”The effects of the anti-discrimination campaigns will become visible in a hundred years”
Author: Livia Cimpoeru
Ciprian Necula’s large office displays a controlled chaos of mugs, pens, a laptop, several pipes and a collection of old objects. „I am not allowed to smoke inside”, he smiles conspiratively, sitting down at his desk. He picks up a pipe and lights it. He is wearing a Gogol Bordello T-shirt, instead of a suit and tie. He is very laid back, and his ironically kind gaze invites you to a relaxed dialogue.
Ciprian Necula – a Roma from Bucharest – has nothing to do with the typical Roma the media sell. A graduate of the National Political Science and Administration School (SNSPA), he worked as a political analyst with OSCE. Today he is the owner of a company and preparing his PhD in anthropology. He is 32 and for the first 17 years of his life he refused to admit he was Roma. „I had no good reason to tell someone I was a Gypsy. I was sharing the others’ prejudices against the Roma” he confesses. When he was 18 he realized there was no reason to be ashamed of his ethnicity. Today, in partnership with a Palestinian, he runs K Consulting Management and Coordination (KCMC) a company which is developing a program aimed to bring the traditional skilled Roma worker back to the labour market.
How do you want to help the Roma?
Roma’s House is a program that encourages Roma craftsmen to do what they know best. Horse shoes don’t sell any more and blacksmiths starve. Then you enroll them in a conversion program, so that you change only the end product, and not their trade. We are doing that for about 10 groups of Roma craftsmen, working in various fields and materials – wood, silver, copper. We have made a site for them – (http://www.mesteshukarbutiq.ro/) – and they have alredy started to sell their products online.
You have started a band of Roma players…
Romano ButiQ - a band created as part of the same project – aims to convert an old Roma profession. They play what you may call Balkanic rock, as well as funk, reggae or punk. There are 8 musicians in the band. Most of them played manele before. They needed time to adjust to the new style, there are still inflexions of their old music, but they’ll get over that. Anyway, they have already created their own style and they are successful. Roma play manele, but this is not Roma music. Romano ButiQ is trying to revive the traditional Roma folk music, in new rhythms.
In September you organized a protest at Cotroceni Palace requesting decency in the public statements of President Traian Basescu and of the authorities. Your message was „Pigs are pigs, irrespective of ethnicity”. What did you mean by that?
President Basescu complained that Romania can’t become part of the Schengen agreement because of some Romanian citizens. He ignored the issues pertaining to security of the borders, justice or corruption and reduced everything to a populist approach, puting the blame on the Gypsies for the stupidity of the governance.
Our message was clear: enforce the law! Go to Țăndărei or Călărași, if you know about human trafficking, prostitution or beggars, but do not incrimate the ethnicity. Of course Băsescu knows all that and he knows the police don’t do their job. So many people are arrested for human trafficking and then released on procedural grounds. Of course, there are some tens of very visible people in Italy, France or Finland, they beg, steal, spit on the ground, whether they are Roma or Romanians. The bad luck is that Roma are more visible than the others.
After years of anti-discrimination campaings, can you notice any changes in the public discourse?
It took 500 years to build the mentalities towards the Roma: they have always been on an inferior position, either slaves, or deported, or – during the communist regime – forced to become something they were not. A 10-15- year campaign to change mentalities doesn’t mean anything. We’ll see the effects in 100 years. It’s a long process, which implies the change of generations, mutual understanding and interaction.
Do you believe the Roma community lacks an efficient approach?
Roma people are opportunists. Because poverty makes you an opportunist. Let me give you an example. In Dumbrăveni, Sibiu county, all Roma children, about 500, go to the school for children with special needs. That is because they only speak Romani. Their parents are happy because at school they receive a hot meal and the scholarship is a bit higher.
In the 8th grade children can neither write, nor read. They can only draw. There is no chance they can continue their education. Such schools should be closed down, because they perpetuate the wrong model from one generation to another.
Is there a need for integration and awareness raising strategies at a national level?
I think it’s wrong to talk about Roma in general, because they are divided into 18 very different sub-groups, with different values, traditions, social dynamics and degrees of assimilation. I only believe in local strategies for Roma integration, and not in national or European ones. Yet, the mayors have no interest, because Roma voters can be easily manipulated. A smart voter doesn’t cast his vote for a bottle of oil,
There are 2000 experts on Roma issues in Romania, hired by the local authorities if the local population includes over 20% Roma. Most of the experts are former garbage workers, working part time as experts now, because the local governemnt was not allowed to hire new staff. You can imagine the solutions of the former garbage worker for the gorvenment health or public policies strategie. This is a very shallow approach!
Do you see any major and irreconcilable difference between the Roma and the majority population?
Honestly? I think we have already reconciled. Romania is the country with the most numerous Roma population and I don’t think that is accidental. Except for the fact that only the Roma were slaves, both ethnicities have the same social structure. They have large families, your second cousin is your family and family relations are trustworthy.
 manea – a mixture of Oriental and Roma music, popular in Romania and other SEE countries in the last decade.