Tag Archives: Romania

Europe’s Constitutional Law in Times of Crisis: A Human Rights Perspective

In this paper, we aim to survey representative constitutional amendments in the European Union’s (EU) area, whether attempted or accomplished, as well as significant adjudications by constitutional bodies. Then, we proceed to assess these legal phenomena in light of human rights jurisprudence. Pivotal reference in our work is the recently released 7th volume of the Annuaire international des droits de l’homme (Athens: Sakkoulas, December 2014), edited by G. Katrougalos, M. Figueiredo and P. Pararas under the aegis of the International Association of Constitutional Law. Not only does this volume comprise the work of some of Europe’s noted constitutionalists, it also addresses the constitutional matters central to this paper in light of human rights jurisprudence, which is the area of expertise of one of the paper’s authors, i.e. Ágúst Þór Árnason, and the area that the other author, Giorgio Baruchello, has construed axiologically as a pivotal instantiation of civil commons, i.e. “all social constructs which enable universal access to life goods”. Have European constitutions continued to function qua civil commons in the crisis years? That, at the deepest level of value scrutiny, is the question that our joint survey and analysis aim to answer.

Continue reading Europe’s Constitutional Law in Times of Crisis: A Human Rights Perspective

A note on the forthcoming volume “Romanian – Moroccan Forms of Manifestation in the European Space”




Both Romanian and Moroccan spaces resonate in an un-syncopated way, after more than half a century’s worth of diplomatic relations; as for the political, touristic and economic (inter)related connections, these are considered, without reservation, excellent (both by bilateral factors and at the level of international organisms – a reality confirmed by their Excellencies Ambassador Simona Corlan Ioan and Ambassador Faouz El Achchabi, and expressed as such in their Conference locutions).


Stimulating a re-appraisal of tradition and intensifying the political dialogue, with the explicit intention of amplifying economic-cultural ratios (with superior valences conferred by the position both states are assuming inside their respective regions: Romania, as member of the European Union, and the Kingdom of Morocco, as an EU privileged partner) is underlined by the exemplary status of architectural formulas describing an interchanging place/circulatory space (culturally-economic or politically-diplomatic).


All these aspects are offering a propensity for axial coordinates of European-ism and European(ity), while at the same time proposing solutions, openings and innovative strategies.


In this spiral one cannot ignore the even episodic-concerted action of (re)affirming multiculturalism and multilingualism, still maintained as an ego-political reality. Symbolic elements are reloaded and re-integrated by the “Maalouf Commission” amongst whose artisans one can recognize, as an inspiring/counseling factor of European strategy, both the political man, and the writer/artist/ cultural man as such.

Hence the non-incidental option, which banks upon political and cultural-artistic templates of manifestation inside European space, as a complementary mod(ality) of translating of/by texts/studies/interventions/ presentations (or virtual ones) which use both English language as a synchronizing formula for/in the idiomatic mode of global(izing) research, and French language, as a chance for harmonizing intercultural horizons/spaces.


Re-anchored inside European space, the conference’s main objective was to establish the tension impact of space upon place, received and interpreted as a complex and complete occurrence, propagated from/within (remnant) inherited connections, easy to understand through an acceptance of modernity’s crisis symptoms, manifested both inside the hard bench-marks of space and/in geography’s relativistic capacity to offering re-vitalize/recompose itself.


The interventions proposed an elucidation of the term space, perceived as an abstract entity (acknowledging variables in distance, direction, size, form, volume) detached from any material form/formula or cultural interpretation; and of the concept of place, seen as a space vector for unique assemblies of things, meanings, values, practices, people, objects and representations.


Connected to these constantly confirmed and affirmed ideas, the conference both illustrated and offered arguments for the same problems which diplomacy reiterates as an essential(izing) score recaptured in/through political stability- favorable climate- belonging to the Francophone space – by re-evaluating through actualization and/or data adjustment historically-verified elements/effects; a clarifying space/place relationship accenting political forms of manifestation within European space and cultural-artistic experiences/experiments.


The tri-phased arguments supporting the theme/texture of certain panels take into account the fact that Romanian – Moroccan relations can (also) offer a circuit/alternative for solving implicit spikes/pulses of the European crisis.


Interventions by Professors and Researchers – Ian Browne, François Bréda, Ana Maria Negoita, Abdelmjid Kettioui implicitly clarify the terminology of tradition as mode of constructing identities, where the locale is accepted/perceived as both an accompanying state and a possibility of transcending space, as a synapse through which Eliza Raduca comments upon the resonating mode status of place in/at Francophone space.


The analysis is completed by studies which narrow the modes of construction for place/space, accenting significances expressed by explanatory/clarifying terms of societas/ communitas architecture with reflections in concepts such as faith, myth, time, identity, urbanization or international community.


With the absolutely necessary mention that the multi-focal method was applied/approved in its entirety during the present endeavor – either by the approach, trans-focalization or even the apparent detachment needed for a (re)placing of the proposed themes within context – through a mechanism of relating.


Romania and Morocco maintain a common place of contacts and periodical-institutional meetings, specific for political-diplomatic relationships situated within traditional lines and continuously confirming their given title of best connections.


The specific subject was presented using both geo-political and geo-poetical instruments, by Researchers such as Željko Mirkov, Lucian Jora, Adina Burchiu, Cristina Arvatu Vohn, Henrieta Serban, Abdelaziz El Amrani, Marouane Zakhir, Layachi El Habbouch or Monaim El Azzouzi, who suggest new harmonizing perspectives while noting that such an approach repositions both Romania and Morocco within a place resonating with European space, with its stages and layers accepting of inventories/ shelved materials which can be used as reference points/strategies and intersecting modes, and also as political and cultural-diplomatic instances.


A space of experiments and Romanian – Moroccan cultural-artistic experiences resonates with a certain periodicity and accepts traditions which, reclaiming their perennial values from the directions traced by the Governmental Agreement for Cultural Collaboration (1969) is stimulated by new opinions, perspectives and approaches.


