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A distinctive contribution to the politics of citizenship and immigration in an expanding European Union, this book explains how and why differences arise in responses to immigration by examining local, national and transnational dimensions of public debates on Romanian migrants and the Roma minority in Italy and Spain.



1. Introduction: The Politics of Immigration and Citizenship in an Enlarging European Union

In October 2007, the body of Giovanna Reggiani was found in a ditch in a northern suburb of the city of Rome, Italy. The police, politicians and press immediately initiated a hunt for her killer, who would be revealed as the Romanian Romulus Nicolae Mailat. Perceptions of Romanian immigrants as a violent, criminal threat to Italy burst out in spectacular fashion. Walter Veltroni, the Mayor of Rome from the centre-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico, PD), declared that the accession of Romania to the European Union (EU) earlier that year had opened the doors to the arrival of particularly aggressive criminals, and that there were ‘too many Romanians […] who do inacceptable things’ (Il Sole 24 Ore, L’opposizione contro Governo e Veltroni: interventi tardive, 1 November 2007, Barbagli 2008). Romanians in Italy were defined as ‘crime-tourists’ (Il Giornale, I turisti del crimine, 4 November 2007), and the areas of their settlement as dangerous places ‘where women are killed and raped in front of everybody’ (Il Sole 24 Ore, L’opposizione contro Governo e Veltroni: interventi tardive, 1 November 2007). Mass deportations were suggested as the answer, with the Rome Prefecture rapidly announcing that 5,000 Romanians could be expelled in order to ‘clean the water of infected fish’ (La Repubblica, Romeni, scattano le espulsioni. “Via i primi cinquemila”, 2 November 2007).

Simon McMahon

2. Defining Who Is Who in the Politics of Immigration

As noted in the introduction, this book asks why different responses to the presence of Romanian immigrants have arisen in public and official debate in Italy and Spain. In doing so, it will also explore what it means to be an immigrant and to become a ‘new’ citizen of an enlarged EU. This meaning is, as succinctly stated by Richard Jenkins, concerned with ‘the human capacity — rooted in language — to know “who’s who” (and hence “what’s what”)’ (2008: 5). The analytical puzzle is, however, not to simply describe what the characteristics of immigrant populations are, but rather to account for how, when and why claims to who is who gain popular resonance and dominance as legitimate views of the world (Castells, 2010: 7; Malesevic, 2011: 272).

Simon McMahon

3. The Structural Context of Immigration to Italy and Spain

The previous chapters have asked why political debates about Romanian immigration have been so different in Italy and Spain, despite similarities in these two contexts. It has been proposed that the explanation lies in an analysis of the political claims making by which the meaning of being a Romanian national is negotiated. This chapter will outline the historical development of immigration laws and policies in Italy and Spain, examining how they have defined the status of Romanian nationals and provided opportunities for (or constraints against) social integration and political mobilisation.

Simon McMahon

4. The National Politics of Immigration in Italy and Spain

This chapter examines national political debates on immigration in Italy and Spain, with particular reference to the categorisation of Romanian immigrants. It asks how politicians in Italy and Spain compete over the politics of immigration, what it means for the population of Romanian immigrants to become fellow citizens of the EU and how this has occurred in a context of economic crisis and uncertainty in these countries. Whereas the previous chapter concentrated on the structural definition of categories of immigrants in laws and policies, here the focus shifts to the negotiations between political actors in the specific context of national party politics. The following chapter will further add to this by analysing local negotiations in the two capital cities of Rome and Madrid, before the subsequent chapter will examine the role of cross-border structures, networks and actors.

Simon McMahon

5. The Local Politics of Immigration in Rome and Madrid

The previous chapters have examined the politics of immigration in the national laws, policies and political debates of Italy and Spain. However, it has often been claimed that the nation state is not the sole influencer in national politics and that local and regional contexts are increasingly significant decision making arenas (for example, Alexander, 2003, 2007; Bauböck, 2010; Borkert and Caponio, 2010; Davis, 2009; Keating, 1998, 2009; Marks et al., 1996; Sassen, 1996, 2005, 2009; Uitermark et al., 2012). This chapter takes the analysis further by examining the dynamics in the local dimension of politics in the two main cities of Romanian immigration in these countries, namely Rome and Madrid. In doing so, it illustrates how in the local contexts of these cities specific social and political actors from political parties, cultural associations and social organisations such as charities and trade unions make a claim to representing the interests of the immigrant population. Their success depends on their ability to respond to the different structural contexts found in the cities studied. In doing so, it also illustrates how a common national origin does not necessarily result in the construction of a community united through shared opinions, political preferences, cultural practices or social networks.

Simon McMahon

6. Intra-EU Migrant Politics in Italy and Spain

So far, this book has analysed the national and local politics of immigration in Italy and Spain, with particular reference to the way that different social and political actors have contested the meaning of being a Romanian immigrant in these countries. This chapter will contribute further by asking how actors, structures and resources from beyond the territorial borders of Italy and Spain have also influenced this process. Indeed, individuals, organisations and institutions in both countries have established and maintained political, economic and personal links with Romania and other countries. At the same time, their movement and legal status has recently been characterised by the granting of cross-border rights by both the Romanian State and the European Union (EU). The issue to be studied here is how these cross-border relations and processes have influenced the politics of defining the meaning of ‘who is who’ in Italy and Spain, and what this means for the citizenship of new Europeans such as the Romanians in an enlarging EU. The objective of the current chapter is thus, to paraphrase Faist, to explain whether ‘old’ national and local terms of citizenship, belonging and membership acquire ‘new’ meanings in a context of cross-border flows and activity (Faist, 2010: 34).

Simon McMahon

7. The Politics of the Roma in Italy and Spain

As mentioned briefly in the analyses of the previous chapters, perceptions of Romanian migration in Europe have been closely tied to images of the Roma ethnic group. Cases of conflation of the Romanian nationality and the Roma ethnicity have been common in both Italy and Spain, and this has been broadly aligned with a general consensus in Europe on the categorisation of Romanian Roma as a specific, culturally different and separate social group to mainstream society (Vermeersch, 2012). Such a view has been persistent over time and consensual across political parties from left and right, with both often sharing an understanding of the policy problem to be addressed as the living conditions of the Roma, caused by an apparently nomadic culture . However, this also disregards the fact that, although within the Romanian emigrant population there has been an ethnic Roma contingent, it has been estimated that this represents only a very small minority of the total (Cova, 2009). This calls for a closer examination of the politics of Roma migration in these countries, which is the topic of this chapter.

Simon McMahon

8. Conclusions: Becoming Citizens of an Expanding European Union

In the contemporary era, international migration has become one of the most contested and controversial social and political issues across Europe. However, responses to the presence of immigrants in political debate have varied from one country to another. This book has asked why different responses arise, taking at the same time the case study of Romanian migration in Italy and Spain as an opportunity to examine shifting patterns of citizenship in an enlarging EU.

Simon McMahon


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