Archive for August, 2010

It bothers me that France is pushing these EU citizens out of the country, though I understand that France also doesn’t want tent cities of displaced people around, but throwing them out of the country will only solve the problem in the short-term.  Yes, many of these Roma are currently in France illegally, if they stay more than three months, (at least until Bulgaria’s and Romania’s immigration wait is over and they can move as freely as any other EU citizen) but taking them out of France doesn’t solve the issue of why they felt the need to come there in the first place. Plus, they can legally come back as soon as they touch ground in their home country.

What needs to happen to fix the “issues”  is to help the Roma get an education and then succeed as a productive citizen… leaving job discrimnation and stereotypes behind.

Fact: Very few sub-groups of Roma actually want to be a begging “gypsies”, which I consider a “not-so-nice” term. There are just too many issues Roma face to get to that successful and intergrated spot on the ladder. I can say this with full confidence because I’ve listened to Roma. 

While doing my final project in Europe in the Spring of 2009, I gave myself the chance to go to Bulgaria. It was an area of Europe I have never explored, and with my blonde hair and blue eyes, I stuck out like the only white rock in a bucket of dark stones. I went there to do a story on how the current economic crisis was harming the Roma’s intergration and progression. Similarly to when democracy came in, the new crisis left lots of Roma without jobs. Because of discrimination issues, they are, unfortunately, the first to be fired and last to be hired in many places, but discrimination is not the only issue Roma face there. 

One of my Bulgarian friends brought me to the Roma “slum” in Sofia, and it was practically like entering a third-world country. He said his friends wouldn’t like that he brought me, an outsider, there, showing me the most deprived part of Sofia.

Because I was a “media” figure, the people in the “slum” there didn’t care for me to have video and still cameras down there, and I don’t blame them. I got lots of rough stares. They looked at me as if I were a tourist taking pictures of their “situation”, as if they were zoo animals in a cage and I gawking at the poor animals in their misery. Click!.. Each photo rougher than the one before.

The media in Bulgaria tends to shed the Roma in a very bad light. Most journalism is (in the end) basically controlled by government/mafia and with that, controlled by politics and most politicians are not pro-Roma because Roma make up the majority of unemployed people. The Roma are often used, in my opinion, as a scapegoat. Most Bulgarians I talked to from Sofia said the only thing that has changed since the Soviet Union failed is that the name of the government and that it joined the EU in 2007, by simply looking good on paper, but in my opinion, it’s better that it be in the EU for its citizens than not be. 

There are several human rights and non-profit groups working to help the Roma, but there still needs to be more integration and – the biggest factor – more education amongst the Roma.

It was tough to find a Roma student in college, but I did. Bulgarians first laughed at this idea when I asked English major students in Sofia if they had any college friends that were Roma.  Even with an education, the single Roma student I did find with a master’s degree was not having luck with jobs, but his family was so proud of him. Listening to his story was incredible, looking at everything he has faced to get to where he was. Many applications forced him to connect a picture of himself  to it, or asked about their heritage. Bulgarians can easily point out the Roma on the streets with their darker skin. 

He admitted that most Roma and especially more remotely located Roma need a better education and that he is an inspiration to many back home. He explained that many Roma students drop out of school at a young age because  A) they get married if they are girls, or B) their school is so far away from their home, it’s tough to get there. 

So put the puzzle together and it doesn’t take a genius to see why these people want to leave Bulgaria, (or Romania). What needs to happen and what the EU needs to focus on to change the issues underlying this mass immigration, if you can call it that, is to educate the Roma and make sure they stay on a track to success and integration. 

Without education, there is more reason for job discrimination. Without discrimination, they will be employed. Without unemployement, they will be successful, productive citizens. Without being on welfare, they can no longer be used as a scapegoat in government.  Without being a scapegoat, they will fight the stereotype. Without the stereotype, they will be more integrated. Without  being outsiders in their own country, they will be less likely to leave. 

To sum it up, education for the Roma is what needs to happen to solve the issues in the long run.


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So what if Germany’s growth is based off of exports, their economy is growing! That’s what Germany does, it exports and they do a darn good job of it too if you ask me. The German economy has enjoyed a much higher rate of growth this last quarter than they hoped for, making America green with envy. The German unemployment rate already is better than it was before the recession on top of that.

So what are they doing right? – exporting to the right countries and the right people. Germany has done well in Asian and South American sales where the middle class is driving loads of consumers to buy. It’s good to know someone out there is spending! What will be the result? – I’m no economic expert by my guess is more spending on the ground in Germany and more domestic growth in turn for an even stronger economy. 

What I like about the European way of business is that they are slowly growing, but sustainably growing, where  as American business boom and bust in a matter of seconds it seems, which can be a good and bad thing. The Germans (and in turn much of the EU) are much more worried about keeping their economy sustainable rather than making it rich really quickly on riskier terms. Their history gives them the edge to worry more about welfare, the poor, healthcare, food shortages, etc and in turn they tend to go with policies that make more stable growth in their economy. 

It’s amazing they are doing so well after the recession but to me, not surprising. The Euro, its existence which was questionable during the worst of the recession is proving it’s strong base,even as Greece tugs at the European economy.

Typically, a more stable economy means it will not bounce back as fast as places like America could, but in this case, Germany passed up the U.S. in recovery, an interesting economic point and I think it has to do with the culture of consumers. Germany has a recent history of being, what I would call, conservative with their spending. Citizens are not as materialistic and in turn don’t spend beyond their means as many Americans have, so Germany is having less issues on the back burner keeping them from recovering. They have more restrictions protecting them from personal financial turmoil too when it comes to lending.

On the other hand, the U.S. is plagued with more debt from greedy lenders, who knew people could not afford their offer, a housing crisis, and a group of citizens who are now more worried about paying off debts than spending, myself included.  Three years of expensive American college has left me with a pile of loans, starting me a the bottom rung of ladder in paying off my debts as a young, working professional. I think I’m just happy to have a job I love in a country with such a high unemployment rate right now. 

Like President Obama followed Germany in “Cash for Clunkers” (Yes, Germany had the idea and made it work first.) the American economy might take some exporting pointers into play from Germany as well.

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