This sequencing only confirms that the angle of investigation/research is imposed by dynamic space bolsters, and impossible to separate from post-modern globalizing tendencies as translated in a new reading of Mohammed Al-Sadoun’s The Freedom Monument; unable not to maintain the relationship between images (Valentin Trifesco) – narrative/diarium/journey (Carmen Burcea) – or a symbology of the veil (Claudia Moscovici).


Such a dynamic ”trajectory” certifies all Michel Deguy-ian (Franta / România [France/ Romania], in Secolul 21, no. 1-6, 2009, pp. 316-318) assertions in the sense of a mediating association between two terms equally involved in a perspective-changing relationship (either volitional or involuntary, by referencing a changing World/Europe) and re-computing the horizon (with all its hesitatingly-skeptical or apocalyptic- favorable premonitions): the Romania-Morocco relationship positional handles any particularizing immediacy of an universally-mediated Europe.


On the basis of these opinions one can signal the tri-phase force effect already announced, with concluding notes in re-assessing a report which does not reclaim hierarchies and does not articulate the statute of any device.


Considering than any account implies a multiplication of dimensions accepting both essentialization and selection depending on certain intensified-effect building materials, any places of rest found when traveling through space determine their own transformation, by ensuring co-participation and offering a chance for an inventory of opportunities while at the same time indicating an act of establishment concerning their own selves (far from the traps of quantification or any pretensions of exhausting the theme).


Certainly, the Romanian – Moroccan project will be also materialized and finalized by the publication of a collective volume, thanks to the constantly-revived contact with a significantly-interesting part of the Moroccan scientific community (a relationship proved also by the presence of Moroccan community representatives in Romania during the Conference) with whom we have harmonically agreed upon inexhaustible thematic convergence nodes/places and kaleidoscopic formulas of attracting/bringing together subjects deploying from this common option.


Florian Vetsch (Tanger Trance, Bern, Sulgen, Zürich, 2010) geo-temporally comments upon the consequences of a tristesse européenne (in its nostalgia-filled, recovering mode) by appealing to a differentiated mode of partitioning time – the two-hour time-lag between Morocco and Europe. One can also consider a qsim – intensified relationship, in the sense in which any Moroccans doing business with Europe have to wake up very early in the summer, and presentified by the fact that, only in Tangier, ntina signifies an undifferentiated identity, in the sense of that societas/communitas; a cultural node, unraveled by the great story-teller Jilala- Mohammed Mrabet, whose identity was doubted by Tahar Ben Jelloun who considered him to be just a Bowles-ian fiction. Inside amplified/accompanying space considered to be the opening place of the book Sacred Night by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Noaptea sacra [The Sacred Night], Art Publishing House, Bucharest, 2008), the state of the place chapter traces, inside the commenced and abandoned story, a sliding state for a storyteller devoid of memory (but not of imagination) as a builder of central point’s aiming towards complete possession of the market, in the sense in which no one was allowed to leave Bushaib´s circle. The annotated place in the perspective of an apparently closed circle suffers from the immobile equivalents of a space where nothing changes, and everything stays (remains) as it was first created, being subjected only to outside assault, as a competitive chance of both meeting and conflict. “I had reached Marrakesh the previous night, determined to meet the storyteller who had been bankrupted by telling my story”.


Both the conference and the on-publishing volume aim to be an (inter)relational approach-investigation of the idea that place and space adjusting re-compute time, with harmonizing identities impossible to separate from the narrative formulations which exist and relate themselves to each other.


Transposed in the spirit of the common Romanian – Moroccan archi-text, within the score of multiculturalism and multilingualism (an objective achieved also through the implication of the Center for Philological and Intercultural Research of the Letters and Arts Faculty, “Lucian Blaga” University- Sibiu, through its director, Gheorghe Manolache) one can agree upon our collective involvement in launching a common idiom which propagates the idea that everyone has the possibility of acceding to the three dimensions of communication, through language: autochthonous (maternal), allogenous (paternal) and the third, as complementary as an European-izing intersection.


In the act of initiation, Christopher Columbus was showing his Master the Sea, which included the Earth from a Pole to another, the boundless space, the one which once was the Garden of the Hesperides. A possible compass would indicate the extreme Western of the Mediterranean Sea, in the nearby paternity of Atlas Mountains, maybe in Tangier, to the edge of the Ocean: it is a tempting invitation (operated both by the conference and volume) to sail into a space where apples of immortality are still growing!




* The present material is organized as an introduction to the forthcoming volume including the interventions presented at the International Conference “Romanian – Moroccan Forms of Manifestation in the European Space, organized by the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, 9-10 April 2014.


**As a director of the project and coordinator of the volume, I would like to address with deference, my gratitude for all the support to Professor and Researcher, Director of the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations, Dan Dungaciu and to Historian and Researcher, Stelian Neagoe. Also my truly thanks for their effort, work and constant collaboration to Researcher Ana Maria Negoita and to Researcher and Translator Ian Browne. I would like also to mention the effective help and effort of Daniela Paul and Emilian Popa.

Duncan Light, The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania (London: Ashgate, 2012)

The dilemma in the book’s title deals with whether Romania should embrace a globally known literature character for tourism marketing, whilst this character is usually perceived in Romania as an affront to history with an impact on Romania’s image as a modern nation. The purpose of the book is not to solve the dilemma but to provide a cultural and historical insight of the Dracula tourism phenomenon. Moreover, the book succeeds in the both the political and historical contextualization of Dracula tourism as it has been operated from its inception in the 1960s till today.

The book is divided in 8 chapters, each of them acting as a stepping stone to a better understanding of the circumstances of Dracula tourism development in its home country, Romania. The analysis is well documented, although the author stated there was a shortage of primary documentary sources, so that he had to use a combination of secondary documentary sources and interviews with the key stakeholders involved in Dracula tourism.

The first chapter presents a conceptual research framework about the relationship between tourism and nation’s identity on the one hand and tourism and literature and film on the other hand. In this context the author places Dracula tourism within the concept of “screen tourism” instead of “film tourism”.

