Roma Diplomacy Programme, DiploFoundation.

INTERNET AND PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
IN THE
FORMATION OF NON-TERRITORIAL ROMA NATION
 
  By Valery Novoselsky

Valery Novoselsky
 

Tutor: Valentin Katrandjiev

26 May 2006

Brussels, Belgium

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction.                                                                                                                                     

II. Chapter One: The history and today`s realities of Roma in Europe.                                        

1. Terminology and language.

2. History of Romani migrations and today’s Roma population

3. Roma Status vs. European Socio-Economic and Cultural Stereotypes.    

4. Challenges of the transition period and Romani ethnic mobilization.

5. Constructing a Romani transnational identity.

6. The developments of Romani movement.

III. Chapter Two: The impact of Internet on the establishment of Romani virtual nationhood

1. Arranging and delivering the content of web sites.

2. Constructing the social alliances and ensuring the interaction.

3. The significance of Roma web sites in raising the awareness, initiating campaigns, outlining positions.

4. The use of the web in overcoming the “ethnic capsulation”, prejudices and fears.

5. The role of virtual Roma networks in maximizing the educational functions of Internet and creating Roma intellectual and cultural elite.

6. Conclusion.

IV. Chapter Three: The role of Roma public diplomacy in the establishment of non-territorial Roma  nationhood. 

1. Roma Public Diplomacy at Work.

2. The strategy of public diplomacy for Roma elites.

3. The Role of the Internet in the Performance of Roma Public Diplomacy.  

V. Conclusion.                                                                                                                                     

1. The Emergence of Romani Nationhood and Elite.

2. The impact of Internet on the establishment of Romani virtual nationhood.

3. The role of public diplomacy and Internet in the establishment of non-territorial Roma nationhood.

VI. Bibliography.                                                                                                                            

Acknowledgment

I express my deep appreciation for the guidance and support during the preparation of this graduation paper to my tutor Valentin Katrandjiev.  I would also like to acknowledge the assistance of my colleague Valery Antsypolovsky with helpful linguistic suggestions in the process of completing of this paper.


Internet and Public Diplomacy in the Formation of non-Territorial Roma Nation

   I. INTRODUCTION

   This paper examines the impact of the Internet and public diplomacy on the formation of non-territorial Roma nation. Both, the role of the Internet and public diplomacy are analyzed in the context of the development of international Roma movement and of Romani elite. The examples featured in this research illustrate the way the Internet communication and web resources contributed to the emergence of Roma nationhood on international scale. The use of Internet is also looked at as a platform for conducting diplomatic, political, cultural and media relations of Roma communities.

   The first chapter starts with the definition of the term “Roma” from linguistic, ethnological and political point of views. It helps us to understand today’s political discourse of Roma activists with other state and non-state actors. The author analyzes the notion of ethnic Romani consolidation starting from the history of Roma ancestors and their forced migrations from India in medieval age. The important point is the emergence of Roma ethnicity within the Byzantine cultural environment in XI-XIII centuries. This has had a tremendous impact on the development of ethnic culture, language and identity. The migrations of Roma starting from XIV century also affected the ethnicity in terms of the formation of ethnic sub-groups and their worldwide dispersal.

   The second chapter looks at the advantages of the Internet in building of Roma virtual communities and the formation of new Romani transnational identity. The important role of the Internet in transforming the ways Roma interact, socialize, acquire and share information has been examined. Roma activists and supporters actively utilize the web tools to communicate with the civil society. They also use the Internet to develop themselves as reliable international communicators and experts on Roma issues. The interaction through numerous web sites and listservers has intensified the process of constructing social alliances within Roma political movement. The networks help Roma organizations to promote Roma causes at national, regional and international levels.

   The goals for development of Roma communities require active utilization by Roma activists, experts and practitioners of public diplomacy tools, which are analyzed in the third chapter. The Roma public practitioners make general publics aware of the Roma community concerns. The guidelines suggested for the strategy of Roma public diplomacy focus on the importance of construction of relationships with other communities and defining the areas of shared interests. The means for practical implementation of such strategy are identified and connected with the skills required for Roma pubic diplomats to handle information, carry out research and make effective presentations. The integration of Internet in the conducting of Roma public diplomacy has been explained.

   The paper briefly traces the Roma historical roots, language, migrations and political movement. Then, the attention is shifted to the supportive role of Internet in structuring the international Romani movement, especially in Europe, in consolidation of Roma communities into “non-territorial nation”. The examples and ideas analyzed in this writing help the reader understand the accomplishments of Romani movement in the context of contemporary world of telecommunication technologies and public diplomacy.

