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A show on French Gypsies under the German Occupation censored by the European Commission Liaison Office (ECLO) in Kosovo

by Open-Publishing - Saturday 28 May 2011

Theatre-Dance Discriminations-Minorit. France

A show on French Gypsies under the German Occupation censored by the
European Commission Liaison Office (ECLO) in Kosovo.

"Mérignac-Beaudésert, Tsiganes français sous l’Occupation" is an adaptation
based on historical documentation dealing with the internment and
deportation of French Gypsies during the Second World War. The text has been
published by the French publisher l’Espace d’un instant, in partnership with
the Voix des Rroms, the Nouvelles alternatives transeuropéennes et the
Fédération nationale des déportés et internés, résistants et patriotes. It
was put on stage under the direction of Christophe Sigognault, following a
residency at the Maison d’Europe et d’Orient in Paris. The performance
opened the festival Le Printemps de Paris on the 9th of May 2011 at the
occasion of the Fête de l’Europe (European Day).

The show was programmed by the festival "Festival of Roma, Ashkali and
Egyptian culture", supported by ECLO and organised by the KFOS (Soros
Foundation in Kosovo).

ECLO then considered that the content of the performance was "inappropriate"
and asked KFOS for the show should not to be taken off the programme of the

When asked to explain their decision, ECLO replied that it was not a case of
"censorship" but a case of a "change to the programme", the reason being
their wish to "put the emphasis, with this festival, on the promotion of the
rich cultural heritage of these communities within Kosovo and to contribute
to facilitate their integration within the Kosovan society and promote
exchanges between its various communities". ECLO added that "it does not
want to question the importance of these tragic historical events nor the
quality of the performance", but that " [its] partners implementing the
festival are requested to consult [ECLO] and give them a full presentation
of the programme for approval before any of its programme can be confirmed",
and that ECLO would have wished to be able to "discuss [it] beforehand and
to inform its colleagues at the French Embassy in Kosovo".

We would like to express our righteous anger in the face of such behaviour.
We know too well what such a position underlines: to present Rromani culture
in a folkloric and preconceived manner, one of largely desperate musicians
flanked by lascivious women dancing on tables, and to essentially ignore
historical and memorial issues in order to please a few diplomats. We also
know well what fuels the will to subjugate the content of a work of art to
its funding. We can clearly see that ECLO considers this memorial work as
counterproductive to exchange and integration. The worse being that -knowing
that ECLO considers the case as a simple "misunderstanding"- it shows that
ECLO cannot even question the content of its own policy. We can imagine how
a proposal to screen Tony Gatlif’s feature film "Liberté" would have been
received in such a context.

We believe that the very fact that artists and cultural operators in France
and in Kosovo decide to undertake and support this memorial work concerning
the rromani community, should be considered with pride and honour by France,
Kosovo and Europe as a whole. We believe that it is those who cannot see it
this way that, unfortunately, give the image of Europe as a Banana Republic.

We invite all of those who share our views to let it be known to the head of
ECLO (Khaldoun.SINNO@eeas.europa.eu), as well as to the Vice-President of
the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and
Citizenship (viviane.reding@ec.europa.eu), and to circulate the present
message as widely as possible.

The show will be presented in Prishtina, outside of the official programme,
thanks to the determination of the signatories below.

Marcel Courthiades, Commissioner for language and linguistic rights of the International Rromani Union,

Dominique Dolmieu, Associate artist at the Maison d’Europe et d’Orient,

Saimir Mile, President of La voix des Rroms,

Jeton Neziraj, Artistic director National Theatre of Kosovo,

Christophe Sigognault, Artistic director of the company Saudade.