Developing into equal citizens?


The extreme poverty many Roma experience in Europe sets a dark shadow over the continent considered to have a very high human development index. The contemporary discourse in the EU describes Roma both as a socio-economically disadvantaged group and an ethnically discriminated minority. A number of studies have argued that there is a link between ethnic discrimination and the extreme poverty many Roma experience as citizens in today's Europe. However, the question remains: What are the rationales that the states use to justify this link? In this paper, I argue that local histories show how this link has been perpetuated by the representation of Roma as an underdeveloped minority; such representation has translated into hierarchy of rights according to which Roma would be awarded less rights their fellow citizens belonging to majority population would possess. This paper aims to show there has been a shift to holding Roma responsible for recreating their own position of discrimination and, with it, poverty, instead of acknowledgement that legislation and policies towards Roma contribute to their predicament. Challenging such a position, I look at how minority rights legislation was formulated in two EU Member States,
Slovenia and Croatia (with a common history in Yugoslavia), from Minority Treaties after the First World War to the EU accession processes. While both countries have historically formulated uneven minority rights for Roma, Roma themselves demanded equal citizenship rights at the European Court of Human rights, such as the rights to clean drinking water and the right to education. These rights have been similarly denied based on the perception of Roma as an 'underdeveloped minority.'


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