 

II. CHAPTER ONE: THE HISTORY AND TODAY`S REALITIES OF ROMA IN EUROPE.

1. Terminology and language.

   The term "Roma", the ethno-cultural self-title of the ones who are perceived by others as "Gypsies," has started to direct the official political discussion since the beginning of 1970-s. The term “Gypsies” has source in the word “Egypt”, from an incorrect belief that they were originally from Egypt. However, this term was never used by the Roma to describe themselves. The terms Gypsy and Tsigan are considered by many as derogatory. Despite the fact that not all people perceived as Gypsies recognize themselves as Roma, the word “Roma” has attained the authority of political correctness these days (D. Petrova, 2003).

   The Roma do not compose a homogeneous ethnic group, but embody a variety of correlated ethnic subgroups with their own identities. And since the beginning of 70-s, we are witnessing a development of the historic and political consolidation of these groups into the unifying Romani identity (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997). So, the name "Roma" has now become favored by most organizations on international, regional, national and local levels, dealing with diverse aspects of the "Roma issue."

   Most Roma speak different forms of Romani (Romanes), a language belonging to Indo-Iranian group of the contemporary Indo-European family of languages, widespread in Pakistan and north-western India. Usually, the majority of Roma also speak the main language of the region they live in. Modern linguists relate Romani to the Pothohari dialect of Punjabi language, spoken in Pakistan and north-west India (Wikipedia, 2006a). But speaking the Romani language is not a compulsory identity characteristic, since some communities that regard themselves as Roma have lost it (for example, the significant number of today's Roma in Hungary).

2. History of Romani migrations and today’s Roma population.

   When exactly the ancestors of Roma migrated out of India is still the topic for discussions among the scholars. Some authors start the count from the XI-th century, while the others underline that it is an issue related to a complex historic route of numerous migrations of different ethnic and social groups leaving India for different reasons at different times between the early 5th  (according the report of the Persian poet Firdawsi) and 12th centuries (The Patrin Web Journal, 1998). The results of anthropological and linguistic theories that the ancestors of Roma people migrated from India to Eastern Europe in about A.D. 1000 are strengthened by the genetic research of Luba Kalaydjieva of the University of Western Australia in Perth and her colleagues who have measured the prevalence of five different neurological-disease mutations in more than 1,800 Roma spread across Europe (Wikipedia, 2006a).

   The ancestors of Roma after the exodus have passed through the territories of today’s Afghanistan, Iran, Armenia, and Turkey. People recognized as Roma by other Roma still live as far east as Tajikistan, including some who made the migration to Europe and returned to Iran in XVIII century (Zargaries). And among the contemporary descendents of these people are the Banjara in north-west India. The Banjara themselves recognize a connection with the Roma in Europe and have developed social links with Romani activists in recent years (Wikipedia, 2006a).

   Estimates suggest that there are up to 10 million Roma worldwide. It's estimated that around 7 million of them live in Europe. The majority (two-thirds) of today’s European Romani population lives in Central and South-East Europe (CE and SEE). In Western Europe, except of Spain and Portugal, the Roma have never constituted a significant proportion of the population, in comparison with the countries of SEE. The smaller concentrations of Roma are found in the United States, Latin America and republics of the former USSR. Lesser numbers of Domary Gypsies are dispersed all over the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (Wikipedia, 2006a).

3. Roma Status vs. European Socio-Economic and Cultural Stereotypes.    

   Despite its visible ethnicity, the Roma population until recently did not have political entity and still do not have the territory of their own. Because of the nomadic lifestyle and durable reluctance to be integrated, there has always been a lot of distrust between the Roma and their neighbors. Being perceived as an inferior part of society, they are still subjected to discrimination.

   From the perspective of the state, the Roma are usually perceived as a counter-cultural group that challenges the basic values of society. This concept of counter-culturalism explains the frequent attempts throughout the history of Europe to exterminate Roma people and their lifestyle. These persecutions reached a climax during the World War II, when the Nazis killed large numbers of Roma, in the same way (and even more brutal one) as it has happened to the Jews. Roma were slated for extermination. It is believed that, approximately, 1 500 000 Roma were killed during Porajmos (the Great Devouring). But to determine the exact number of Roma who died in the Holocaust is not easy. Much of the Nazi documentation is still to be analyzed, and many murders were not recorded, because they took place in the fields and forests where Roma were seized (Wikipedia, 2006a).

