Latest Articles

Seyla Benhabib, Slawomir Sierakowski

Nobody wants to be a refugee

A conversation with Seyla Benhabib

The current crisis is generating the myth of borders as controlled, says Seyla Benhabib. But this is only a myth. It is a fact that states are escaping their obligations under international and European law; while migrants themselves may help keep the social peace between classes. [ more ]

Eurozine Review

If the borders were porous

Sofi Oksanen

A lion in a cage

Jamie Bartlett

Under the radar

New Issues


A2 | 20 (2015)

Sebereflexivní filmy [Self-reflexive films]

Mittelweg 36 | 5/2015

Schwerter zu Pflugscharen - Veteranenpolitik und Wohlfahrtsstaatlichkeit

Esprit | 10/2015

Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

If the borders were porous

"Index on Censorship" compares yesterday's spies with those in the new machines; "Krytyka Polityczna" speaks to Seyla Benhabib; "Kultura Liberalna" detects Soviet heritage in CEE responses to refugee crisis; "Krytyka" reassesses the Europe of rules and the Europe of values; "Fronesis" returns to the origins of the family; "Dziejaslou" tracks down an opposition presidential candidate in Belarus; "Varlik" considers September a troubled month in Turkish history; and "Revista Crítica" critiques progress without development in the Amazon.

Eurozine Review

That which one does not entirely possess

Eurozine Review

A narrative of strength and resilience

Eurozine Review

Still outraged and seeking alternatives

Eurozine Review

Something has to give, soon

My Eurozine

If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Share |

The ugly game

UEFA's recent condemnation of the racist fans of Steaua Bucharest was the most powerful statement ever issued by a European institution against anti-Gypsyism and had a positive echo in the Romanian press. So why do EU bodies fail to take a similar stance?

On 24 September this year, over 30,000 people in the Romanian National Arena, joined by millions more on TV, watched the football match between Steaua and Rapid Bucharest. During the game, over 20,000 people repeatedly chanted, "We have always hated and will always hate the Gypsies." Calls of "die Gypsies" could also be heard throughout the game.

Before the game, the owner of Steaua, Gigi Becali, a member of the European Parliament, had stated that he was not afraid the other team would win since it was a well-known fact that "they drown just before reaching the shore".

The phrase derives from a punishment visited on Roma/Gypsies during the many hundreds of years Roma were slaves of the Romanian aristocrats and the Romanian Orthodox Church. Roma were covered in tar, rolled in feathers and then thrown into a river. Romanian aristocrats would watch them drown while trying to reach the shore. It may also relate to incidents during the Holocaust when Romanian officers shot at boats transporting Roma over the river to Transnistria – many Roma drowned before reaching the shore. Many more died of starvation.

The justification for the lack of official response to these racist chants in past years is that the fans of Rapid are nicknamed "the Gypsies".

However, on this occasion, among the racist banners displayed was one with the text "Respect Eugen Grigore". Grigore was a mass murderer who killed 24 Roma in 1970. In addition, during and at the end of the game, Steaua officials incited the fans to racism and even joined them in their chants.

Throughout September, a number of incidents across Europe demonstrated yet again the appalling levels of anti-Gypsyism prevalent within the European Union. The Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities in Bucharest reported the Romanian incident to the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the OSCE and all intergovernmental bodies that have significant budgets dedicated to addressing Roma issues. We have reported similar or worst incidents in the past.

We also reported it to UEFA, the governing body of European football, and to the Romanian Football Federation (RFF), where we talked to people at the highest level. As soon as they received our report they called us to discuss the next steps. Two days later, the President of the RFF condemned anti-Roma racism in Romanian football in the strongest declaration of its kind ever issued by an influential institution in Romania. It was followed by a letter to the RFF from UEFA President Michele Platini expressing disgust at anti-Gypsyism in Romanian football, a move equally unprecedented at the European level. This was sent on 4 October before a European League game in which Steaua Bucharest were playing, and re-posted the next day on the RFF website – a clear, blunt statement that the RFF is serious about eliminating racism in football stadiums. It was the main subject of debate in the Romanian media the following day and resulted in hours of prime-time discussion on the subject.