Chapter two presents the fiction of Dracula by describing the character of Bram Stoker’s novel and the place unarguably connected with him, namely Transylvania viewed from a dual perspective: in the Western culture and in Romania.

Chapter three delves deeper into the foundational myths upon which Stoker’s fictional character builds. The so-called “historical Dracula” Vlad the Impaler, the ruler of the Principality of Wallachia and a significant figure in the Romanian Middle Age history, presumably is the origin of the name of Bram Stoker’s vampire.

Chapter four enters into the Romanian realities of the socialist period, providing a good tourism policy analysis and what Dracula tourism meant for the communist authorities of Romania in the second half of the 20th century.

Chapter five focuses on three places that are competing to become Dracula’s castle, although this castle only existed in Bram Stoker’s imagination: Bran Castle, Poienari Citadel and Tihuta Hotel in Bargau (Borgo) Pass.

The following chapter deals with the Dracula tourism in the new political context of Romania, called “post-socialist”, the period from the 1990’s close to the current days. A different political context occurred with a shift from state to private sector involvement in Dracula tourism.

A special analysis for this period is separately presented in chapter seven. It deals with what was meant to be “Dracula Park”, considered by the author to be “one significant attempt by the Romanian state to exploit the commercial possibilities of Dracula” (p. 136). The rise and fall of this state project is critically examined in the chapter.

The book ends with the author’s conclusions on what the future might include concerning Romania’s “unwanted” Dracula problem.  Romania could continue to ignore it or take advantage of Dracula tourism for its own benefit, finding a strategy that would meet the demand for such form of tourism but make a clear distinction between the fictional character and the historical character.


Overall, the book provides a thorough assessment of Dracula tourism in Romania and covers mainly the period from the mid 1960’s up to the present days. Actually, one can notice that the period is associated with the great development of tourism not only in Romania but also worldwide. Therefore, the study of Dracula in Romania before mid-1960 is rather scarce. There are only a few facts presented along with some assumptions of the author. I would argue that the author could have delivered more information about Romania’s tourism policy and development during the interwar period also, although one can hardly find any evidence of Dracula tourism in that period. Not to forget that Dracula was also famous back then in the Western world, although to a lesser extent, and this might have played some role in the “scene setting”, so to speak, of later years.

Another practical critique refers to chapter five, “Fiction, History and Myth at Dracula’s castles” which is placed between the analysis of Dracula tourism in the socialist period and the analysis in the post-socialist period. This can somehow make a break in the analysis of Dracula tourism in Romania. Instead, I view this chapter to be better placed after chapter six as it is a particular issue in the analysis. Moreover, identifying Dracula places in chapter five would have required an approach not limited to the socialist period. This is justified by the fact that the last part of the sixth chapter (p. 128-134) also discusses each of the locations which compete for “Dracula’s castle” in the post-socialist period. Maybe this last part of the sixth chapter should have been an extension of chapter five in order to ensure continuity in analysis.

The author is familiar with Romania’s realities and this is evident throughout the book. The reader will have the chance to discover in a gradual manner what Dracula is about and how Romania has been coping with this legend both in the past and in the present. This book can serve as a guide in approaching Dracula tourism as a distinct type of cultural tourism, so anyone interested in this subject can benefit from the author’s research. As a methodical analysis of Romania’s dilemma regarding the capitalization of Dracula for tourism without compromising the history and the image of the country, this book succeeds in enhancing the debate and I do recommend this book.


William C. Prevette, Child, Church and Compassion: Towards Child Theology in Romania (Oxford: Regnum, 2012)

Faced with a deteriorating economic situation during communist rule, Romanian couples increasingly decided against having children to avoid the financial burden. Ceaucescu attempted to reverse the ensuing population decline by banning abortion and imposing heavy taxes on the childless. A pattern emerged. Couples would have as many kids as possible to avoid the tax. But with inadequate means for their support, tens of thousands of children per annum (p. 68) were abandoned, left to rot in a clandestine system of medical facilities or to a brutal life on the streets. The growing crisis was kept under wraps until Ceau?escu’s execution in 1989; when its scope became general knowledge, Western humanitarian aid agencies, with little understanding of the cultural, political, and ethnic sensitivities in Romania, rushed to provide help. A subset of these agencies, evangelical Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs after NGOs), saw a further, spiritual need in the fall of communism. They entered Romania both to respond to children in crisis and to spread the Gospel.


While the bulk of Child, Church and Compassion analyzes the relationships between FBOs and local Romanian evangelical churches in cooperative efforts to respond to the Romanian child crisis, neither FBO/church relations nor children is what the book is about. (So, if you’re after an account of the Romanian child crisis, keep looking.) It is, rather, a work of child theology and what I’ll call—to distinguish it from other forms of holism—“missiological holism” that uses the Romanian child crisis as a backdrop.


Child theology takes the child to be an indicator or pointer to the Kingdom of God. By placing the child “in the midst” (from Matthew 18, it’s a slogan for the movement) of theological consideration, practitioners gain a perspective from which to do theology. Note well, however, that while child theology gives the child a central place, its goal is an understanding of the Kingdom. It is not primarily directed to the child; it is directed at the Kingdom through the child.


Missiological holism is intended to counteract dualism. Mission can fail in one of two directions: it can be “vertically” (p. 263) oriented towards eternal salvation, an approach that tends to ignore material, psychological, and social needs, resulting in instances of “transactionalism” (p. 222), the economic exchange of conversion for aid; or, it can be “horizontally” (p. 264) focused on material, psychological and social needs, while neglecting the religious dimension of mission, sometimes resulting in “managerial missiology” (p. 39), no different from atheist interventions. The claim of missiological holism is that the proper disposition is one that attends to both the vertical and horizontal dimensions in unison.