   After World War II, the Roma living in Western Europe commanded humble attention until 1970s, when the issue of the Roma and Sinti started to be spelled out in terms of "integration" and "accommodation", rather than "assimilation". The Traveller groups enjoyed the rights of freedom of movement and conduct, and certain cultural rights. This process was viewed as an expression of “cultural pluralism”, a model of education and society, established first by the Council of Europe and then by the European Union. Thus, while enjoying particular rights, the Romani communities were also capable to preserve a relative autonomy from the state, being self-employed in a form of historical "service nomadism" (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997).

   Many Roma had much better social status in the countries of Eastern Block during the socialist times, because they were integrated into the society, benefiting better stages of professional realisation. And in terms of integration of unskilled Romani labor into the socialist economy, the states achieved certain results via coercive measures. As the majority of Roma were employed, families were also to some degree socially and economically secure.

4. Challenges of the transition period and Romani ethnic mobilization.

   The fall down of communism affected the Romani people in many ways. First, they lost their relatively secure economic position, as most of them faced increasing economic problems. As an underdeveloped community with low educational and professional skills, the Roma were incapable to compete for jobs in the conditions of market economy. 

   The matter of fact is that traditional Roma mentality is based on the assertion that the state needs to take care of its citizens. However, at times of socio-economic transformation and market economy tendencies, the societies are more determined by the individualistic liberal practices, which are foreign to Romani mentality. In consequence, traditional Roma patterns of living conflict with the dynamics of the contemporary world.  

   The fall down of communism initiated the process of complexed transition to democracy and a market economy in the Central and Eastern Europe. Thus, in a process of liberalization and democratization, ethnic minorities, among them the Roma, were granted the right to participate in public and political life, as a collective entity. Responding to economic insufficiency and aware of the danger of being scapegoated by the majority population, new political Romani elites and non-governmental organizations emerged. They raised the Romani issue and put forward cultural, social, and political demands; they also attempted to mobilize Romani communities, especially during the democratic and free elections, which were held in the countries of CE and SEE. As a result, Romani parties and organizations succeeded in placing Romani representatives in parliaments, in advisory and consultative governmental bodies (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997).

   The Roma are becoming an ethnically mobilized group, having a common stance and interests.  The Romani leaders discovered common interests and the authority of collective political action in promoting and defending their human and minority rights.

   During the 1990s the legal position of the Roma has improved evidently changing from disregard and non-recognition of Romani ethnicity to full acknowledgment of their status as a legitimate ethnic group. Nowadays large and diverse Romani communities are experiencing a process of ethnogenesis while discovering their cultural and political potential, while moving from a status of a marginal community of "Gypsies" to the one of "Roma" minority demanding respect and rights (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997).

   In traditional Roma communities the strata of intellectuals was non-existent, because without the practice of having their own written language, the traditional education wasn’t an essential value. Furthermore, many Romani families were reluctant to send their children to schools due to the fear of assimilation. The small part of “first generation” Romani intellectuals presently active in Europe is of recent origin, the result of coercive educational measures taken since the 1950s, mostly in the former communist states (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997). And the emerging “second generation” of young Roma intellectuals is the result of enormous efforts undertaken by the activity of Soros Foundations Network in the countries of CE and SEE.

   Taking into account that the integration of any ethnic minority is a two-way process, Roma leaders should assume that the majority population in countries, where Roma reside, should acknowledge and respect the distinctiveness of the Romani ethnic traditions and lifestyle while Roma minority should adhere the norms and standards of living of main population within the state of residence.  

5. Constructing a Romani transnational identity.

   A new political movement among the Roma has started in the 1970s and led to the establishment of the International Romani Congress. The first conference of this organization has been held in London in April 1971. Later, an executive body, the International Romani Union (IRU), has been established. IRU has lined the way for lobbying and negotiating with and within the international community on Romani issues. The concept of a Romani nation emerged in the framework of the IRU, and shortly its basic symbols, such as an anthem and a flag, were established. Significant efforts were also made to develop a standardized literary Romani language, which the Council of Europe strongly supported via the European Charter on Regional and Minority languages (1992).

