The trigger for writing these lines was a post on Facebook stating the following:
This would be really alarming if it was true. Nevertheless, as we all know there is always something true in the false. First of all there is no such law being discussed. But there is a an official document for Roma Integration and non-segregation you can find everything about it on the official page of the EC: https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/combatting-discrimination/roma-and-eu/roma-integration-eu-country/roma-integration-bulgaria_en . Another thing is how it is implemented and what results are obtained. What is really worrying is the proposal for a new “Roma Integration Plan” made in February 2019 by the Deputy PM, leader of one of the Nationalist (calling themselves Patriots) parties, which take part in the current government as minor partners to the leading party, member of the EPP. You can read about this here: https://balkaninsight.com/2019/02/08/bulgarian-nationalists-issue-controversial-roma-integration-plan-02-07-2019/ .
My intention is not to discuss here this racist plan, but the current processes of segregation in my country and Europe.
The history of discrimination of the Roma people in Bulgaria is as long as it is in the rest of Europe. They were always considered as second category people or even as “non-people”. They were and still are the perfect abject (using the concept of Julia Krasteva). A very illustrative anecdotic story was told to me years ago by a researcher of minorities in Bulgaria. Her grandfather used to invite every Thursday for lunch a Roma family. So she as a little girl had to do the sweeping for the guests. Once she showed her discontent with this task. So her grandfather told her: “We Bulgarians have to be grateful that God sent us the Gypsies, so we can show our mercifulness.” She had never thought of this statement as segregative. Segregation towards the Roma people, in our culture, has always been considered as something natural. Introducing anti-segregation laws and standards from the EU was accepted by the majority of our population as an attack on the national traditions. This gave raise to nationalism and discrimination. This was “naturally” extended to immigrants, which people use to call “those gypsies”. The signifier gypsy is commonly used in our language to signify someone irresponsible, criminal, out of law, immoral, dirty, ugly and aggressive. They are often accused of enjoying excessively and without limits. This reminds us of Jaques-Alain Miller in his course on Extimacy (1985-1986): “Racism is founded on what one imagines about the Other’s jouissance; it is hatred of the particular way, of the Other’s own mode of experiencing jouissance. We may well think that racism exists because our Islamic neighbor is too noisy when he has parties; nevertheless it is a fact that what is really at stake is that he takes his jouissance in a way different from ours.” The noisy celebrations of the gypsies are one of the regular complaints and accusations against them in Bulgaria. This “normal“ racism against gypsies in Bulgaria reminds us of Hannah Arendt’s “the banality of evil”. It contains a very dangerous potential, combined with the poverty of the majority of the Bulgarian people. The membership of Bulgaria in the EU with its democratic and human rights values has a containing effect on these segregation tendencies, but the double standards of the “traditional democracies” towards the newcomers, the countries from the ex-soviet bloc have a new segregation effect, which supports the raise of nationalism and anti-European populism lately. The postponement of the acceptance of Bulgaria and Romania in the Schengen agreement, due to some countries “traditional democracies”, with strange arguments out of the compliance criteria, has the same character of segregation as the one from the “traditional Bulgarians” towards the Roma ethnic group. We could say that Bulgarians and Romanians are the gypsies of EU, with the entire racist connotation that the signifier gypsy has. Even in the cited FB post and the comments below it, you can read the prejudice that this is something you should expect from Bulgarians.
You can find the same processes of segregation in Brexit, in Salvini’s election in Italy, in the Flemish separatist movement in Belgium, in the Catalan process on both sides. Also in the postponement of the EU negotiations with the Western Balkan countries for their accession to the Union and in the rejection of the solidarity principle in the admission of asylum seekers in the EU countries.
The raise of racism in the EU is a result of having more and more human groups getting closer. Jaques-Alain Miller has already stated this in his course on Extimacy: “Thus, the Other’s proximity exacerbates racism: as soon as there is closeness, there is a confrontation of incompatible modes of jouissance. For it is simple to love one’s neighbor when he is distant, but it is a different matter in proximity.” Nationalism is the medicine prescribed by leaders either caught in the imaginary dimension with “The Enemy” or cynically and irresponsibly exploiting the situation for the sake of their narcissistic enjoyment. It is not easy to decline such tempting solution especially in our times of the reigning imperative to enjoy here and now. The death drive (people use to call it the devil) is always whispering in our ears “Go for the final solution”, covering with rose petals the road to hell.
Image credit @yomadic.com