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Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement: Reply to Critics and some Epistemological Considerations for Policy-making

  • Mark Braham (a1) and Matthew Braham (a2)


This article examines the criticism that we received regarding our article “Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement” which was published in Volume 13, Number 2 of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (CRIA). In this reply we seek to clarify our position, pointing to distinctions between advocacy and policy analysis, between descriptive and normative statements, and to a need to examine not only the problems that the Roma face, but also those that their situation poses to policy-makers.



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1. Mark Braham and Matthew Braham, “Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2000, pp. 97–116.

2. Copenhagen Criteria of the 1993 Copenhagen European Council; Council of Europe, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, 1999).

3. See Braham and Braham, “Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement,” p. 99, for a Czech example of the use of this strategy.

4. Martin Kovats, “Romani Migrations: Strangers in Anybody's Land: Academic Introduction,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2000, p. 16; Nidhi Trehan, “Romani Migrations: Addressing Continuing Debates,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2000, p. 117.

5. For an analytically rigorous treatment of this problem see Kenneth E. Boulding, Conflict and Defense (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962).

6. Erik Ohlin Wright, Class Counts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 206.

7. Kovats, “Romani Migrations,” p. 16.

8. Romani subethnic group.

9. Note, for example, the number of Romani websites.

10. Nidhi Trehan, “Romani Migrations,” p. 117.

11. Note that “rationality” is being used here in a very specific sense of instrumental choice that is utility maximising by being “complete,” “transitive” and “consistent.” Readers unfamiliar with “rational choice” should refer to any basic text on microeconomics, e.g. Robert H. Frank, Microeconomics and Behavior, 3rd edn (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997).

12. This is due to the fact that the perception of the average may not be based on a representative sample of the population.

13. The reader unfamiliar with the economic approach to human behaviour may find it confusing that we say that while the Duke's choice is an act of statistical discrimination, it is not one of ethnic discrimination. The reason is that “statistical discrimination” is a term given to the consequence of choosing an employee judged on the perceived performance of the average of the group to which the job applicant belongs. The Duke would clearly be guilty of discrimination against Gabriel R. if (1) he had accurate information about Gabriel's personal productivity but he ignored it, or (2) he was aware that the average performance of Gabriel R.'s group is higher than that of Alan P.'s. In the latter case the economist would say that the Duke has a “taste” or preference for discrimination because he was willing to pay for lower quality work in order to avoid contact with a Romani individual. For a very brief introduction to the economics of discrimination, see Gary S. Becker, “Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 101, No. 3, pp. 386–389. See also any basic economics textbook, such as Robert H. Frank, Microeconomics and Behavior. For an economist perspective on ethnic conflict, see Ronald Wintrobe, “From Expressionism and Futurism to Kitsch: Ethnic and Intergenerational Conflict, Political Inaction, and the Rise of Dictatorship,” in Samuel Bowles, Maurizo Franzini and Ugo Pagano, eds, The Politics and Economics of Power (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 260–285.

14. The economics of discrimination may prove to be very valuable to those concerned with Romani policy-making. See note 13 above for references.

15. Some sociologists would relate it to the “Protestant work ethic”; economists would explain it as an inefficient allocation of resources, since the economy tends towards efficiency.

16. For example, signs prohibiting begging are to be found at Switzerland's main railway station, Gare Cornavin in Geneva.

17. For example, in those areas of Western Europe populated with Romani refugees who escaped the Yugoslav wars or problems in Romania and other countries of Eastern Europe.

18. For a detailed discussion of the debate over Romani origins, see Sir Angus Fraser, “The Present and Future of the Gypsy Past,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2000, pp. 17–31.

19. See Andrzej Mirga and Nicolae Gheorghe, The Roma in the Twenty-First Century: A Policy Paper (Princeton: Project on Ethnic Relations, 1997).

20. The issue here is very problematic because we may be in fact faced with a situation where we could buttress arguments that the majority society ought to change, but the reality is that it will not; and that the Roma also ought to change, but the reality is that they likewise might not. This is a case of “pure conflict.” The outcome may then simply be a further marginalisation of the Roma, which then shifts the onus back onto the Roma, even if this is considered unjust.

21. Mark Braham and Matthew Braham, “Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement,” p. 101.

22. Mark Braham, The Untouchables: A Survey of the Roma People of Central and Eastern Europe (Geneva: UNHCR, 1993).

23. European Roma Rights Centre, Roma Rights, No. 4, 2000,

24. Note the term “generic instruments.” These are, abstractly speaking, “social contracts” and in so being must have a high degree of generality if they are to achieve consensus. They therefore by definition exclude the particulars of one culture or another, although they are based on certain presumptions about cultures. Generic instruments are an expression of agreed principles from which policy programmes can be derived. See, for example, John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971). A similar idea is expressed by John C. Harsanyi, “Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 63, 1955, pp. 309–321, reprinted in John C. Harsanyi, Essays on Ethics, Social Behavior, and Scientific Explanation (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1976), pp. 6–23.

25. This is another way of saying that the benevolent policy-maker who wishes to maximise social welfare must find a policy solution that can potentially achieve consensus in society at large and not just among those of a minority. That is, the only stable and workable policy is one in which no one is made worse off in the long term by the policy. Those familiar with welfare economics will recognise this as an application of the Pareto principle.

26. If one could conceive Romani populations to be economic systems, then we would, following Dasgupta, classify them as an “imperfect economies,” which he calls a polite term for today's poor countries. These economies are, according to Dasgupta, imperfect in that their institutions and cultural modes are largely dysfunctional because they produce a significantly lower level of social welfare in comparison with the modern capitalist economies of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. See Partha Dasgupta, “Valuing Objects and Evaluating Policies in Imperfect Economies,” Economic Journal, May 2000, pp. c1–c29.

27. This cannot be avoided. Modern education is dominated by science, which by definition is in conflict with tradition. The growth of scientific knowledge is not only socially progressive, it is also disruptive.

28. To avoid any misunderstanding, we are not denigrating people as mere economic agents. What we are saying here is an expression of the ethical principles of impartiality and equality that underpin human rights. In slightly more formal terms, we are implying that a society is fair and just if its institutions do not discriminate against the members of the society except insofar as they differ in type. If a society adheres to the fundamental principles of human rights, “type” is only ability and not race, religion, or creed. See, for example, H. Peyton Young, Equity in Theory and Practice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

29. John C. Harsanyi, “Rational-Choice Models of Political Behavior vs. Functionalist and Conformist Theories,” World Politics, Vol. 21, 1969, pp. 513–538, reprinted in Harsanyi, Essays on Ethics, p. 142.

30. Harsanyi, “Rational Choice Models,” p. 142.

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