   The IRU in the Declaration of a Nation claims that the Romani people constitute a single and distinct political community which requires its own, separate political representation, and that, due to their unique history, they deserve special treatment within a European framework on equality issues. The IRU advocates the recognition of Roma as a non-territorial nation and is dedicated to build the unity around a standardized Romani language. The IRU demands the establishment of a special status for the Roma as a non-territorial minority in Europe, in order to protect a nation, who experienced a Holocaust during World War II, as well as violence, pogroms, and genocide afterwards (Mirga and Gheorghe, 1997).

6. The developments of Romani movement.

   Romani ethnic mobilization is a new phenomenon and needs time to be developed with the support of state structures and international institutions. Democratic procedures present a potential solution: the Romani community has an opportunity to elect representatives at all levels by means of democratic elections. And legitimate representation at the international level is already drawn among the ones elected to national and European parliaments.

   Thus, the proposal of having a forum representing Roma communities in Europe has been in the air since the early 90-s. There were Roma themselves, who started thinking of some type of a consultative assembly for the Roma that would assist them to convey their concerns at European level. As a result, an unofficial tentative group composed of Roma leaders and personalities started examining the possibility of setting up such a Forum, as those involved began to call it. From 2001 until July 2004 several meetings took place in Strasbourg, where Roma and Traveller representatives negotiated the creation of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) with the Council of Europe (CoE). And, finally, the ERTF was registered in July 2004 as an association under French law. In November 2004, the CoE Committee of Ministers agreed to establish close and privileged relations with the ERTF through a Partnership Agreement which was signed on 15 December 2004 (Council of Europe, 2006). Thus, the Forum is giving to Roma and Travellers the possibility to participate in and influence, openly and officially, decision-making processes in issues relating to them through a special relationship with the CoE. This is the first time, when national and European Roma organizations from all over Europe are able to discuss and formulate jointly their hopes and concerns.

   The good sign also is that in June 2004, Ms. Livia Jaroka became the second Roma Member of the European Parliament when she was elected from the list of Hungarian right-wing Fidesz Party, following that country's accession to the European Union. The first Roma MEP was Juan de Dios Ramirez-Heredia, of Spain, who served in EP in 1994-1999. The third MEP is Mrs. Viktória Bernáthné Mohácsi, a Hungarian politician and Member of the European Parliament from the Alliance of Free Democrats, part of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. She replaced a party colleague, Gábor Demszky, on 29 October 2004 (Wikipedia, 2006a).

   Beside that, The Decade of Roma Inclusion is an initiative of eight Central and South-Eastern European countries that has been launched in 2005 to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of the Roma minority in the region. The Decade of Roma Inclusion is running from 2005 to 2015 and represents the first multinational project in Europe to actively develop the lives of Roma in eight countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and Slovakia. These countries have significant Roma minorities fairly disadvantaged there, both economically and socially. And it is agreed that the improvement of Roma people’s conditions is a necessary factor in the improvement of the welfare of all citizens and the country’s social stability in general (The Decade of the Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, 2006).


III. CHAPTER TWO:  THE IMPACT OF INTERNET ON THE                    ESTABLISHMENT OF ROMANI VIRTUAL NATIONHOOD.

   The era of modern communication technologies transforms the modes of social interaction and networking. The spread of Internet is generating virtual communities, where like-minded individuals are able to interact with each other across space and time. Internet is a global tool which promotes the creation of relationships, building of alliances and sharing of texts and graphics. It provides the possibility for an emergence of virtual communities, where participants are able to involve themselves and implement their own sense of ethnic togetherness.

   Virtual communities are characterized by Stone (1991) as "incontrovertibly social spaces in which people still meet face-to-face, but under new definitions of both `meet and `face... Virtual communities [are] passage points for collections of common beliefs and practices that united people who were physically separated". Virtual communities emerge as disembodied, but even so, they are still the reproductions of real life societies. And the limit of this community lies within the concrete people who live in real spaces and have an access to the Internet. And in the case of virtual communities created around a particular national, ethnic or religious identity they are the "imagined communities" (Anderson, 1991).

   The sense of awareness, solidarity and identity of these imagined communities gets stimulated and strengthened in the process of on-line communication. This is more so, in the case of Roma communities dispersed around the world, to whom the web allows, on the one hand, to surpass their separation and their forced displacement (the case of Roma refugees from ex-Yugoslavia) and on the other, to mobilize and form themselves culturally, socially and politically. This is facilitated through the communication, telling of actualities, reconstruction of shared historical experiences, (Wong, 2003).

