The Europeanisation of Romani Women Policies & Politics in Central & Eastern European Member States


This PhD thesis has an article-based structure and applies a qualitative case-study methodology (both within-case analysis and cross-country comparison). It is made up of four main articles, harmonized by a common introduction and conclusions. Although each article aims at answering a specific research question, the main purpose of this study as a whole is to investigate the extent to which the EU does contribute to shape Romani women policies and politics in Central and Eastern European Member States (CEEMS). Building on three different sets of theories – Europeanization, (political) Intersectionality and Social Movements – this thesis mainly contributes to the literature on the Europeanization of (ethnic) minority policies and politics as well as the political strand of Romani Studies (Vermeersch 2006, van Baar 2009, Sobotka & Vermeersch 2012, Goodwin & Buijs 2013). Primary data are mostly collected via semi-structured interviews. Secondary data from previous research, policy-documents/reports and national censuses are also used. This PhD research project has been mostly developed inductively. Starting from the empirical investigation of the situation of Romani women in some CEEMS – namely Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria – I have firstly identified the policy solutions proposed at both the EU and national levels to respond to their particular needs, and secondly explored their social, civic and political engagement for making their voice heard and fighting against the invisibility of their intersectional condition (Stoykova 2008, Kóczé & Popa 2009, Vincze 2013). The first part of the thesis (i.e. article no. 1) contributes to disclose the liaison between Romani studies and (political) intersectionality theory and mainly relies on this latter for exploring the policy responses identified by the EU and its CEEMS to the specific needs of Romani women. The second part (i.e. a wider section based on articles no. 2, 3 and 4) focuses on Romani women politics and assumes the existence of a link between European integration and minority mobilization. It uses Europeanization and social movement theories for investigating the patterns of change occurred (or not) in Romani women activism during the EU integration process of CEEMS.



>> Article no. 1 (Four-country comparison)

Title: Consolidated Criteria for Assessing Intersectionality Operationalization in European Equality Policies. The Case of Roma Women.

This article examines the policy responses identified by the EU and its CEEMS to the specific needs of Romani women. Building on Intersectionality theories, it analyses these responses by exploring different policy fields – from equality and non-discrimination to Roma integration – and using a cross-case comparative methodology. The main innovation of this article is the development of a set of criteria for assessing and comparing the ways intersectionality is operationalized in policies. It contributes to the existing literature on political intersectionality – essentially focused on the institutional mechanisms resulting from the operationalization process, like laws and equality bodies, by proposing a criteria set based on both institutional machineries (Krizsan et al. 2012) and less-institutional standards, like the presence of an ‘intersectionality vocabulary’ in both policy documents and legal tools (Lombardo & Rolandsen Agustín 2011) as well as the implementation efforts of national governments for supporting specific groups ‘at the intersections’. Both EU and national policies addressing Roma women are used as test-cases for the application of the proposed criteria-set.

>> Article no. 2 (Within-case analysis)

Title: Intersectional Mobilisation and the EU: Which Political Opportunities for Romani Women Activism?

Inspired by extant literature on the Europeanization of social movements, this article asks whether and to what extent the political opportunity structures (POS) for collective action created by the European Union  contribute to intersectional mobilization. In particular, it investigates whether the EU integration process determines (political) advantages for domestic (intersectional) political actors, or rather facilitates their marginalization from mainstream political agendas. Do emerging forms of activism at intersections have access to a broader or a more limited range of EU-driven opportunities? So as to answer this question, this article uses Romani Women Activism in Romania as case-study. Specifically, it identifies a set of EU-driven POS for Romani women advocates and uses (political) intersectionality as an innovative analytical tool to explore them. Empirical analysis employs data collected via semi-structured interviews with Romanian institutional and non-institutional political actors carried out in 2015. Findings show that although the EU contributes to produce an intersectional political advantage for Romani women activists (e.g. by facilitating their access to the resources available under different policy regimes), it nonetheless hinders the development of their intersectional political agenda by fostering single-strand policies and discouraging grassroots political action.

>> Article no. 3 (Cross-country comparative analysis)

Working title: Same Opportunities, Different Practices. The EU and Romani Women Activism in Romania and Bulgaria.

Starting from the investigation conducted in Romania, this article intends to propose a cross-national (qualitative) comparative analysis of the EU-driven opportunities for Romani women activists in Romania and Bulgaria. The broader scope of the comparison is to inductively explore whether/to what extent the process of EUropeanization can have different evolution and outcomes depending on the domestic institutional setting and the (political) choices made by national non-state actors. This main question builds on the initial assumptions that (i) the relative openness (or closure) of the institutionalized political system can create, foster or hinder new opportunities for collective action during its entire lifespan, from its emergence to its development to its eventual decline (McAdam et al. 1996; Travaglino 2014), and that (ii) the way non-state actors decide/are able to use nationally- and/or internationally-driven opportunities can finally result in different policy and political configurations: actors need to seize [opportunities] in order to transform them into political practices (Jacquot & Woll 2003: 4). By comparing the ways Romanian and Bulgarian Romnja activists react to the POS created by the EU, this work means to (inductively) unpack the core mechanisms of the EUropeanization process, thus contributing to the current research on bottom-up Europeanization in Central and Eastern European Member States (CEEMS) – so far mainly focused on top-down models.

>> Article no. 4 (Four-country comparison)

Working title: Failure of Transnationalization? Romani Women Activists on the European Political Scene.

This article intends to explore the “failure” of the process of transnationalization of Romani Women Activism driven by several international organizations – included the EU – in the first decade of the 2000s. According to the definition of Europeanization identified in the previous articles, and by using the same top-down and bottom-up approaches to the phenomenon, this last part of my thesis starts from the investigation of the dynamics occurring at both institutional and non-institutional levels – namely the initiatives taken by Roma and/or pro-Roma women operating in the EU institutions (e.g. MEPs) as well as the activities promoted by activists in less-institutional settings (e.g. transnational networks and coalitions) – to explore the new transnational opportunities for Romani women mobilization created by the EU, the ways activists have used these opportunities, and the reasons why the attempt to put the ‘Roma women issue’ on the European agenda and transnationalize Romani women activism seems to have failed.