February 11, 2009
A tragic act of crime, the killing of Marian Cozma, a great Romanian handball player, has sparkled ethnic tension in the region to an all-high point. The scene is Hungary, the victims are Romanian and Serbian sportsmen, and the public accuses the ‘Gypsy’.
A little bit of contextualization: The citizens of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia did not get on very well with each other. All relatively new nation states with a strong nationalistic sentiment that has been surpassed by Communist ‘internationalism’: the past decades have seen a lot of verbal assaults against each other. When the otherwise marginalized Hungarian far-right has set up a uniformed group under the name of ‘Hungarian Guard’ Slovakia cried fool and even accused Hungary for not fulfilling her obligations under the Paris Peace Treaty to wipe out fascist paramilitary groups. But these were just provocations. The Hungarian Guard, now banned by Hungarian law after a proper process in court, was not a paramilitary group, and certainly it had no intention to harass Slovaks or Romanians. It is a new manifestation of racism. The Hungarian Guard has one single activity: to threaten Roma communities within Hungary. The violent provocations, also some violent Molotov-cocktail attacks made some Gypsy leaders think that it is high time to set up a Gypsy Guard in Hungary.
Earlier I noticed that things have changed a lot with the EU accession of the group. Romanian-Hungarian relations are on a historical all-time high. Hungary with Austria are the most firm supporters of Serbia’s and Croatia’s European integration. Slovakia has some extremists in the government coalitions, whose provocations are sometimes verbally met by Hungarian politicians out of mere pride, but I think the people are getting well with each other. Unfortunately, all these nations have found a common enemy: their shared Gypsy minorities, which belong to a number of groups, mostly including the Roma.
The killing of the late Marion Cozma has shown this new fact. Mr. Cozma, who played professional handball in the club of Veszprém, had been a Romanian citizen without Hungarian roots, a favorite of the town sportsclub, and also considering to apply for Hungarian citizenship because of professional reasons. He played in the national team of Romania, and fascinatingly, with two different teams, he has became a Romanian than a Hungarian champion in 2005 and 2007 respectively. He had a fan base across Central Europe. In fact, he was one of the first Central European stars after a poisonous 20th century when the nations of the region had a strong dislike for each other.
After his stabbing Saturday night, thousands stood in vigil, and the town declared the Romanian player an honorary citizen. His team-mates, who tried to help him in the group violence that broke out in the discotheque were Serbs. Many Serbs living in Hungary joined the Veszprém Hungarians in their grief. According to Serbia Insajd, many Serb nationalst tried to enter Hungary accross the border to take revenge on… the Gypsies.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/p6aABW8ioh8" width="320" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
The comments in the YouTube page (and similar pages) are in Hungarian, Romanian, English, Croatians and Serb. They show grief, solidarity and every second calls for revenge on Gypsies.
The different Gypsy groups in all these countries are segregated, discriminated in schools and on the workplace and mainly live on the black market, social benefits and crime. As a visibly different native minority, their chances of assimilation is minimal. It is very ironic, that 20 years ago it could have been impossible that a Romanian sportsman is making a successful career in Hungary and becomes a favorite of his township, or a leading Hungarian professional sports club is a mix of Hungarian, Serb and Romanian players. It is a very sad irony that part of this new-found friendliness lies on a commonly shared racist attitude towards to Roma.Author : Dániel Antal