1. Arranging and delivering the content of web sites.

   The digital space of Romani diasporas contains a significant number of personal and organizational web sites and listserves. Thus, it reproduces an elaborated system of community’s social, cultural, and political organizations, all of which are united around the idea of common origin and present lives, shared cultural heritage and mutual goals. Emphasizing of Romani traditions, music, dance, history, cuisine, films and other Roma products accompany this trend and brand a new form of Romani ethnic image.

   Usually, any Romani or supporting organization introduces itself in sub-pages entitled as “Who we are” or “Our organization”. After this introduction (i.e. description) the explanation of basic principles follows, usually entitled as “Mission statement”. Description of organization’s activities includes the issues of education, culture, housing, human rights advocacy, etc. These sub-pages are linked with the topic of “How you can help” or “Get involved” featured on other sub-pages. We should not also forget that almost each single Romani web site contains certain amount of information on Roma history and traditions. Occasionally, there is some info on the history and development of international Romani movement there. Moreover, on the sites with “news headlines” much more attention is given to the movement. Beside that, the pages containing news and historical information include a lot of photos, but, at the same time, the use of photo galleries is not always widespread.

   Technically speaking, through all the sub-pages under the title “Contact us” the following items are contained: title of organization, postal and street addresses, telephone, fax, e-mail, and ICQ or Skype directories. There are also forums or guest books connected to the site. As well as the request to share the opinion about the read article under the title: “Write us your opinion”. These tools are helping to ensure the communication between the web hosting organizations and virtual audience, thus serving as a bridge in construction of social alliances and ensuring of interaction.

2. Constructing the social alliances and ensuring the interaction.

   World Wide Web (WWW) is offering a variety of services, such as: formats for presentations, software for processing communications, collecting and spreading of information, forms for subscribing to membership and for contributions, programs to facilitate discussions and apply leadership functions (Geser, 2001). Virtual Roma community is brought into play while being indicative of the need to create cultural and social alliances, which would promote a sense of Romani identity and unity in the wake of many nowadays challenges. For example, the Roma Virtual Network (hosted on Yahoo Groups, moderated via an e-mail address romale@zahav.net.il on another server) now functioning globally. Started in Israel in July 1999, today, it operates across all continents, offers up to 20 articles daily in English, Romani and other languages (Roma_Daily_News, Romano_Liloro, Roma_Rights, Romane_Nevipena, Mundo_Gitano, etc.) and an electronic database. In the database, upon request or member subscription, one finds a variety of links, files, articles and photos on the diversity of topics. Maintained by volunteer editor and a dozen of volunteer correspondents as a non-profit outfit, it has become a “dwelling place” for many of its members. There are other virtual public venues as well, e.g. International Roma Women Network (via irwn_members@advocacylists.org, started in Finland in autumn 2003) or USTIBEN (via ustiben.2@ntlworld.com, started in UK in 2002), chat enabling forums and blogs for the ideas to be exchanged. Beside the web sites, most of these listserves create a naturalized space of Romanotan[1] on the Web and have the tendency to develop an ethnic identity within a virtual unitary Roma nation.

3. The significance of Roma web sites in raising the awareness, initiating campaigns, outlining positions.

   Many of the Roma sites and listserves unconsciously allude to an insider-outsider dichotomy, especially in articles regarding anti-Gypsism. In their construction of a Roma identity, they frequently tend to objectively oversea Roma communities dispersed around the world. They assist to the removal of differences among the Roma communities and they build an implicit Roma commonality. They create powerful attachment to ideas of unified non-territorial nation that seem to be stronger than the territorial one (Wong, 2003).

   Many Roma web sites, e.g. Romano Centro, Patrin, ERRC and ERIO, whose primary audiences are the activists from Roma communities and organizations that live in their respective localities, certainly promote and adopt a sense of community. And in providing actual information and making analyses of local and international significance, they try to depict simultaneously very specific notions of community that include sharing the same space and time. These sites encourage a sense of community as in the real world and seek to defend its interests when they are confronted (especially relates to ERRC site). And we should not forget the unique qualities of the Internet, when these people make on-line presentations of their ideas, projects, views, etc., especially during conferences and workshops.

4. The use of the web in overcoming the “ethnic capsulation”, prejudices and fears.

   The composition of any Romani web site usually contains the texts, at least, on three languages: Romani, of a country of residence and in English, as international language. The web design is done by the mixed Roma-non-Roma staff. The work of the organization that hosts the site is usually held in cooperation with non-Roma NGOs or even governmental structures. Each single photo placed on the page always showing a number of non-Romani supporters or participants of the events. The description of educational projects contains a number of visible points and clues on harmonic collaboration with non-Romanies. And the lists of sponsor organizations and institutions speak for themselves.

