Letter against Organic Garlic Romanes

Berlin, November 26, 2012

Dear initiators, project partners and supporters of the project
“Organic Garlic Romanes“, You are perpetrating institutional and structural violence against Roma with your so-called Roma Integration showcase project.

The concept „ORGANIC GARLIC ROMANES a sustainable eco-social future project for Roma in Europe“, which was developed by the Austrian association „European Neighbours“, is based on racial-anthropological ascriptions and supports colonial politics.
The idea was developed by Bernd Spiegl from the Graz-based association for the support of the disadvantaged in Europe, „European Neighbours“, and not by Roma themselves. Their demands and different perspectives are thus missing in the concept.
It shares central conceptual aspects with contemporary forms of slavery and forced labour. Apart from that, it is a restraint in the labour policy of the EU and at the same time a discriminatory practice, as it is apparent that a certain group of humans is purposefully excluded and discriminated against.
Furthermore, we hold that if the aim is to create employment for Roma in their „homeland“, the freedom of movement of Roma and the right to live where we want is restricted.
„We want to promote this idea because it is about letting words become actions. With Organic Garlic Romanes we support the creation of working places for Roma in their homelands as well as their willingness and ability to work. To cultivate garlic is a meaningful occupation – in comparison to the disgraceful act of begging!“ as Dr. Christian Buchmann (member of the provincial government of Styria) said.
Currently, Roma are the target of Nazi marches and victims of pogroms, amongst others.
Especially considering this, the attitudes and statements of the initiators, project partners and supporters of the project „Organic Garlic Romanes“ seem very unreflected to us. This means that coming to terms with the history of Roma and Sinti is missing and that racist knowledge about us (the myths about Roma’s way of life) should not be reproduced.
You shamelessly exploit the current condition and situation of us Roma and misuse your power to instrumentalise us for your very little thought-out project.
The subsidy amount of 109.000 Euro is misused by the handlers of the project, while a sufficient expertise and experiences in the sector of cooperation with Roma are not considered necessary; neither does the project provide the necessary know-how of implantation, care and marketing of the organic garlic in Europe.
The partner of the project Sissi Potzinger, municipal council of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) of Graz, is allowed to publicly speak about „family work“ and reproduce racist clichés about Roma children based on her „knowledge“ about Roma – which she obtained from famous operettas – without any repercussions. We ask ourselves how it can be possible that a politician and project partner of the Roma Integration „showcase project“ can freely propagate her pseudoscientific race theories about Roma in the 21st century in public.
We are also shocked that this project was initiated with the chairman of the culture club of Austrian Roma, Professor Rudolf Sarközi. „We want to help the people“, Sarközi said.
But we hold that the cultivation of garlic is not a satisfactory future prospect for young Roma. Why are we deprived of the right and the motivation, for example, to study?
In Berlin, Neukölln, students are „currently taught in special learning groups for children without knowledge of the German language at the Hermann-von-Helmholtz-School, the Walter-Gropius-School and the school at Zwickauer Damm. Many of them did not gain sufficient previous knowledge and language skills in their home countries in order to graduate from school in Germany. Thus, an early alternative development of job-related future prospects is necessary.“
It is scandalous that there is no awareness, responsibility and sensitivity and no support for Roma adolescents. The statements of „European Neighbours“, their project partners and supporters make unmistakably clear that they have neither developed an understanding nor had the intention to support and act in solidarity.
According to Stefan Benedik und Barbara Tiefenbacher (Zeitgeschichte-Institute, University of Graz) this project fuels colonial politics. These very politics are based on racial-anthropological ascriptions. Therefore, the intellectual foundation of the project’s concept constructs „Gypsies“ as less intelligent than white Europeans and genetically inferior to them. On the basis of this, the project’s concept advertises the apprenticeship program to be reasonable for Roma, also in terms of „mental ability“.
Apart from that, even the name „Organic Garlic Romanes“ is to be read as a revival of the „Zigeunerschnitzel“ (“Gypsy cutlet”).
(Colette M. Schmidt/DER STANDARD-print, 28.12.2011)
We see this naming as a racist continuity/tradition by the white European colonial traders.
„Speaking from a post-colonial perspective, colonialism must never be seen as a finished period of time, which is, however, constituted as such in German-white understanding of history. Colonialism is moreover related to a persistent social-psychological set of practices to define people by worthiness according to arbitrarily chosen/constructed biological and cultural characteristics. Therefore, a few whites are put superior to many „Others“.“ (EDEWA brochure, p. 56) The concept reproduces racist stereotypes/clichés and the incorporation of colonial politics is a persistent continuity.
We harshly criticize the fact that Roma representatives, who hold a position of power, like above-mentioned Prof. Sarközi but also Dir., Dipl., Ing. Jan Hero (of the „Erio“ European Roma Information Office), have allowed themselves to be instrumentalised for such an exploitative and discriminatory project.
Along with Graz (Austria), other international cities take part in this European pilot project: Berlin (Germany), Pecs (Hungary), Banska Bystrica (Slovakia), Koprivnica (Croatia) and Moldova Noua (Rumania). Likewise shocking to us is the establishment and realisation of the project in Berlin, Neukölln. Even though we live in Berlin, and both actively and ambitiously work to promote rights for Roma and fight against anti-Romaism, we had to make an immense effort to get any information about the already launched project. Ever since the project „ORGANIC-GARLIC ROMANES“ was presented once to the „Berliner Modellproject ROMA-Community“ in the rooms of the association Südost Europa Kultur e.V., there have been no public reactions to it. The association Südost Europa Kultur e.V. carries out many projects for Roma people and is well-funded by the Berlin Senate.
Together with Marika Schmiedt, activist, filmmaker and visual artist, we call for the project and the related institutional and structural violence against Roma to be stopped.
Stop Bioknoblauch Romanes/ Organic Garlic Romanes

Best Regards,
Der Paria, Filiz Demirova and Georgel Caldararu

The open letter was sent to:
European-Neighbours – association for the support of the disadvantaged in Europe in Graz, Austria, Bernd Spiegl of the Graz-based association „European Neighbours“ (has developed the idea), Professor Rudolf Sarközi (Chairman of the culture club of Austrian Roma), Sissi Potzinger (municipal council of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) of Graz), Dr. Christian Buchmann (member of the provincial government of Styria), Dir., Dipl., Ing. Jan Hero „Erio“ (European Roma Information Office), Mayor (Graz) Siegfried Nagl, Erich Kerngast agricultural technical school Alt-Grottenhof in Graz, food store chain „Spar“ (project partner), Dieter Frei (LFI Steiermark), Dr. Franziska Giffey (Council for education of Neukölln, of the city of Berlin), Ms Cordula Simon (Europe delegate of the district of Neukölln of the city of Berlin), Ms Dr. Christin Müller, Mr Marco Schroeder and Mr Edward Knight of the Europe Counselling Berlin, Südost Europa Kultur e.V., Students of three Neukölln secondary schools of the city of Berlin, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-School, Walter-Gropius-School, School at Zwickauer Damm, further pilot projects with the cities Pecs (Hungary), Branislav Slany, Peter Gogola, Bgm. Banska Bystrica (Slovakia), Iva Svircic, Stadt Koprivnica (Croatia) und Moldova Noua (Rumania), William Lay COP ACE European family association at the EU commission.

Der Paria-Zeitschrift für Politik von unten
Editorial Office: Georgel Caldararu, Filiz Demirova.

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