament to rename the country’s 1.5m Roma minority internally as “Tigani”, or gypsies, saying he would refuse to sign it into law.

The controversial bill, put forward by Silviu Prigoana, a member of the centre-right PDL party that is the biggest in Romania’s two-party coalition, would ban Romanian institutions from using the word Roma. It would replace it with a word meaning “gypsies”, but which is seen as having negative connotations in Romanian.

“I believe it’s a big mistake, I’ll never promulgate such a law. I’ll send the law back,” Mr Basescu told the Financial Times in an interview. He added that the bill would be a “gesture of rejection”.

The parliamentary bill reflects frustration among many Romanians over the potential confusion between the name of the minority and that of their country.


The Roma name comes from the Roma’s own language and is not linked with Romania, which derived its name from the Roman legions from whom its people and language are descended. Only 1.5m of Europe’s roughly 12m Roma live in Romania.


Roma groups have reacted angrily to the bill, with demonstrations outside the government building in Bucharest. They also addressed a letter of protest to last month’s summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Kazakhstan.


Sociologists had also warned that changing the group’s official name could provoke ethnic tensions within the country.


Mr Basescu had previously been reported by some Romanian media as backing the bill. He reportedly said in October that Romania’s 1995 decision to introduce the Roma term was a mistake.


People close to the president insisted suggestions that he supported the bill were mere supposition, and that Mr Basescu had never had any intention of signing it if parliament passed it. They added that although the bill was authored by a member of one of the coalition parties, the government did not back it.


“Politicians should concentrate instead on creating better educational opportunities and ways in which to show the richness of the cultural heritage of the Roma minority,” Mr Basescu told the FT.


France’s expulsion of thousands of Roma – many of them to Romania – prompted intense international debate earlier this year over how to the deal with the issue of nomadic peoples in a Europe of open borders.


The controversy over the renaming bill comes at a sensitive time for Romania, which hopes to join the Schengen border-free zone next year.


Mr Basescu is concerned that the Roma issue could be used unfairly as a pretext to delay Romania’s entry.


“Simply to put [Roma] on the plane, and to blame Romania and say ‘OK, no access to Schengen due to the Roma minority,’ is not a solution,” Mr Basescu said. “We’d like to cooperate to find a solution together” with other European states, he added.


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