   The development of the web in engaging of an open inter-ethnic dialogue is happening when these virtual communities feature the articles, interviews done by mainstream journalists, specializing in inter-ethnic affairs. This also happens when important governmental documents in relation to ethnic minorities are discussed on the web. Usually, representatives of a dozen of other ethnic minorities contribute in discussions and this process is featured on-line. Inter-ethnic dialogue is also in progress, when there is a need to sign the petition in defense of someone or there is a joint cultural event, festival, etc. This kind of activities is prepared via web announcements, calls for application, virtual communication, etc. This way, the information on Roma community and movement can be easily conveyed to the audience which is ready to adopt such information, contribute to the exchange of ideas and participate in community life.

   For some Roma the Internet, due to its relatively easy access and low costs, has been advertised as an emancipatory tool to open up channels of informational exchange and an innovative political space. Representatives of an ethnic minority, unlike previously, are able to make their views public and claim their identity through the Internet. Web communities have enabled Roma people to develop relationships, which are often concurrently inter- and cross-cultural. However, due to the significant rate of poverty and illiteracy among Roma the phenomenon of so-called “digital divide” is still very much existing. Thus, Roma communities are having urgent need in having their own Internet centers and additional e-Riders institutions in addition to already existing Roma Information Project.

5. The role of virtual Roma networks in maximizing the educational functions of Internet and creating Roma intellectual and cultural elite.

   Digital networks represent the part of political force that shapes the emergence of new Romani elite (Wikipedia, 2006b). They help intellectuals to be timely informed about new challenges, opportunities and venues. They provide the channels to locate needed contacts, events, projects, financial grants and employment possibilities, thus leading to creating of economic forces that also shape the emergence of elite. The variety of virtual platforms, representing various views on this world and universe, indeed helps to create the strata of Roma population able to think at more advanced intellectual level.

   The role of today’s Internet is sufficient for keeping a proper level of communication among Roma elites throughout Europe. Thus, Roma activists communicate with one another on internal community (IRU, RNC, ERTF`s happenings), EU`s (Roma-related events held by EP, CoE, OSCE, etc.) and local (also regional) levels. In all the cases, Internet is a tool for announcing and holding the events, recruiting the staff for Romani or related organizations, for professional and personal communication.

 

   Due to these developments, currently, a stratum of Romani elites is having an opportunity to exercise methods of influencing the international audience via public and official diplomacy and media. Roma elite needs intensive media and in-person communications with lay people in Roma community and a lot of working contacts and joint actions with non-Roma elites. In these issues the Internet serves as a media channel, chat venue and a “dwelling place” for professional web sites.

   6. Conclusion.

   The Internet provided Roma communities with the opportunity to develop the concepts of ethnic identity and relations with supportive non-Roma by very convenient system of on-line communication. This communication allows both, personal and group usage of web tools, as well as research, collecting, distribution and presentation of information. Roma communities fastened by the challenge of globalization and the need to create new cultural and social alliances have developed a sense of virtual identity. Thus, the digital space of Romani communities and non-Roma supporting organizations contains a significant number of personal and institutional web sites and  listserves, which are united around the ideas of common origin, history, culture and goals.

   Most of the web tools mentioned above are integrating various concepts of Roma identity within a virtual unitary Roma nation. Their variety is helping to ensure the three-level interaction: between the web hosting organizations and virtual audience, within the web hosting organizations, between personal users (i.e. virtual audience). They help to construct assumed Roma commonality and a shared identity. These web tools enable the Roma to maintain broad relations, facilitate the dialogue and contribution to the community affairs.

   The Web reinforces the struggle over the understanding of identity; it enables identity issues to be instantly discussed, experienced and imagined. Thus, through the dispersed collective practices Roma communities are enabled to construct and evaluate the idea of unified non-territorial nation, and understand their mutual heritage.

   The Roma virtual identity shown in web sites, chat rooms, blogs helps people to meet in person, held the events, discuss vital issues in a real format. Their awareness and practical experience are becoming wider due to the information and tools of communication offered by Internet. The role of Internet is also sufficient for keeping an appropriate communication and coordination among developing Roma elites and advocates of Roma movement around the world and, especially, in Europe. Beside that, the sensitive information on Romani issues is shared and discussed in-time with partners working with them and helping them in political, social and cultural issues. Thus, existing digital networks and resources de-facto represent the part of social force that shapes the emergence of new Romani elite (intellectual and political) able to think on highly intellectual level for the sake of the progress of the whole community.

