Monday, May 30, 2011




A show on French Gypsies under the German Occupation censored by the European Commission Liaison Office (ECLO) in Kosovo.

Paris, May 26, 2011.

 "Mérignac-Beaudésert, Tsiganes français sous l’Occupation" is an adaptation based on historical documentation dealing with the internment and deportation of French Gypsies during the Second World War.

 The text has been published by the French publisher l'Espace d'un instant, in partnership with the Voix des Rroms, the Nouvelles alternatives transeuropéennes et the Fédération nationale des déportés et internés, résistants et patriotes.

 It was put on stage under the direction of Christophe Sigognault, following a residency at the Maison d'Europe et d'Orient in Paris.

The performance opened the festival Le Printemps de Paris on the 9th of May 2011 at the occasion of the Fête de l'Europe (European Day).*

The show was programmed by the festival "Festival of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian culture", supported by ECLO and organised by the KFOS (Soros Foundation in Kosovo).

ECLO then considered that the content of the performance was "inappropriate" and asked KFOS for the show should be taken off the programme of the festival.

When asked to explain their decision, ECLO replied that it was not a case of "censorship" but a case of a "change to the programme", the reason being their wish to "put the emphasis, with this festival, on the promotion of the rich cultural heritage of these communities within Kosovo and to contribute to facilitate their integration within the Kosovan society and promote exchanges between its various communities".

ECLO added that "it does not want to question the importance of these tragic historical events nor the quality of the performance", but that " [its] partners implementing the festival are requested to consult [ECLO] and give them a full presentation of the programme for approval before any of its programme can be confirmed", and that ECLO would have wished to be able to "discuss [it] beforehand and to inform its colleagues at the French Embassy in Kosovo".

We would like to express our righteous anger in the face of such behaviour. We know too well what such a position underlines: to present Rromani culture in a folkloric and preconceived manner, one of largely desperate musicians flanked by lascivious women dancing on tables, and to essentially ignore historical and memorial issues in order to please a few diplomats.

We also know well what fuels the will to subjugate the content of a work of art to its funding. We can clearly see that ECLO considers this memorial work as counterproductive to exchange and integration. The worse being that -knowing that ECLO considers the case as a simple "misunderstanding"- it shows that ECLO cannot even question the content of its own policy. We can imagine how a proposal to screen Tony Gatlif's feature film "Liberté" would have been received in such a context.

We believe that the very fact that artists and cultural operators in France and in Kosovo decide to undertake and support this memorial work concerning the rromani community, should be considered with pride and honour by France, Kosovo and Europe as a whole. We believe that it is those who cannot see it this way that, unfortunately, give the image of Europe as a Banana Republic.

We invite all of those who share our views to let it be known to the head of ECLO
as well as to the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship,
and to circulate the present message as widely as possible.

The show will be presented in Prishtina, outside of the official programme, thanks to the determination of the signatories below.

Marcel Courtiade, Commissioner for language and linguistic rights of the International Rromani Union,

Dominique Dolmieu, Associate artist at the Maison d’Europe et d’Orient, Paris Saimir Mile, President of La voix des Rroms,

Jeton Neziraj, Artistic director National Theatre of Kosovo,

Christophe Sigognault, Artistic director of the company Saudade.

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