Evangelical churches, isolated from larger Romanian society and the global Christian community during the communist era, tended to be insular and “vertical.” Pastors were perplexed about why at-risk children should be their concern, were resistant to sharing scarce resources with those outside of the community of believers, and were distrustful of other organizations. FBOs, on the other hand, tended to be “horizontal.” They incorporated the methods of the social sciences, operated in the same way as secular humanitarian aid agencies (NGOs), and focussed on providing interventions directly to individual at-risk children. Because of their opposing prejudices, the initial meeting of FBOs and churches was typified by misunderstanding, mistrust, and misallocation of resources. Only those FBOs and churches that embraced the tensions at play had a measure of success in overcoming them.  


From the analysis of FBO/church relations, two conclusions are given. The first is that mission should not aim at the unilateral transformation of those in need, but at the dialectical transforming of all involved. A holistic approach does indeed attend to the child’s spiritual and bodily needs, but it also involves the metamorphosis of the family, the local church, the broader community, the intervener, and the aid agency. The second is that sin and failure are permanent features of work with children in crisis, and should be expected mission outcomes. What this indicates is that the Kingdom of God likewise includes sin and failure—it encompasses a fallen world.


Theological matters aside, Bill Prevette, the book’s author, is a missionary and child advocate, who has spent the last thirty years helping children in crisis in North America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. He is on faculty at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, and is a board member of several international Faith-Based Organizations. Child, Church and Compassion is his Ph.D. dissertation. It is the result of a field-research project carried out from 2002-2008, while Dr. Prevette was working directly with FBOs, local churches and at-risk children in Romania. The book is an excellent account of complex frontline missionary work that only someone with years of practicing in situ, and with the particular connections its author has, could give. Although it is set in an idiosyncratic time and place, the book’s key insights are generalizable. It contains a myriad of useful bits of practical wisdom that would be of benefit to novice missionaries and humanitarian aid workers.


As mentioned, the book was written as a dissertation. The problem is that it reads like one. Chapter 4, for instance, discusses research methods in great detail, which may be an important thing to do in a dissertation, but seems out of place in this book. Moreover, a few grammar and syntax errors are to be expected in a work of this length. But there are numerous and persistent mistakes throughout, many of which are egregious (see the title of Chapter 6 for an example). Editorial scrutiny should have remade the dissertation into something more of a book and eliminated most of the simple mistakes prior to publication.


Katy Fox, Peasants into European Farmers? EU Integration in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (Zurich: LIT Verlag, 2011)


This phrase is used as a motto also by the author, Kathy Fox, in her investigation (p. 39) and I consider it most appropriate for numerous reasons. It applies also to the tremendously slow pace of change, seeming to remain ‘frozen in the project’, within the Romanian countryside. 


This volume takes the term ‘peasant’ seriously as a ‘source of significant economic difference’ (p. 41) and investigates how far the Romanian peasant, caught in transition, is from this status. This book is the result of a year-and-a-half ethnographical research into the European agricultural integration in the Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The study succeeds to discuss the European agricultural policies, while identifying interesting correlations between practices and personhood.  EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is analysed in terms of policies, elites, but mainly livelihood possibilities of the peasants. The realities of Romanian peasantry’s life (related to the subsistence farms and peasant households) are confronted with the “intelligible, efficient, standardized and commensurable” profile of the EU model.


The effort to surprise the local colour and to reach the essence is substantial: quickly going through the “Glossary” one can easily understand the varieties and the depth of the conversations with the local peasants. The list of acronyms, measurements and the schematics of the Agricultural Institutions in Romania are indicators of the analysis with the consciousness of the policy and local particularities, within households and inter-households, following cooperation, exchange and kinship.


Relating ‘modernity’, ‘progress’ and ‘civilisation’ with ‘transition’, the complexity of the status of peasant and the threat of marginalisation are unveiled. EU integration is seen also as Enlightenment epistemology and as a neo-liberal process of social and economic alignment in the implementation of common legislation. The analytic direction is to assess what persons are produced by the neoliberal project and how resilient are the manoeuvres of resistance (or compliance) in the long run. “Through the [modernization] project, an epistemology of colonisation is deployed: the expert subject creates an object of transformation, the peasant, which is diagnosed to be in need to change.” (p. 97) But within the particular Romanian context, this change intended by the elites is undermined by the weakness of the information vector – the “object of transformation” is not object of information too. “Generally, the institutions in formation in charge of CAP implementation were not well versed on how to get the ‘information’ to their ‘target audience’. The Ministry of Agriculture, it was often said, was one of the most ‘closed’ ministries in Romania, where little ‘reform’ had happened during the 1990s, and where procedures were very slow to be adapted to the new European framework.” (p. 97-98) Even the specialists have sometime a hard time dealing with the confusion and secrecy surrounding the details of the policies and regulations. Indeed, Romanian agricultural bureaucracy in charge with this modernisation lives off secrecy and manages ignorance very well to its own advantage (cf. Weber).


The study addressed also the orientation and effects of CAP in Romania. Kathy Fox notices four aspects of disjuncture “between integration and participation, information and institutions in formation, training and work opportunities on the countryside and welfare and the good life.” (p.111) Progress is related to real, material conditions that sustain or not the developments of this progress. When material infrastructure is absent or deficient, the progress policies are not founded. Originally CAP’s policies were designed for countries without the experience of state socialism. In post-communist states they might function as neoliberal rather than welfare measures, as they were originally intended. People experience closure and ”make do with what they have feeling both the constraints and the potential in their lives as they unfolded along a ‘margin of manoeuvrability’ and possibility”. (p.135) Human affairs emphasize the tension between means and ends and evolve unpredictably. The author identifies the male-centred organisation of the economic activity, especially the bounded character and closure status of women in the household. Their work is devalued and their life projects especially challenged. 