 

IV. CHAPTER THREE: THE ROLE OF ROMA PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF NON-TERRITORIAL ROMA NATIONHOOD.

1. Roma Public Diplomacy at Work.

   Nowadays media coverage of the life of Roma communities is definitely greater than it was 15 years ago, when Roma people were portrayed as representatives of mysterious and, at the same time, asocial entity. And there is something newer now. While Roma still remain a complex and unusual ethnicity in the larger international mind, there is also a realization that Roma are not really a collage of folklore or criminal images. In fact, the situation is changing. It is increasingly the turn of the leaders and activists of Roma organizations, who generated the perceptions about Roma ethnic identity and culture in the eyes of non-Roma audiences.

   And it is the time when Roma activists start looking at some public diplomacy framework that involves them more than the traditional community leadership. This means that Romani media and public organizations need to promote connections with what is influential for international opinion (Agrawal, 2005).

   And the development of what is known as public diplomacy is in process.  These days many of the young and educated Roma activists are the ones who are perceived as public diplomats working on behalf of their community. Roma activists and students study and work in an inter-professional and inter-cultural environment where they are exposed to active public communication and partnerships with counterparts from other ethnic and national communities (USIA Alumni Association, 2002). Thus, many young Roma from Central and South-East Europe have joined the Central European University to do their studies on Roma-related projects. Accordingly, when a student or a scholar in given country conducts team-based research on Roma topic via Internet in collaboration with the number of Roma scholars and institutions, he is utilizing one of the popular services provided by a number of Roma networks. When a newspaper correspondent that deals with Romani issue asks for an interview or clarification of a statement made by a Roma activist, he usually contacts the available Roma organization. When a student or an educator in any country wants to know more about Roma culture or history, it may be someone in the staff of Roma organization to whom such a query can be directed. When a need is perceived to publish a brochure in a particular country or group of countries on a multi-ethnic subject, Roma activists may participate in planning, publication and distribution of such a brochure. These few examples of Roma activism and public relations demonstrate the scope and variety of modern public diplomacy engagement by Roma activists (USIA Alumni Association, 2002).

2. The strategy of public diplomacy for Roma elites.

   The task of communicating with foreign public with the help of various tools, known as public diplomacy, became more important than ever and not only to the states, but to ethnic minorities as well. The spread of democracy to many countries, including the ones with significant Roma population, improved access to news and information and gave rise of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy movements in these countries.

   Thus, Roma elites face the need to adopt a public diplomacy strategy whose ultimate goal is building and deepening relationships, understanding of other countries' and communities` needs, cultures, identifying areas of shared values and interests. Roma public diplomacy can achieve a number of goals: increasing familiarity (making people think about Roma community and updating their perceptions about it); increasing appreciation (creating positive opinion of Roma community and getting others to see issues from your perspective); engaging people (encouraging audience to see Roma community as a destination for relationships and research and encouraging them to support it’s values); and influencing people's behavior (getting international granting institutions and companies to invest, encouraging public support for Roma community’s concerns, and convincing politicians to turn to it as an ally).

3. The Role of the Internet in the Performance of Roma Public Diplomacy.

   The modern means of electronic communication constitute the most obvious structural change of the environment, in which public relations activists operate. The media diplomacy and public diplomacy need to be seen as complementary to each other. Thus, the interaction with the media should be the focal point of the daily work of a public diplomacy practitioner (Sucharipa, 2004).

Introduction of Internet communications has brought about most important changes for the service of Roma activism. Among them:

- direct contacts between all activists, and as the welcome results there is a higher motivation, no loss of time and greater sense of responsibility;

- development of an informal reporting style;

- teamwork spirit: staff of organizations can – independently from their geographic location – work together on a report to the director, a draft statement, a position paper.

   It becomes standard practice of today for the modern Roma activists to consult on a regular basis the web sites of different national and international news agencies. Beside that, every activist is familiar with the homepages of all organizations and institutions, relevant for his work. Roma activists today are networking with colleagues around the world, relying on easy access to important, up-to-date web-based information. Internet access increases the amount of information to be processed, sorted out and also be put into a knowledge system.

   While information gathering has become easier, information management has become more pertinent. New electronic procedures need to be established and elaborated. Roma information and knowledge managers need to be educated and adequately positioned in the management structures of Romani NGOs. Web sites need to be professionally developed and maintained and they should assume an important function in the representation of a Roma non-territorial nation.

