Italian-Romanian round table

On July 28, the Italian members of Turisti non a caso sat down with the 6 Romanian guests for a round table discussion focusing several main themes including tourism in Romania, Romanian economic transition, the situation of women during and after communism, and stereotypes of Romanians in migration destination countries. “Under Carlceascu, you had enough, but nothing to buy. Now, under capitalism, you can buy anything you want, but have no money to buy it with,” said one of the Romanian participants. In their own words, Romanian visitors suggested some important factors in considering the contemporary Romanian problematique:

Italian-Romanian round table

Italian-Romanian round table

  • Romania can’t afford to refine its own oil, so it sells it to Shell, and gas is expensive in Romania for this reason (even though Romania is an oil-rich country).
  • Romania has become a consumer instead of a producer. It is difficult to find Romanian products in Europe because goods come from small producers and can’t really be mass exported. The production mechanisms are often too small to enable producers to conform to EU regulations, so goods can’t really be exported: they aren’t competitive on the European market.
  • After 89′ agricultural cooperatives were dissolved and farmers were left without heavy machinery. They couldn’t afford the kind of machinery required to farm large plots of land. Small farmers were left to produce for themselves, and are often left bankrupt and forced to sell their land. In the European Agricultural community, the more land you have, the more you can lower your prices and compete in the European economy. There has been difficulty making the Romanian agricultural community more competitive, also because people are wary have collective farming in large land cooperatives given their experience under communism. They’d rather remain small-farm producers.

    Italian-Romanian round table

    Italian-Romanian round table

  • Socialism had the aim of developing industry, so the traditional Romanian agricultural tradition was left behind. Because Romania had once been a fundamentally agricultural society, and under the weight of the industry-focused socialist economy, the country was “turned upside down.” Farmers were forced to come to the cities and to the industrial centers where they worked in factories, but were largely unqualified workers. The “quality of the products produced during that time wasn’t very good.” After the revolution, many of the farmers were offered a very small price for the land, and most people sold.

After a short break, discussions turned toward the topic of stereotypes and the need to confront Italian stereotypes of Romanians working and living in Italy.  Italian members of the round table suggested that one main stereotypes characterizes Italian views of Romanians in Italy: that they are prostitutes or caretakers.  When asked about their own stereotypes of Romanians, the northern European youth volunteers from Germany and the Netherlands (currently based in Bologna as volunteers and who visited Marzabotto with the Italian-Romanian group) said they believed that most people in their own countries didn’t have stereotypes about Romanians in particular, but rather about Eastern Europeans in general.

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About Amanda Wilson

I am a freelance writer currently based in Washington, D.C.
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