From the perspective of ‘restructuring’, within Romanian agriculture and animal husbandry the import and imposition of standards was not accompanied by the necessary accumulation of capital, with the exception of the large-venture entrepreneurs. The Western profit logic was thus impaired in Romania and led to a situation where animal welfare seem to value more than human welfare. Kathy Fox discusses the small improvement brought about by the EU’s Direct Payments (DP) policy (implemented for the first time in 2007). Thus, the implementation of DP gave in fact another boost to the bureaucratic systems, installing a reality of misunderstood and incomplete implementation. As a consequence, the idea of ‘partial’ implementation became the norm. Another aspect under investigation is here the paradoxical trait of the reform that disembeds local food production and shows that EU legislation and processes of branding further marginalized Romanian peasantry and did not bring much benefice through EU’s ‘certified traditional produce’ policy. (p.231)


Philosophy, sociology and ethnography come together to present the peasant as a homo economicus, who sought self-interest in a quest for improved positioning, while he understood when to cooperate and when to manoeuvre, despite the shaken trust in others both by state socialism and aggressive capitalism. The very idea of progress seems conquered by a dispiriting perpetual transition. The valuable perspective of the author is to relate to EU legislation as visions of social order and frameworks for ‘thinking forward’, and not just technical regulations. People are to learn not merely legislation and procedures, but the wider lesson that dichotomies, incomplete stages and partial success are part of the modernist vision that modern economic and political projects share. The key element is not the elite and expert benevolent action addressed to the immature and knowledge-deprived peasantry, but rather the transparent dissemination of information and the construction of material conditions and the infrastructure crucial for the successful implementation of the EU policies and reforms.



Oana M. Oprean, Romania’s Accession to the European Union and Its Impact on the Roma Minority (Saarbrücken: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012)

The present book proposes an inventory – historical and from an international legislative point of view – of the social inclusion and fundamental rights of Roma populations. The author notices: “the main problem concerning Roma minority rights is the strong anti-Roma prejudice prevailing in all European countries” (p.6). Since the eastward enlargement of the European Union, the social inclusion of the Roma population and the policies aimed at preventing discrimination became a European imperative. The recommendation was not left without an echo in Romania, although, beyond the European integration and the legislative prerogatives, mentalities and minority status are to be reconsidered. The book is structured in six parts: Introduction, History/Origins of the Roma, A Historically Discriminated Group, EU and the Roma, Accession Criteria and Policy and Conclusion.


Without entering into an in-depth analysis of some concepts defining the operational terms, the author establishes that the history of the Roma is full of oppression, segregation and discrimination (p.8). The affirmation is sustained by an inventory of historical, linguistic, literary, religious arguments, not excluding the short effervescence witnessed through elements of self-organization (the 1930’s establishment of the journal Neamul Tiganesc – The Gypsy Clan, the General Association of Roma in Romania, Glasul Romilor – The Voice of the Roma, the newspaper O Rom). While the explanation of the etymology of the term “gypsy” is present, incidentally, the label of “Roma” itself is not addressed. A possible recommendation in this respect is the analysis of the changes of these references to this specific population outside the linguistic realm. Old and new labels operate now simultaneously, some are more manifestly cultural and, in this respect, have their international resistant prejudicial shadows (such as the “gypsies”), and others are more political and limited as “Roma” (although they do not succeed at all to escape the prejudicial realm). The complex social and political implications of this naming game are numerous (for example, is the Stabor a “Roma” or a traditional “gypsy” institution?)


The Second War World ended the rise of Roma self-organization throughout Europe. Nazi and communist policies alike strongly substantiate the affirmation according to which the Roma can be considered a historically discriminated group (p.24), and yet, it must be noted, the author does not operate any comparative analysis of minority oppression, in order to establish general or particular historical forms, frequently left out in such case studies.


The succession and sensitivity of terms envisions the difference between a first “gypsy / non-Roma” model, resistant to a certain mainstream cultural models with positive or negative stereotypes already implemented (in terms of occupation, life-style, ritual), and a new one, “Roma”, the only one sustaining transformations at the political, social and cultural levels, attempting to function as an integrative mechanism, and representing more than a strategy of survival in interpretation (Rostas, 2000). Capitalizing these theoretical interpretations the author captures well the intensity of the terminological tempest, especially when she refers to the marginalisation, oppression, subjection to forced assimilation, discrimination, and the difference between Roma and non-Roma models of realigning with the “other”.


The author shows the Roma populations gliding between an a-national status and the newer national one that “instead of finding a better life, the Roma found a continent, Europe, which at first seemed inviting, but it, within a short period of time, turned the Roma into a much hated and discriminated-against group of people” (p.53). This is a questionable affirmation from a historical standpoint and brings to the fore, in fact, the status of nomadic, a term reduced by the author merely to a vestment code and artistic abilities: “The colorful clothing that the Roma wear, the fact that they move around (nomads) and their rich culture of traditional folk songs and dancing, all run antithetical to the political life of the modern sovereignty of Romania”. (p.53)


The book is organised didactically. The Romanian historical events after 1989 are discussed in it and follow the general destiny of minorities and in particular that of the Roma population, indicated correctly as the weaker member of Romanian society, in a fair characterization of the period 1990-1995 as one of community violence against Roma, which was a feature of life in Romania, on the basis of the identification of incidents remained unknown to the general public. The author explains that among the most important events in the history of violence against the Roma, there was the strange riot of February 1990, when the coal miners from Valea Jiului of Romania were called to Bucharest to defend the newly elected democratic government. “A large number of miners attacked the Roma minorities, an act of violence which was by no means provoked by the Roma.” (p.25) Oana Oprean states that this case gained a lot of international attention and was covered in newspapers all over Europe, but there were no reaction from the international political community. The events of March of 1990 in Targu Mures are presented in the same light, yet including the Roma into the equation of the Romanian–Hungarian ethnic conflict.


Bringing again the attention onto the situation of Roma populations in March 1990, Oana Oprean established that the lack of action taken by authorities since 1990 in order to mitigate the threats and violence against the Roma has proven the actual stance that the authorities have taken with regard to this minority. According to the author, between 1990 and 1995, there have been numerous instances where attacks were sparked by a crime committed by a Roma against a non-Roma person. As numerous examples are shown throughout the book, a small aggression can turn very quickly the non-Roma population onto the local Roma population (as happened in H?d?reni and in several other cities and villages in Romania).


