Western Leaders and the New “Barbarian Invasions”
by Giulio D’Eramo, World War 4 Report
The most remarkable event signaling the racist shift in Europe’s politics in 2010 was probably the mid-September crisis over a leaked French document showing the explicit targeting of Roma people for deportation that the administration in Paris had written over the summer. The following unprecedented complaint against France by the European Union for breaching of EU rules on the free movement of citizens gives a measure of the importance of this scandal.
The complaint was retracted at the end of October when Paris removed overtly discriminatory language from its new immigration bill. But by then, some 1,000 Roma had been expelled, and hundreds of their camps demolished. The European summer of 2010 might well be remembered as the “summer of intolerance.”
Europeans started to feel the heat in August, when in Germany one Thilo Sarrazin, an outspoken Bundesbank’s consultant and prominent Social Democratic Party member, published a book—Deutschland schafft sich ab (“Germany Does Away With Itself”)—in which he blames immigrants and Jews for every social and economic problem of the Federal Republic. The book, upon its release, was #1 on Germany’s bestsellers list.
Just as Sarrazin was finally being kicked out from both the Bundesbank and the SPD, the offending French document was leaked to the press. It starts off as follows: “The President of the Republic has fixed on July 28 concrete objectives for the evacuation of illegal camps: 300 illegal camps or settlements have to be evacuated by 3 months, with priority those of the Roma.”
The French government had previously assured EU officials that they were kicking out people without documents and living in “favelas.” They had made it clear that the process was not carried out on a discriminatory basis. As EU law holds that no member state may have laws that explicitly target an ethnic group, the publication of the document prompted the reaction of European Commissioner Viviane Reding, who issued a strong and angry condemnation. She stated:
During a formal meeting with French ministers…the Commission received political assurances that specific ethnic groups had not been targeted in France. I can only express my deepest regrets that the political assurances given by two French ministers…are now openly contradicted by an administrative circular issued by the same government…
Despite the obvious illegality of the measure as described by the leaked document, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rushed to support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying: “Europe had not yet woken up to the fact that the Roma problem is not a uniquely a French or Italian, Greek or Spanish problem. President Sarkozy, on the other hand, is fully aware of this.” He added: “We hope that this Franco-Italian convergence will shake Europe and make it confront the problem with coordinated policies.”
And indeed, the Italian government had already started to work within its own boundaries.
The mildest representative of the xenophobe Northern League Party, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, has just proposed a new decree on Urban Security. This decree, which would include strong measures against nomadism, has long been awaited from the mayor of Rome, the post-fascist Gianni Alemanno.
A loyal to Berlusconi supporter throughout the latest political crisis, Alemanno started off as a young and violent supporter of the overtly Mussolini-nostalgist Italian Social Movement (MSI), which then became the National Alliance (AN), which in turn melted into the Berlusconi’s ironically named party, People of Freedom (PDL). One of his first plans as mayor is the immediate dismantling of some 90% of the 100-plus Roma camps around the city. He obviously adds that the camps will be erased only after a new accommodation is found for the people living there—but that only means until another existing camp (but one out of the city) is enlarged. He says he’s waiting for the Interior Minister to pave the way for legal eviction of all nomadic people (read: Rom), even those with EU papers.
Alemanno states: “It is paramount that when there are situations of either vagrancy or absolute misery, we are able to provide compulsory medical treatment to those people for periods up to 6 months.” This is a barely veiled reference to internment in psychiatric institutes. From this declarations we learn two useful facts. First: Nomadic people do not deserve civil rights. Second: Roma people like to be poor, and are therefore crazy—and therefore lose their civil rights, as appropriate for crazy dangerous people.
The immigration office of Catholic aid organization Caritas expressed concerns that the moves of Rome’s mayor will force more and more Roma to join overcrowded and malfunctioning camps in other regions of Italy—for example in the poor Naples suburb of Scampia, notoriously controlled by the Camorra crime machine.
The Cardinal of Milan, Dionigi Tettamanzi, also protested against discrimination when the city’s right-wing administration evicted 200 Roma from an abandoned building they had been squatting in September, asserting, “this operation did not respect human rights.” Too bad, one could say, that when it comes to election times the Church always supports right-wing parties because of their “pro-life” stand. Just before Christmas, a Milan judge ordered the city government to offer housing to the evicted families.
Despite recent violent demonstrations in Rome (Dec. 14 saw riots on a scale not witnessed since the ’70s, as thousands marched against Berlusconi) and the fact that Alemanno is now at the center of a huge scandal (with many of his relatives and fascist cronies getting top-paid jobs in the administration), he was originally elected on a security platform. (Ironically, one of the directors of Rome’s public transport company, Francesco Bianco, is a former member of fascist terrorist groups, charged in the ’80s for two politically motivated killings.)
On his original security ticket, Alemmano repeatedly made propaganda use of one of the most famous crimes of recent years, that of a woman who was killed on the way from the train station to her house, in an unlighted alley just beside a Roma camp. Anger was focused on the Roma, rather than the government for failing to provide a paved, well-lit route from the train station to the residential area on the other side of the trafficked Via Tor di Quinto. Alemmano exploited the climate of fear around this episode. The high-profile arrest (on unrelated criminal charges) of a couple of extremely rich Roma families, owning tens of Ferraris and luxury apartments, increased the common feeling that they just “act” poor.
Although with less fanfare than in France and Italy, Germany has also been aggressively deporting Roma—generally, on quietly chartered flights to Kosova and elsewhere in the Balkans. In September, rights groups reportede police arriving at the homes of undocumented immigrants in Frankfurt in the middle of the night and giving the residents two hours to pack.
The French and Italian moves against the Roma, the more successfully hidden moves in Germany, the xenophobic statements of Bundersbank’s Sarrazi (supported by 85% of Germans, at least on the Muslim issue, polls indicate), like the growing Tea Party movements in America, show once more that the much-feared “barbarian invasions” are not coming from outside, but from within the West’s own boundaries.
To use the power of a state against a minority is to follow the line of the worst and most undemocratic groups within a country. We should always remember that the most important task of a democracy is not expressing the will of the majority, but protecting and giving voice to the many minorities that constitute a nation.
Giulio D’Eramo is a freelance writer whose work appears frequently in Index on Censorship, Articolo 21, Red Pepper and other online publications. He recently launched his own website, Blog Me There. An Italian native, he currently resides in England.
EU to suspend complaint against France over Roma expulsions
The Guardian, Oct. 19
German expulsions of Roma have long been kept secret
Romea.cz, Sept. 24
Fears of anti-immigration alliance as Berlusconi lauds France’s expulsion policy
The Independent, Sept. 17
Orders to police on Roma expulsions from France leaked
The Guardian, Sept. 13
The Bundesbank and Axel Weber’s Nightmare Dilemma (on public reaction to Thilo Sarrazin)
Wall Street Journal’s The Source blog, Aug. 31
From our Daily Report:
HRW protests deportation of Roma to Kosova
World War 4 Report, Oct. 28, 2010
Echoes of Nazism seen in Sarkozy’s Roma policy
World War 4 Report, Sept. 17, 2010
From our archive:
Back to the Dark Ages: Europe’s April of Atavism
World War 4 Report, April 28, 2002
Criminal Networks Exploit Italy’s Anti-Immigrant Backlash
by Giulio D’Eramo, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, March 2010
RISE OF THE CZECH FAR RIGHT
Neo-Nazis Exploit Growing Anti-Roma Racism
by Gwendolyn Albert, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report, July 2009
Special to World War 4 Report, January 1, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution