by Maria Szots

It`s a dignity issue, isn`t it? To have the right to belong, not just de jure. By law you get citizenship to attest your belonging; legal, economical, cultural borders which will shape your identity.

`Nation` is relatively a new concept. It comes from Latin meaning ‘birth or ‘origin, and like every identity trace, it influences how you are perceived and how you perceive yourself.

Although Romanticism is obsolete, some sort of national identity exists in our highly globalised and interdependent present, in which the things that connect us far outnumber those that divide us. An Italian adolescent has pretty much the same interests as a child from Hong Kong, and due to the technological explosion, they use almost exactly the same tools, and hence, thinking frameworks.

However futile the national borders` importance might become gradually, when things go down and people look for the enemy, the black sheep, or more correctly put when far right parties need electoral capital, nationality becomes one person`s primal label. You are never as self conscious   about your nationality as you are as an immigrant, or you are in a minority. When things get oversimplified and one trait of an individual eclipses any other, you stop being you and become your nationality. In literature that would be called a synecdoche.

Romania and Bulgaria are latecomers in the EU, and emigration of their citizens exploded after the fall of communism, where the totalitarian regimes were highly restrictive of migration.

After 1990 there`s been massive emigration in waves (1990; 1996-2002; 2002; 2007) main destinations being Italy, Spain, the UK. The first two were due to the similarity of which made their integration easier.

Currently there are between 2,5-3 million Romanian emigrants in Europe (according to data of 2013 of Cristian David, representing The Department of Romanians Everywhere). They represent a great challenge for the hosting countries and to the European Union, just as well as their lack represent a real challenge for Romania, given the fact that the majority of emigrants are young, qualified people, whom are essential to the country.

In 2014 the population of Romania is over 21 million, of which roughly 10 million are active population (those able to work) of which just 5 million are employed. Of those 5 million, 30% are working for the state which means that the whole country is living off 3,5 million people. What this means, is that, 3,5 million people are sustaining the economy of a country of 21 million.

No wonder apathy is at an all time high, especially among the young. They are not willing to sacrifice for abstract metaphysical values like patriotism. Patriotism is a luxury they cannot afford. They have to sustain themselves and their families, so they emigrate for a better future, they go abroad working jobs for which they are overqualified but which can offer them a decent living.

The country needs investments, needs businesses to provide employment opportunities; it would need stimulus from the government, and a culture of entrepreneurship, not submission. Unfortunately the government has no real vision and the political and bureaucratic climate doesn`t stimulate the business sector. However this is not specific only to Romania.

Citizens are forced to emigrate and become vulnerable (see the insults on Romanians and Bulgarians after the first day of this year a massive inflow was expected in the UK, due to the visa restriction lift, which failed to materialize to the surprise of the Brits). They are stigmatized for their nationality carrying bad reputation. They represent an easy target which is oh-so-well exploited in times of need of someone to blame. Xenophobia is the first to grow in times of economical crisis.

One should remember that well integrated immigrants, taxpayers, sustain the economy and are indispensable for the country. Imagine a scenario where all the immigrants would stop working or leave the hosting countries, and predict its consequences.

Obviously this is a complex issue, where there is always place for debate. However the right for liberty, movement and dignity are all fundamental rights stipulated in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is an issue of dignity. There might be few, but there is youth with vision and a sense of belonging. That is, or should be the EU`s objective: for you to consider yourself as much the citizen of your country as a citizen of Europe.

It is intrinsic to democracy that not respecting the rights of others automatically strips you from your own rights. After all it`s how Steinbeck puts it in East of Eden: “There`s a responsibility in being a person. It`s more than just taking up space where air would be.”

 

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