At some point I have to break my silence and say something about the ongoing debate currently raging in Britain about the Euro elections, The UK Independence Party (UKIP), Euro federalism, and of course …. Romanians.
By Tom Sawford
It may not take the brains of an archbishop to work out where I personally stand with regard to the bloated, unaudited bureaucracy that is the European Union (answers on a postcard please), and the unelected people who run it; people who have been failures in their own national politics.
There is no real place on this blog to discuss politics. It is all about Paddy, his friends and their collective achievements, but the debate in the UK is getting nasty, and frankly quite unhinged, particularly with regard to Romanians. The Bulgarians appear to be keeping their heads down and good for them. Last week UKIP’s Nigel Farage added fuel to the fire. He was apparently reported as saying that British people should be concerned if a “group” of Romanians came to live next door to them. All sorts of unfounded statements are being bandied about, and Rod Liddle, no stranger to controversy, has now jumped in with this Spectator blog piece (fairly tame and probably written just to provoke debate).
Many of us living in the UK would probably be very concerned if a “group” of our fellow Britons moved in next door. It is the concept of “the group” that is the issue; by some definitions it is threatening. Another tribe moving onto or close to our patch. Can we defend ourselves? What might they do? Will they steal our daughters?
These statements address very base instincts and fears within us all, and quite naturally so, as we want to defend our families, our group, and our property. But using such terminology about one particular nationality is deeply offensive and ill judged. I am not sure it is racist as some claim; is it possible to be racist about people from essentially the same ethnic grouping? I don’t know and I digress.
I think Romania – and Romanians – has been singled out because it truly is a far away land of which we know little. I am quite sure without checking the facts that more British have been to Bulgaria to have cheap holidays on Sunny Beach and to lose their shirts on off-plan apartments in the property boom than would know how to find Romania on a map. The current debate stirs up our fears of the unknown and that is why it is so powerful and ultimately disturbing.
Patrick Leigh Fermor was very well travelled, and a man of sophistication and taste. Why did he say that after Greece that it was Romania that he loved most? In his lovely book, Walking the Woods and the Water, Nick Hunt retraces Paddy’s journey and concludes, despite being attacked by sheep dogs, that it was Romania and the Romanian people that he liked most. Add Prince Charles to the list of fans.
Romania has a very long and proud history. Under warrior kings and princes they fought off the Ottomans. They have produced great artists, poets and writers such as Eugene Ionesco, Mihai Eminescu and the composer George Enescu. It has some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe with a wide variety of rare mammals. It remains a relatively poor country (with great resources of land and an educated people); its politics may be tainted by corruption, but its people are friendly, even gentle, and always looking to party. Apart from the criminals who we find everywhere, Romanians pose no threat to us and will make a positive contribution if they move here.
Personally I really like Germany and the Germans. But if I had Romanians living next door I think that the parties would be livelier.