Most Recent Column, Opinion, World — October 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

From Paris With Love

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Disturbing trends are cropping up in Europe. Far-right political parties are now joining government coalitions, which is leading to an  improvement in the radical right’s electoral success in traditionally open societies – even in the Netherlands and Denmark. With rising xenophobia  toward the large number of Muslim immigrants in Europe, immigration policies are more stringent than ever before. And it’s plausible that Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right National Front, could become the President of France.

Yet the most disturbing trend is that this growing nativism has turned much of Europe against a group of its own citizens – the Roma.

The most evident instance of this was France’s deportation of hundreds of Roma last year. Although there have been large Roma populations in France for centuries, French authorities are now cracking down on communities tracing their origins to Romania and Bulgaria. While – as citizens of the European Union — the Roma have the right to immigrate freely to France, French authorities have chosen to disregard this fact. French authorities claim that they gave the Roma three months to find work, which many failed to do, and consequently, the Roma were not deemed productive members of French society.

The problem—other than the obviously problematic fact that many of these individuals have children and lives based in France—is that the political climate in many Eastern European countries is hostile. In the first week of October, thousands of people flooded the streets in Bulgaria to participate in anti-Roma rallies linking the travelers to organized crime. Many in the crowd wore t-shirts reading, “I don’t want to live in a Gypsy state.”

If Europe wants to maintain its self-righteous tone on human rights from recent decades, it must get a grip on its own persecution of the Roma.

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