   New developments, such as the link between foreign and internal politics, the extending spectrum of issues dealt by MFAs, the communication revolution etc., has taken the public diplomacy to the front position. That’s why Roma public diplomacy practitioner should act as an international communicator and mediator of positions of his own community vis-à-vis all sections of the non-Roma audience (Sucharipa, 2004). For this he must build up a stable network of contacts in all areas of society with a view to become actively involved in shaping of public opinion in the Roma and non-Roma environments. He also must concentrate on in-depth analysis and drafting recommendations for action.

V. CONCLUSIONS.

1. The Emergence of Romani Nationhood and Elite.

   Following the historical and social realities, today’s Roma do not represent a homogeneous ethnicity, but a range of interrelated ethnic communities residing in different countries, regions and continents. For a long time they did not possess a common identity due to the lack a common territory and homeland. However, as a result of the process of political consolidation of these communities, the title "Roma" has now being accepted by most state and non-state actors that address the Roma issue. Many nowadays Romani activists hold the Romani nation to be a point of indication in their public and political activities. They have introduced a new concept, such as "non-territorial" to describe the current status of Roma ethnicity. This is a concept of a non-territorial nation-state based on common Indian roots of the Roma people, common historical experiences, perspectives, culture, language, and social status.

   The fall of communism commenced a difficult process of transition to democracy and free market economy in the countries of former Eastern Block. At the same time, the minorities, among them the Roma, were granted a legitimate opportunity to participate in public and political life and develop their own community structures. In response to the challenges of economic deficiency and anti-Tziganizm, new political Romani leadership and organizations have emerged. These actors are trying to address the Romani issues by ethnic mobilization and defense of their community’s rights. They brought up the Romani cultural, social, and political rights as an important point of debate in the regional and, more precisely, pan-European context, especially during the democratic elections. As a result of the ethnic mobilization, the Romani political parties and organizations succeeded in the election of a number of Romani representatives in governmental bodies. Also, during the 1990s the legal status of the Roma has improved changing from non-recognition of ethnicity to full acknowledgment of their status as members of a legitimate ethnic group.

2. The impact of Internet on the establishment of Romani virtual nationhood.

   The growth of Internet provided many individuals and NGOs within Roma communities with the prospects to develop the concepts of ethnic identity and with the tools of electronic communication on a community and inter-ethnic level. Thus, in the course of last 15 years Roma communities challenged by globalization and the need to create new alliances have developed a sense of common virtual identity. This sense is supported by a significant number of personal and institutional web sites, listserves and blogs, which stress the ideas on commonality of origin, history, culture and common goals of Roma people.

   Through the practice of sharing information and knowledge on-line dispersed Roma communities are becoming now aware of their common heritage and are willing to integrate over the notion of a unified non-territorial nation. This process went further due to the fact that already established Roma virtual networks became influential international actors in the field of public diplomacy and public affairs.

3. The role of public diplomacy and Internet in the establishment of non-territorial Roma nationhood.

   These days many Roma activists work and/or study in an inter-cultural environment, where they actively communicate with their colleagues from other ethnic communities and nationalities. Because of that, the task of communicating with non-Roma representatives becomes more important than ever for Roma ethnic minority. Young and educated Roma activists are the ones who are perceived as public diplomacy officers representing their community. They should act as international communicators and mediators of the positions of their community to non-Roma audience.

   Roma activists need to approve a strategy for a public diplomacy with a goal of building relationships, understanding other communities` needs and cultures, identifying areas of shared interests. Roma public diplomacy can achieve a set of objectives: making people think on Roma issues; creating positive opinion on Roma community; encouraging audience to see Roma community as a destination for relationships and research; encouraging public and political support for Roma community’s concerns. And the role of Internet is important in keeping the communication and coordination in developing of this trend. It helps the sensitive information on relevant issues to be shared and discussed in a quick, accessible and timely format in the process of achieving of these objectives.

 

VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY.

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The Patrin Web Journal. (November 23, 1998). Timeline of Romani (Gypsy) History [online]. Available from: http://www.geocities.com/~patrin/timeline.htm [Accessed 26 May 2006].

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Wong, L. (2003). Belonging and diaspora The Chinese and the Internet. First Monday [Chicago] [online]. April 2003. Available from: http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_4/wong/index.html [Accessed 26 May 2006].


[1] Romanotan - imaginary Romani country


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