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Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Publication date: 2002-01
Volume: 28 Pages: 83 - 101
ISSN: 1369-183X
DOI: 10.1080/13691830120103949
Publisher: Carfax


Vermeersch, Peter


Demography, 1603 Demography, 1608 Sociology


In recent years the European Union (EU) has applied its 'political' criteria for accession as an instrument to positively influence policies on minority issues in the candidate member states of central Europe. This essay explores the impact of the EU enlargement process on the political experiences of the Roma communities in Slovakia. Based on fieldwork observations, it is argued that although the EU's minority protection criterion has stimulated certain domestic legal and institutional changes in Slovakia, this external pressure has not been perceived by Roma activists as a clear point of support for their political mobilisation. This may relate to a number of circumstances. First, the EU minority criterion is perceived as limited because the EU has imposed requirements on candidate states which it does not demand from its current member states. Second, Roma activists suspect that Slovakia's concern for developing minority policies is related more to enhancing the country's standing in the international community than with remedying domestic social marginalisation. Third, the absence of elite allies in power and the lack of resources within Roma communities have hindered Roma citizens in their political mobilisation. And fourth, Roma activists are confronted with widespread negative stereotypes in which they are held responsible for harming Slovakia's relationship with the EU.