Wednesday, October 6, 2010


When all roads lead to Rroma


06.10.2010 @ 08:30 CET

What's in a name? Romanians seem to grow more and more irritated at the confusion – even in jest - between their own ethnonym "Romanian" and that of "Roma," commonly attributed to the Gypsies.

Inside Romania itself, orthographic rules introduced in 1989 but never seriously implemented recommend that when referring to Gypsies, two 'rs' - "Rroma" - should be used. But it is not something easily imposed elsewhere.

Sebastian Bodu has taken it upon himself to raise the issue in the European Parliament
The unresolved problem led Romanian MEP Sebastian Bodu, of the ruling PDL party (affiliated to the Christian Democrat European People's Party), to draft a resolution asking for the replacement of the term "Roma" with "Gypsy" ... or rather of "roma" with "gypsy", for the text of the motion carefully avoids capitalising the two terms, whereas "Romanian" is duly spelled with a capital letter.

The motion, brought before the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament, which will have to decide whether to support and propose it in the plenary, argues "that the term 'roma' generates confusion with both the term Romanian (inhabitants of Romania) and the term 'Roma" (capital city of Italy).' Such confusion, continues the resolution "may generate undesirable consequences both for the inhabitants of Romania and the inhabitants of Rome, regarding their perception among the citizens of the member states and beyond."

The confusion also arises officially. On 22 September an EU Commission spokesman confused the Romany language with the Romanian language in a press conference, insisting that Romany (how the language of the Gypsies is called in English) was "an official language of the EU."

Talking to WAZ.EUobserver, Mr Bodu acknowledged that the episode was one of the factors which determined him to draft the motion, together with the long-lasting hostility towards Romanians in countries like Italy: "I was there one and a half years ago, when they created those Civil Guards to combat Gypsy criminality, and I saw how because of the confusion between Roma and Romanian they started hating a whole nation of 22 million."

Asked why "roma" and "gypsy" were spelled with a lower case letter, Mr Bodu answered frankly that this had escaped his attention. He also contested the fact that the Gypsies call themselves Roma and that it would be difficult to deprive them of their own ethnonym. He drew a parallel with Macedonia, claiming - not quite realistically - that everybody there considers normal that "the country has to change its name in order to meet the accession demands of the EU."

What Mr Bodu deplores most is the lack of understanding by fellow MEPs from other countries. "They simply don't care," he says. "They don't feel concerned, because they are not affected by this. They don't realise that we need solidarity and that some other time it will be they who will ask for our support."

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