The affirmations of the author are not always sustained by documents, NGO analyses, statistics or declarations of the authorities; for instance when she claims that non-Roma individuals are rarely, if ever, brought to justice for these attacks, even in cases where Roma have been fatally injured or even killed. In Romania, it is said in the book, the Roma population suffers from a broad spectrum of social disadvantages, and the population is subjected to social exclusion and marginalization as a result of racial discrimination, said to be three times higher than the national average. But how is that measured? The book offers no adequate substantiation. Apparently, the misperceptions from the non-Roma population towards the Roma in both Romania and Europe are simply denied and opposed by means of personal impressions concerning the Romanian and European authorities.

The conclusion of Oana Oprean is that despite some positive changes, such as the recognition of minority status, establishment of political parties and cultural organisations, and the publication of books and newspapers in their language, the Roma’s problems in Romania have been particularly severe since the fall of communism, and the ascension to the EU has not done much to mitigate the problems or elevate the status of the Roma minority. However, one can easily illustrate though several political, cultural and social policies the efforts made for inclusion in Romania: the efforts to enrol Roma children into the pre-university school system; the efforts to raise awareness concerning the situation of Roma young women, forcefully married at a very young age and retired from school, if ever registered; the guaranteed places for the Roma students within the state university system; the high visibility of the Roma artists – there are movies about and with Roma (see also the activity of Gadjo Dijlo);  the promotion of various types of Roma music (from jazz and fiddle music to “manele”); the Roma poetry  anthologies, etc. As a further token of the efforts of inclusion, there are also Roma–Romanian dictionaries and the possibility for Roma children to learn in primary school in their maternal language.


It is worth mentioning that Roma inclusion is still on the EU’s agenda, both political and moral, with effects on the direct and opportunity costs measured in public budgets. The first European Summit concerning the Roma, underlined the EU’s role in implementing Roma public policies based on structural funds and on their involvement in the management of EU Roma, a network of management authorities – sustaining also good governance.


Still, Oana Oprean correctly indentifies some of the weak points of the European construction, recommending that if the EU wants to be a true vehicle for social change, it should focus more upon persuading the Romanian government and exerting pressure on local governments to implement and follow through with their initiatives. But the truth of the matter is also that these modern initiatives might just not have the support and understanding of the majority of the Roma population, but just of a minority elite. The mentality of opportunity is not the modern mentality of rights and duties and it has, rather often, a short-circuiting effect on the inclusion initiatives, especially within the complex equation of migration, globalization, plus economic and financial crises.


There is still a romanticised view of the Roma population in Romanian culture, and there has been an analogous tradition in Europe too. Isabel Fonseca wrote in 1996 the marvellous book entitled Bury Me Standing, a reportage of the romantic journey of the European Roma population (“gypsy” she said, as it was accepted to say at the time) through history: holocaust, communism and post-communism included. The book was part of the genuine European effort to fight for minority rights and had the merit of inquiring into realities with both sensitivity and realism. The author tells the story of a girl burned because the locals decided to burn down some houses. She does not shy away from child prostitution or children sniffing glue, while she keeps the human and romantic vibe of her story alive.


Nowadays this is endangered. The fledgling European anti-racism institutions have been silenced by more pressing “economic” concerns. We still remember Roma houses burned down in Italy, of all European countries. This kind of hideous racism is indeed increased by the on-going economic and financial crisis, while any good will is down to a lower level. Under these circumstances, the contribution of social sciences should attempt to better meet the expectations of the NGOs that should in turn network and cooperate more intensively.



“Dracula in Iceland”. An Interview with Marinella Lorinczi

ML. Thank you for the kind appreciation. I have the deep convinction that a genuine, really good scholar of Bram Stoker’s most famous novel Dracula should investigate the whole literary production of this interesting writer, and connect the novel with his other narratives, both short and long. It is not entirely my case, I must confess, although I tried to compare Dracula with other two novels of his, i.e. The Lady of the Shroud and The Jewel of Seven Stars. However, I can be excused, because my main research subjects – as you mentioned – are not English literature or literature of the Victorian age. I did not begin my Dracula studies reading in English, but in Romanian and Italian. After that beginning, I was obliged not to avoid the English language, therefore my initial, very poor knowledge of this language improved and now I am able to read, understand, and study essays as well as works of fictional literature. All this thanks to Dracula… A nearly unknown Dracula to me, at the beginning, because in Romania – my country of birth -Stoker’s novel has no special significance, and only the historical person has, who lived in the XV century – he is called normally Vlad Tepes, that is, Vlad the Impaler – and is best known from history textbooks (as voivode, that is governer of Wallachia, now South Romania). Therefore my first and almost casual glance was at the historical figure, in the historical documents regarding him, and not at the novel. And this kind of interest fits with the interests of the philologist in the wider sense. It fits with my interests in multiethnic areas, like the Balkans or Transylvania, in commonplaces, and, first of all, in the mystification of research activities and products. There is plenty of examples of just such mystifications in much secondary literature dealing with Dracula. Why people are so attracted by the vampire or, more specifically, by the Dracula theme, unfortunately, I can’t answer in a satisfactory way. I made a hypothetical connection between the popular culture of the United States, which are the first and most successful propagator of the fame of Dracula the vampire, and Halloween as the context of reception of Dracula; in other words, between a kind of carnival and the everchanging Dracula, and I realised, during the Dracula centenary celebrations in Los Angeles in 1997, that I was right. But people are mostly interested in the vampire movies and not in the novel, so Stoker’s Dracula is widely known and little read. And this interest generates movies upon movies, in a neverending way.

NM. In your books and essays you present Bram Stoker’s Dracula as deeply connected to Nordic, Scandinavian cultures. How did Bram Stoker succeed in connecting the Danubian Dracula with Scandinavia? And why?

