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May 19, 2019
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Spain's Tolerance of Gypsies: A Model for Europe

Madrid, 16.9.2010 16:04, (Time)

Antonio Moreno lives on what is reputedly Madrid's most dangerous street, where dealers openly offer any type of drug around the clock. He owns a four-bedroom house with a pool; he works out of his own photo and video studio — and he's a gypsy, one of the 40,000 inhabitants of an illegal settlement on the outskirts of the Spanish capital. Had they been in just about any other European country, Moreno and his neighbors would be the source of tension and controversy: On Tuesday, the E.U. called France's continued deportation of its gypsies a "disgrace" and threatened disciplinary action against the country. Suddenly, all across Europe, a community that's used to living on the fringes is now in the spotlight — and, in some cases, suffering heightened prejudice as a result. But Moreno isn't worried. Because when it comes to dealing with gypsies — also known as Roma — Spain is different.

"[The deportations] will never happen here," says Moreno. "We are integrated. I'm first Spanish, then gypsy, and I'm proud to be both." While many European countries see their Roma communities as problems to be tackled, Spain has embraced its gypsies, giving them rights, celebrating their history — making them feel at home. "Of course there is racism, but it's better here than anywhere else I've seen," Moreno says of his trips to Italy, France, Germany and the Czech Republic. "Spain has helped gypsies a lot." (See pictures of France cracking down on migrants.)

Indeed, 35 years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, the lives of the Roma have improved dramatically. "We weren't even human before. We were animals," says Moreno of a time when authorities prevented gypsies from working, studying, or even gathering in groups bigger than four. Today, the European Commission, European Union member countries, and the Roma themselves all agree that Spain has become the model for integrating gypsies, often citing it as "a case of good practices." So good that the governments of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and even Romania — where many Roma come from — are looking to Spain for ideas to apply themselves.

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