Giving Memory A Future
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Identity and Citizenship - A European Minority

“You can illegally dwell in one land or in all lands, but you can’t be an illegal dweller on earth, much less in Europe”.
(Giovanni Maria Flick, President Emeritus of Italy’s Constitutional Court)

A European minority

© Stefano Pasta 2010.

Between 10 and 12 million: Roma and Sinti people represent the largest minority group in Europe. They are one of the few European peoples not to pursue nationalist ideas, which has no homeland of its own but is nonetheless a nation. The Roma and Sinti have never had an epic European period, but they are European through and through, existing even before Europe itself. They are a minority in any and every member states of the Union.

From an essay by Giovanni Maria Flick, 
President Emeritus of Italy’s Constitutional Court and former Justice Minister of Italy.

The existence of Gypsy minorities in our countries should encourage us to embrace pluralism, lest we lose all interest in the diversity of life (...). The Gypsies spilt their own blood in their fight for the right to be a minority—though they have no specific homeland of their own. This was also the case for another minority, the Jews—a fundamental building block of Europe, with their twin loyalties to their country of origin and to the land they longed for: they, too, paid for that right with their blood.

The existence of the European Union—a unified sphere of freedom, security and justice—forces us to rethink many of our sociological and cultural assumptions. Today, the majority of Roma people who either transit Italy and other EU countries, or permanently reside there, come from all over Europe, which makes them fully-fledged EU citizens; and even the few Roma people who are still stateless have some form of rights. Even if one considers that a large number of Roma come from Balkan countries that have not yet joined the EU (but are sure to sign up in the future), and even if we consider that the Schengen Area covers a smaller territory than the entire EU-27 (though it may be extended in the future), the conclusion is inevitable: one can forcibly evict groups of Roma from the land they illegally occupy on the outskirts of large cities, but one cannot expect them not to go and occupy a similar area the next day. You can illegally dwell in one land or even in all lands, but you can’t be an illegal dweller on earth, much less in Europe. Also, one can point to the fact that the Roma lack a recognized and recognizable homeland, and one cannot link the population to a physical location with the necessary requisites for being a State. But I think no-one could ever conclude that the inexistence of fundamental human rights for the Roma is an inevitable consequence of this lack of a physical State, a status of which the Roma are so proud.

Flick G. M., Gli zingari, cittadini europei (“Gypsies: European Citizens”), in: Impagliazzo M., Il caso zingari (“The Gypsy Case”), Milan, Leonardo International, 2008, pp. 43-52.

The legal framework – Background materials

In recent years, international organizations have repeatedly invited Italian authorities to make progress in their policies of social inclusion in favor of Roma and Sinti people.

In EuropeRoma-relateded texts adopted (Source: Council of Europe).

In ItalyBackground materials (international legislation, EU legislation, Italian national, regional and provincial legislation, circulars, ECHR jurisprudence, rulings by Italy’s Constitutional Court as well as ordinary and administrative tribunals, OSCE decisions, various recommendations and resolutions) (Source: ASGI-Italian Association for Juridical Research on Immigration).

Rizzin E., Tavani C., “Le normative europee e internazionali contro la discriminazione”, in Vitale T., “Politiche possibili. Abitare la città con i rom e i sinti”, Carocci, Roma, 2009, pp. 47-56.