According to EU intergovernmental organizations, the elimination of anti-Gypsyism is a priority; all complain about the lack of political will at the level of EU member states. If this is so, an open letter similar to that sent by Platini asking the Romanian Prime Minister to take an unequivocal public stand against such incidents would seem an obvious step on their part. As Platini's letter shows, such statements have the potential to produce a major impact on Romanian society and cost virtually nothing. The millions of euros spent on irrelevant meetings and research at the European level could have been vindicated by a simple letter. The Romanian media is clearly positive about the need to eliminate racist behaviour in the stadiums and the Prime Minister had nothing to lose; such a statement might even have increased his popularity.

The European Commissioner responsible for Roma issues is also responsible for anti-discrimination and justice; the director in charge of anti-discrimination received our report. The Council of Europe has a high representative on Roma issues and the OSCE a senior advisor for Roma and Sinti. The Fundamental Rights Agency spends vast sums on Roma reports and visits to countries to talk about Roma issues. Why did none of these institutions respond to the Steaua Bucharest incident and arguably miss one of the best opportunities they have ever had to push the Romanian political leadership into making a public statement against anti-Roma racism?

Bureaucratic and political careers in all these institutions are not helped by courageous moves targeting change or reform. Diplomacy is often mistaken for cowardice and the institutional logic within such bodies promotes subservience and a culture of zero criticism of the leadership. Critical voices from within and outside are easily subdued. Roma issues are complex and Europe needs to make significant financial and political efforts if it is to solve them; not a popular move nowadays.

The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit, in his argument for a Decent Society as opposed to the Just Society proposed by John Rawls, emphasized humiliation as a significant problem of state institutions when it comes to its vulnerable groups. The reaction of intergovernmental institutions compared with the reaction of UEFA means one of two things: either all these institutions are prime examples of humiliating institutions, or else they struggle with cowardice and incompetence. In either case reform is necessary.


Published 2012-10-16

Original in English
First published in Eurozine

© Valeriu Nicolae
© Eurozine

Focal points     click for more

The politics of privacy
The Snowden leaks and the ensuing NSA scandal made the whole world debate privacy and data protection. Now the discussion has entered a new phase - and it's all about policy. A focal point on the politics of privacy: claiming a European value. [more]

Beyond Fortress Europe
The fate of migrants attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A focal point featuring reportage alongside articles on policy and memory. With contributions by Fabrizio Gatti, Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Leogrande. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in focus
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
Victor Tsilonis
Greek bailout referendum, Euro Summit, Germope
Victor Tsilonis of "Intellectum" (Greece) comments on recent developments in the Greek crisis: the short-lived euphoria of the 5 July referendum, Alexis Tsipras's subsequent "mental waterboarding", and the outlook for a German-led Europe. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Neda Deneva, Constantina Kouneva, Irina Nedeva and Yavor Siderov
Does migration intensify distrust in institutions?
How do migration and institutional mistrust relate to one another? As a new wave of populism feeds on and promotes fears of migration, aggrandising itself through the distrust it sows, The Red House hosts a timely debate with a view to untangling the key issues. [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

Timothy Snyder
Europe and Ukraine: Past and future
The history of Ukraine has revealed the turning points in the history of Europe. Prior to Ukraine's presidential elections in May 2014, Timothy Snyder argued cogently as to why Ukraine has no future without Europe; and why Europe too has no future without Ukraine. [more]

Literature     click for more

Karl Ove Knausgård
Out to where storytelling does not reach
To write is to write one's way through the preconceived and into the world on the other side, to see the world as children can, as fantastic or terrifying, but always rich and wide-open. Karl Ove Knausgård on creating literature. [more]

Jonathan Bousfield
Growing up in Kundera's Central Europe
Jonathan Bousfield talks to three award-winning novelists who spent their formative years in a Central Europe that Milan Kundera once described as the kidnapped West. It transpires that small nations may still be the bearers of important truths. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Law and Border. House Search in Fortress Europe
The 26th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Conversano, 3-6 October 2014
Eurozine's 2014 conference in southern Italy, not far from Lampedusa, addressed both EU refugee and immigration policies and intellectual partnerships across the Mediterranean. Speakers included Italian investigative journalist Fabrizio Gatti and Moroccan feminist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rita El Khayat. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

powered by