ML. If you read Dracula’s fictional autobiography, in the third chapter of the novel, the answer lays therein: ” … in our [Dracula’s] veins flows the blood of many races … the Ugric tribe bore down [to the frontier of Turkey-land, on the Danube] from Iceland the fighting spirit [of] Thor and Wodin …”; and then he mentions the Berserkers, the terrible Nordic warriors as his ancient relatives. There are a lot of similar details, on the surface of the novel, or hidden in semantic associations, which I have analysed. You can recognise, for example, the ideas of the late Roman historian Jordanes (6th c. A.D.), the historian of the Goths, about the origin of European peoples: “Scandia” is “vagina gentium“, the womb of nations. I think that there is a cultural-philosophical background, related to the romantic gothicism of the 19th century and of the previous century too, that explains Stoker’s mild and vague but certain, in my opinion, inclination toward Scandinavian culture.

NM. Yes, in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula does declare to be a descendent of Huns and Scandinavian Berserkers. But how much is Dracula himself a Viking, an Icelander, a creature of the North?

ML. You are mentioning his pedigree, his asserted noble origins, that justify and announce his aggressive behaviour in his fictional future. But his “nordic-ness” belongs to the past, whereas he is a fictional contemporary of his author, of Stoker; and in that world he is a stranger coming from Eastern Europe and a loser. He is outside the “European community”. Don’t you think that Stoker had an excellent flare?

NM. Is Dracula a southerner, in any way, Mediterranean?

ML. He can be alike in the movies, I think, when dark-haired actors like Bela Lugosi or Frank Langella played the character. But in the novel he is not at all Mediterranean, for he comes from the eastern borders of civilized Europe, he is a Barbarian. A noble one, but Barbarian, a noble savage transformed into an invader, into a migrant. Therefore he is fearful, he must be.

NM. You are from Transylvania, one of the most beautiful and rich parts of Europe – in its variety of cultures, traditions and landscapes. Why do you think Bram Stoker chose to have a Székely, Transylvanian Dracula?

ML. I was born in Transylvania, but grew up in Bucharest. Transylvania is not my actual homeland, it is my father’s. But I know well the history of Transylvania, so I can answer your question, obviously from my point of view. You must recall that Transylvania is now a significant and historical region of Romania, but in Stoker’s time (Stoker died in 1912) it belonged to Austria-Hungary. The unsteady political situation of Austria-Hungary caused the ignition of the First World War. Transylvania was in the focus of Western politicians’ attention as one of the most important and explosive European multiethnic areas. I think that Stoker was looking for a very exotic and untamed minority of Europe to settle there Dracula. A Hungarian-speaking minority whose name (Székely) is not related to “Hungarian”, who is living almost beyond, trans-Transsylvania, in any case not in “proper” Hungary, with a fame for pride and self-consciousness, and so on. He was creating an allegory, an artistic model of what could happen if a minority explodes, getting fed up with its situation. It was not Gladstone, in 1845, who said: “Ireland! Ireland!… That coming storm!”? And Stoker was an English-speaking and writing Irishman. And Dracula became a coming storm too, threatening Victorian England.

NM. Do you see a connection between Szekelyland (a Hungarian religious and linguistic island in a Romanian/Orthodox area, homeland of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Ireland (the homeland of Bram Stoker), Iceland (the land of origin of Dracula’s “fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave” him) and Sardinia (your present homeland)? Are islands special in a similar way? I ask this question because I have in maind, for example, the similarities in the very ancient traditional dances that you can still witness in Transylvania, Sardinia and the Faroe Islands.

ML. I don’t know Iceland, unfortunately. I never visited Iceland, nor the Faroe Islands, though I would like to. I know Ireland better, and Sardinia quite well. I think, that is to say, I learned, that small or medium-sized islands’ history and culture depend on their relations with their respective mainlands, so each island is different. The similarities in traditional dances, if you are thinking of so-called “round” dances, the circular-chain dances, exist everywhere, independently of the shape or size of the geographic areas. I am not a traditional-dance specialist, but I read about them and saw them in documentaries about several countries. I think that it is a social universal: sitting, dancing, speaking, eating in a circle, there is no rank difference, and every member of the community, of the group, has the same place. Think, for example, of the legendary Round Table.

NM. Among your main interests there is also the study of the Sardinian languages. How did you develop this interest of yours? How would you describe the situation of the Sardinian languages: are they in danger of extinction, as many other local languages in Italy and in Europe? How much do Sardinians and Italians care about these disappearing languages? Do you think it is possible and desirable to save them in today’s globalized world?

ML. You are asking many important questions about minority languages. As you mention, in Sardinia, there are many languages, such as Sardinian, a truly indigenous language, or the Catalan of the town of Alghero. The dominant Italian is exogenous, of external origin. Between the XVI and the XVIII century, instead, the dominant language was Spanish. I began studying Sardinian casually, as a normal branch of Romance linguistics; this part of the story is not really interesting. After graduating in Bucharest, I got married in Sardinia and have lived there since. It was and is normal, again as a linguist, for me to study Sardinian.

Most recently I have become a keen observer of attitudes to language, because the study of lesser used languages involves quite a significant impact, both emotional and political. The European Union is promoting minority languages, theoretically and financially; yet, in this way, minority studies, which still lack an official ethical code, could transform into a mostly bureaucratic and academic business. There is no warranty that this top-down, authoritative, promotion is conformable to real and widespread social needs in a society where literacy is universal, schooling is universal, and schools have their own language policy. Consider, for example, that everyone wants to learn English today, or that some subjects are taught extensively in English at the school level and at the university level. This fact means the beginning of the loss, or in any case a functional restriction, of the former dominant language, such as Italian, in our case. Therefore Italian, an historically important and non-minority language, needs protection or special attention as well.

The loss of a minority language must be prevented because linguistic and cultural variety, like biological variety, is quite simply good per se and necessary from a modern point of view. But linguistic variety means also that people should be allowed and able to speak all kinds of dialects as well, for dialects too are minor idioms. What is the difference between the protection and promotion of minority languages and of dialects? The hidden idea here is that a minority language belongs to a potential nation, which could develop into an independent state in certain circumstances, hence it is more important; whilst dialects belong to a part of it, hence they are less important. It is not on biological or natural grounds, but on historical grounds that one human group can be defined as a nation and another cannot. Therefore minor idioms are not alike and can be more or less easily discriminated against. Or, more precisely, speakers are different and discriminated against. And discrimination on linguistic basis must be avoided too. Speakers as individuals and as members of a community must be protected, but the balance between individual rights and group right is not easy, and it depends also on who is representing the group and its rights: politicians, intellectuals, bureaucrats, associations, agencies…

Besides, is the whole population of a specific geographic area ever asked how they would like to use their repertoire languages?  And how is actually defined this population? UNESCO documents, on these topics, refer to individuals and about human groups with inalienable linguistic rights. Yet take Sardinians, for example, and I mean people living in Sardinia, in a geographically closed area, an island. They are linguistically heterogeneous. Why must politics represent only the Sardinian-speaking people, who are also Italian-speaking? Perhaps the other people in Sardinia do not possess the same linguistic rights? Is it only the Sardinian language the actual, representative one? And within the Sardinian language, which dialect is more representative, so as to aspire to became the common language? Why central dialects are thought to be the best, to have more chances to became the language of all? As you can well infer from my own questions, linguistic protection and promotion involve several serious, preliminary, and mostly unresolved problems.
NM. I have the impression that, at least in Italy, whenever you talk about popular culture, dialects, or regional cultures, you are immediately accused to be provincial, backwards-minded, nostalgic, even anti-modern. Do you agree?

ML. No, I do not agree. First, traditional culture, including local language, does exist. Rather, it depends on the ideological point of view whether you want to promote it or not. On the other  hand, in touristically developed areas or in areas where the local leaders want to gain more power, more autonomy, language and local traditions are often used as a kind of advertising, and as a tool for political propaganda, whether good or bad, useful or not. As though one were saying: “We are special, we are different, so we want, we need, we deserve …”. After all, “glocalisation” is possible, it means a mixture of global and local. The question is whether you want to adopt this model or not.


NM. You are mainly a scholar of Romanian. Is it difficult to promote Romanian culture and langue in Italy? I ask this question in connection with the negative prejudices that many Italians still have about Eastern Europe, Romania, not to mention non-western-looking foreigners.

ML. I can see that students and young people in general are curious about Romania and Romanian language and culture. But it is true that now, the general circumstances are not good for their promotion. As of 2007, when Romania became a full member of the EU, Italy received not only a somewhat physiologically “normal” wave of immigrants from Romania, but also an “abnormal” one, which results from the demographic disasters of 1980s Romania. If there were already negative prejudices, then they became much stronger because of this. Indeed, I was advised not to tell around that I was from Romania, though I have not followed this advice.


NM. Is it possible that some difficulties that you have experimented are caused by the fact that today in the academe, and in the cultural system overall, we study the different national cultures inside institutions that are organized according to the classification in language families made by linguists? For example, students of Hungarian language and culture are asked to study Finnish, but probably they are never asked to study Slavic language and cultures or Romanian.

ML. You are right on this last issue, but I think that it is not question of linguistic proximity, rather of ideological proximity. If neighbours disagree or quarrel, they cannot be promoters of each other’s culture and language.


NM. Why are you interested in the Csàngòs, the very little Hungarian minority of Romanian Moldavia? Maybe because of the fact that they have preserved so many elements of the cultures of both Romania and Hungary?

ML. I conducted field-work in Csàngò-land rather casually: I made the acquaintance of Ferenc Pozsony, a very active ethnologist at the University of Kolozsvar/Cluj and so I got involved, once, in a study project. It became a very interesting experience for me: I had to come up with a research topic, because I had none, so I studied bilingual anthroponimy on the graveyard crosses. And that is all, for the moment, although I feel that I am in the best position for studying the idioms of Csàngòs. I know Hungarian, Romanian, I live in a western country, and I am not under the pressure of nationalistic or religious agendas. I wanted to study, then, the question of linguistic competence in such an intricate bilingual context as theirs. Whether in so doing I helped improving the rather tense Romanian-Hungarian relations, I do not know, although I hope I did.
NM. As a well-travelled scholar, what do you think are the main differences between northern Europe and the Mediterranean region?

ML. Geographers, historians and anthropologists have not answered yet the question about the South-North border in Europe. Said in a nutshell, there is no such border in reality; you can always find a northern or a southern area if you are not in Malta, in the South, or in Alta, Norway, in the North, which can be considered as the two most extreme points of Europe along a vertical axis. Also, south of Malta is Africa, and north of Alta is the North Pole. The world does not end there ether. The South-North border is in our minds, in our prejudices, varying themselves with the historical epoch in which we happen to live. Yes, I have travelled much, I like to travel, I like every place, I never get bored anywhere. All is interesting and instructive. It is amusing for me when, for example, some Danes, who live North to Sardinia, to Italy, to Romania, think that I do not know anything about the snow! Now, Bucharest is colder in winter than Denmark; then, northern Italy, in the Alps, is also much colder than Denmark, and many ski-champions are from the north of Italy. Yet geographical distortion is common in our minds and leads to prejudices or even springs from them. At the same time, correct geographical knowledge is so important, so essential, that now, in the so-called globalised era, literary criticism has developed a new trend, called “geocriticism”, which, I quote from a textbook, “involves the study of places described in the literature by various authors, but it can also study the effects of literary representations of a given space”. I applied this method in the first essay of the volume of mine dedicated to Dracula’s wreck in Whitby, after visiting this delightfully small, but historically very important town, situated on the southern shore of the North Sea. I recommend it to you and to your readers.

NM. Why do you think there are still problems in having foreign, e.g. Italian, university degrees fully recognized in the Nordic countries? Is it only a question of immigration policy?

ML. The opposite should be true. The whole Bologna process aims, among other things, to remove this obstacle. But the inner, national university traditions are very strong everywhere and they change very slowly, despite the new European protocols, new norms, official recommendations, etc. Indeed I could tell you the bizarre history of the ten-year university reform process in Italy, from 2000 to 2010, which could now cause the whole system to collapse. But this is another story …